This morning I have already connected with 3 of the parents I know who have kids with special needs. I am beyond grateful for their support. My kids are both having a rough week. Some part of that is life as a teenage girl. Another part of that is special needs. And yet a final piece of that is other people’s kids. Can’t control how other people parent, even though I wish I could. But I can reach out to my support network.
And I can write. Sometimes that’s my therapy.
Girl friendships are hard. I get it. I was a girl. In fact I am a person who survived teenage melodrama and bullying and all that other junk. In grade seven and eight there were numerous days I ran home from school with a friend because a female bully frequently threatened to punch our heads in. See I had a close friend, my best friend actually who spoke her mind and she had a quick tongue so she would tell you if you were behaving like a juvenile delinquent. And she did. People don’t like it when you hold a mirror up to their faults. Whatever. We ran home a lot.
Eventually I moved on to high school and university and those bullies vanished. It was challenging, at the time dealing with them, but then my bullies vanished and so did the best friend who seemed so important to me then. Sometimes I try to remind my kids that the hugely dramatic relationships that seem like a big deal now MIGHT not be that important as the years go by. Friends often change. It is rare to have a friendship for life.
My friendships changed dramatically when we adopted our two daughters. They evolved. I made new friends and others fell by the way side. The experience of adopting daughter number one made us different. And when we adopted our second daughter we were even more different. As her special needs evolved into diagnoses friends sometimes collapsed and fled. Very honestly also we had no time to nurture friendships when advocating and trying to get her a diagnosis, or support while managing the day to day. Parenting kids with special needs is isolating.
Having a common experience ….maybe a common background, or a child with a common diagnosis. Even a child who falls into the category of special needs at school, creates a whole different group of peers. If you are a parent of a child with special needs you know what I mean. If you do not have any peers to rage at, or curse with, or even just a shoulder to cry on occasionally then please connect in some way with one of us. Connect with me. Here. It is vital to your health and well being.
Today after a night with both of my kids crying over “friendships” that seem to have early expiry dates I am annoyed and angry. But I am also blessed to have a group of Moms experiencing the very same thing right now with their kids who have special needs. When I say my daughter has been eating alone all week, I hear back from someone who’s son is doing the same. And BOTH OF OUR HEARTS HURT TOGETHER.
And when I hear from another good friend whose daughter is being horrifically bullied at school due to her unique challenges and inability to read social situations I am enraged on her behalf. It’s more than a mom thing. It’s a special needs Mom thing.
We get each other. We get the challenges our kids have. We rage, and cry together and we celebrate too. Sometimes, especially these days, we have problems with other people’s kids. That’s right. Other people’s kids.
Right now, in increasing amounts I see many examples of toxic attitudes towards people with differences and kids with disabilities too. Too many people lack empathy entirely. Far too many adults are raising children who feel entitled, who see only what they lose when there’s a child who needs extra support in class. Instead of seeing what they gain – empathy, tolerance, a different way of seeing the world – they think…Jessica gets all the attention because she’s having a meltdown or falling apart at school again.
How to Be a Friend
Why not teach them to ask: How can I help? Is there anything I can do? Better yet, teach them to do kind things every day. How can I leave the world a better place? Empathy is being able to put yourself in someone else’s shoes. It’s a quality too many don’t have.
So show your kids empathy. Teach them how to be empathetic humans. Help them to be a friend to others. Help them to see and understand and appreciate differences.
Teach them how to be a friend.
If your kids are small you might appreciate this post – Crafts That Nurture Empathy.