I was once friends with a wonderful woman. "L" was funny, gregarious, and loving to a fault.
I lived with L and her family, which included her two children, for a brief moment in my life and it has affected me more deeply than I ever would have thought.
You see, we were inseparable. We did everything together, and I loved her children with a fierceness I didn't know I had in me.
And then I had children. And my child got sick.
All of a sudden, the friendship started to suffer. We drifted apart, and I thought it was just a phase. I never imagined that it would come to the head that it did, and implode in my face.
When you have a kid that has special needs, it stands to reason that there are adaptations that have to be made above and beyond "normal" child-rearing. I guess, though, that L could not handle that. She didn't realize how severe things really were, and thought that my life revolved "too much" around the challenges I faced as the mother of a medically fragile child. Of course, I took great offense to this, and things quickly got nasty.
Now that I have yet another medically fragile child, I know that I did the right thing in standing my ground. In no way did I cause my childrens' problems, and I know that deep in my heart. It doesn't mean that I do not have my moments of mommy guilt, and it surely doesn't mean that I don't have pity parties for myself now and again. (More frequently lately, I have to admit.) But I still miss my friend. I don't get to see her children grow and blossom, don't get to be there when they receive their diplomas. There are no more inside jokes and shared remembrances-they exist only in my memory. And that leaves an ache behind.
I am so very grateful for all the wonderful friends that I have. They pick me up when I fall, hand me a piece of chocolate (cause what good friend wouldn't have chocolate just for this occasion?) and tell me to get over it and get on with it. And I do. I would like to think that I do the same for them. Thankfully, I also have friends with the bravery and tenacity to say if I am being a little self-absorbed, and they snap me out of it.
When you have a friend who has a child that's "different", please take heed: we do want to know what goes on in your life. We do want to hear about your problems, your challenges, and your triumphs. We love to celebrate with you, cry with you, and most of all to laugh with you. We want you to understand that even though things are different in ways, that doesn't mean that we can't adjust and still be the same friends that we once were. It just takes a bit of an effort.
If you have a friend that's going through some tough stuff, make the effort. Listen. Be there. And then tell her about how you locked yourself out of your car this morning, how you think your mother-in-law is the devil in disguise, and how your daughter won't stop wearing her ballet costumes to school. We want to hear it. Trust me. When so much is beyond our control, old friendships become a stabilizing point. An even keel in a sea of turmoil. Our good friends remember who we are deep down inside, even when we ourselves forget.
It may be hard. You may get frustrated. You may not want to ever hear about another blood draw, hospitalization, or medication change again. Listen anyway. Be there anyway. You never know when it might be you that ends up in a place in life that you never imagined.
And in that moment, you will find yourself again. You have your friend to remind you.
PS-L, if you read this, and you may, just know this: I still remember the you that's deep inside. And that L is sorely missed.