One of the things you might find discussed AD NAUSEUM in all the websites, books, lectures, etc. is how the impact of a special needs child can change your relationships. Now usually, they are referring to marriages or romantic relationships--and yes, there is an impact. But I'm not here to talk about marriage. Sure, Pete and I felt the impact of the label, and the recognition of what the future may, or may not hold. But--oddly enough--having the truth of the situation, and the acknowledgement that we really have to live in the NOW actually helped us. There was no more push to be "perfect" as we tried to get our son to "catch-up". In accepting him as he is, we continued our promise to accept one another as we are.
Do we still annoy one other on occasion? Well yes. This IS a marriage for chrissakes.
Friends, however can be a different story. Friends aren't bound by vows or checking accounts, although chances are, they've seen you drunk as much as your spouse has, maybe even more. (seriously--BURN those pictures) I found that even before the label and the therapy and the new paradigm, when the differences became more obvious, friends began to fall into different categories.
First and foremost are the golden friends. The one's who've been there, thick and thin. They were the first ones to call when word got out that a label was placed. They are the ones who read my blog even though no one else does. They are the ones I know I could call in the middle of a serious problem and say, please take my boy for the night, and do it without question (I can never say thank you enough, Krista.) They are the ones who get up and do a happy dance every time Ben does something awesome. In short, they are family--maybe not blood, but family nonetheless. These are the friends to be cherished--and rewarded with pie and expensive bottles of wine.
On the other side of that, there are the friends with whom you completely lose touch--the ones who ran when they saw or heard that Ben was "different" from their kids. I'm happy to say, they weren't many, and frankly--their absence is for the better, no? I mean, if they are freaked out by my kid, does my kid need to be around them? I think not. You can recognize the signs of these friends when you start getting the repeated blow-offs. I’m not talking the, "oh my kid is sick, can we meet next week?" typical blow offs that happen to ALL of us. I'm talking the, "my kid is sick, but not sick enough to do something fun with other parents that is then bragged about on FB." And then maybe you see that person at the park from time to time, and you get the fake hug and the "yeah, we should TOTALLY hang out," and that's the end of the conversation. They don't really ask about your kid, but are perfectly willing to tell you EVERYTHING about theirs. Luckily, they prolly don't read my blog, (since they've been unfriended) and even if they did, they're prolly too stupid to put it together that i'm writing about them (Wow, I'm like a Carly Simon song over here...)
It’s a weird place when you are confronted with these "friends." You don't wanna be paranoid, you don't wanna think they are THAT shallow--because, after all, they were your friends, right? But remember that clairvoyant gut of mine? When it comes to character analysis, she hasn't been wrong yet. It would be helpful if she'd speak up a little earlier, though...
Then there are the new mommy friends--the ones that "get it" because your life is their life, give or take a margarita. These are the mommies of kids who are in school with yours, dealing with the same tantrums, the same quirks, the same vocabulary, the same concerns. Its strange, but they are sort of "instant friendships"--maybe because we get to relax--there's no explaining here. Sharing of new ideas, maybe, but no apologies over your kid grabbing toys, or not wanting to play, or screaming in protest when hugged. We can have those moments that transpire in a look that says--yeah, it's that kind of day. And we can share the joy of seeing our kids make eye contact and running together--because we know that's a HUGE step for them in the realm of play. (hey Yasmine!)
Then there are the friends that, well, maybe don't mean to blow you off, but do. Because they are confused. A golden friend reminded me of this the other day. Sometimes, they just don't know what to say--to me. They don't know that they can just sit down, have a cup of coffee and talk about the crap we talked about before the diagnosis. Because, turns out, Ben and I are still the same people. Some of my vocabulary has changed, and paradigm has shifted slightly, but I'm still heavy handed with the liquor in my cocktails, and bake a tasty whole wheat banana/zucchini bread. And unless you came over and called my kid a retard, there really isn't anything you could say that would offend me. Well, unless you criticized my banana bread--but you already knew that. If you have questions, I can supply answers. And our kids "might" play together, although I wouldn't hold your breath.
Now, I can't talk about friendships without taking account of my own actions as well. Sometimes--well, who we kiddin? When you hear the words, when you get immersed in this new world, you hide. Hell, I was down for a good month--lucky to get my toilets scrubbed, let alone step out in public for anything other than the ubiquitous grocery run. And I was prepped--we had been in therapy for a few months, and I was ready to hear what was going to be said--and it STILL knocked me on my ass. It is the tendency of new moms of special needs kids to hide--not that we're hiding our kids, but we are hiding ourselves. I know personally, I didn't want to burden my friends with tears that showed up unexpectedly while I got my emotions under some semblence of control. And honestly--I didn't want to hear about your kids. I didn't want to hear how great they were doing, how the doctor thinks they might be gifted, how milestones are being passed by. I didn't want to have to hide my jealousy, my frustration, my anger. But I'm not hiding anymore, even though I'll still cry at the drop of a hat--its usually over the sort of things I would normally cry about--soup commercials or Hallmark cards. (Look, I'm entering peri-menopause on top of all this, so my hormones ain't gonna be right for at least a decade or more…)
There is a Wiccan belief that I've always cherished: when you make friends with someone--a child is born. (not literally, unless they're a friend with benefits, I guess) Each friendship is a child to be nurtured and cherished. Prolly why I'm not the social butterfly(that and my general misanthropic views). The relationships i have are precious, and must be cared for--for each is their own individual gift. So, if you've been hesitant to call, feel free to pick up the phone. And if you called me yesterday, you can call me again today. Although--any of you who know me know I prefer email than actually TALKING to someone...