Golden Girls

Make new friends
But keep the old
One is silver
And the other’s gold.
My Facebook newsfeed is filled with stories from autism parents, autistic writers, special need groups, agencies, and advocates. These people are my tribe, and it helps to have other people nearby, physically or virtually, who “get it.”
But there are others who get me in a way that can’t quite be matched by those I’ve connected with because of a diagnosis.
Special needs moms sometimes lament that they find it hard to keep up friendships with their typical-parent friends because the trajectory of their kids’ lives are so different. I also find that to be true. But friends outside of that “special needs” bubble, if you can keep them, are truly gold.
I cherish my old friends. That’s not a comment on your age, ladies, it’s just you were here long before the others. I’ve known my girls since as early as 3rd grade. That’s old school.

Sure, it’s not always ideal. Our kids did not grow up together the way I first imagined they would. Their kids are all awesome with my boy, but we don’t see them very much. Our family was often at the fringes. We couldn’t always be there for get-togethers—energetically, logistically, or due to my son’s anxieties, it was just not always possible. It’s true, too, that it will still probably be this way long after my girlfriends become empty nesters and I do not.
But I’m beyond grateful for the friendship we’ve been able to salvage despite how challenging it is sometimes to see each other. (Our plans for our latest girls’ weekend has been up-ended by this coronavirus pandemic—a virtual Zoom meeting may have to suffice for now). These girls can make me laugh like no one else. And they help me keep things in perspective.
One thing you’ll realize when you talk to friends who have typical kids is that no one is “typical.” All parents are dealing with both joyous and difficult issues with their children, and it’s strangely helpful to see that, even without a special needs diagnosis for your kid, you would still be stressed about being a good-enough mother.
That grass may look greener, but mowing it is still a bitch.
I’ve heard other special needs parents complain that their struggles aren’t taken seriously by their friends with typical kids, who appear to downplay their worries, saying, “Oh yeah, but all kids do that!” But sometimes, all kids do, at least to some extent, and that’s good to remember. For me, as the mom of an only child, it helps to see that even if it looks different over here, typical kids also battle with anxiety, school challenges, health concerns, and can be their own versions of pains in the butt.
When times got rough, my friends gave me an important frame of reference to figure out what was “autism” and what might simply be teenage-boy-syndrome, or only-child-angst, or drive-mom-crazy-sickness. Fighting over getting out of bed in the morning, complaints about particular clothes that go together (or not), and even meltdowns in the middle of the day for “no reason” also happen to typical kids. Sure, it may be useful to do that functional behavior analysis to uncover why his day fell apart. But he may just be having a rough adolescent day. Like all of teens do.
So, while I cherish my tribe of autism parents, I rejoice in my “neuro-typical” parenting friends, too.
We don’t always agree on politics, religion, or even parenting styles, but we usually can agree to disagree (or at least apologize after a “did she just say that?” moment). We focus on our common ground—our love for our kids, our families, our shared history. Books. Music. Wine. How skinny and fit we used to be (sigh). Stupid inside jokes that refuel my soul. The concurrent denial of and pain from ailments due to our middle age (gasp! I know, but it’s true).
We have been together long enough that, regardless of where life takes us, I know they will catch me when I fall.
Well, they would probably laugh first, because falling can be funny.
But they will be there to pick me up when I need it.
They are gold.

light nature sky sunset

Photo by Pixabay on

Top Image: StockSnap from Pixabay

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