I’ve written a lot about my “village” – the amazing group of friends that I have who walk in my shoes. The ones that nod knowingly when I talk about my struggles, the ones that make me laugh with a crude joke, the ones that pull me out of bed when I can’t find a reason to on my own.
I know that I’m lucky to have this group. Many special needs parents walk this journey alone. I am grateful every day for the moment that these women came into my life.
I am lucky in another way as well.
I have these three friends, you see. Through some sort of luck, they came into my life and have stayed, even when others have left.
They are not special needs moms. But they still “get” me.
Let me tell you about them. I will call them Friend One, Friend Two and Friend Three.
I met Friend One right after we moved here. Her oldest and Gerry were in the same preschool class. She knew a lot of the other mothers in town and was very outgoing. I, of course, knew no one. Somehow our kids gravitated towards each other in the classroom and became friends. I invited her over for a play date and we hit it off right away. We had similar parenting styles and sense of humor. It helped that she lived just around the corner. We watched each other’s kids, and she quickly became a second mom to Gerry in his second home. Her son and Gerry have been in the same class together every year since the day they met. They complement each other perfectly, as my friend does to me.
She was the first person that knew I was pregnant with Lewis, outside of my family. She was the first person I told that Howie had autism. She loves my kids because they are my kids, and she loves them without judgment or pretense. This year, when things were getting hard at home with Gerry, she invited him over a lot. Helped him with his homework when I could not dedicate the time to it. Her house is Gerry’s safe haven, and it’s mine as well.
I met Friend Two on a warm day in June. Howie was starting his first day in the toddler room at daycare. I was pregnant with Lewis. We had just started early intervention with Howie for his sensory needs but I was feeling ill-equipped as a parent to handle him. I needed a break, and we enrolled him in a three mornings a week toddler program. She stood right up and welcomed him into the room. Her love for the kids in there was apparent. Howie left me with no problem, not even a look back to say goodbye. She took an interest in him immediately and would share with me the “special” things he’d do during the morning. She got him to try watermelon. And fingerpainting. And a whole host of other things that I couldn’t even imagine he could do. She left the program a few months later to become an ABA tech at the preschool. Our paths crossed there again when she was Howie’s aide last year. She “got” him right away, and made efforts to really understand his quirks and interests. We call her “The Howie Whisperer” because she can get him to do things that no one else can.
When school ended, our friendship did not. This summer, she took us out of our comfort zone and we went to the beach for the first time successfully. When I was spiraling down the rabbit hole during the week we had off for Hurricane Irene, she took Howie out to the beach ahead of us. When we arrived, he was sitting in her lap, calm and quiet. When I was in a deep despair over well, everything, she swooped in and sent me and Tim out on a date. She put Howie and Lewis to bed – something only Tim and I had been able to accomplish before. She played board games with Gerry until we came home. In one night, she gave the five of us the attention we needed. She loves my kids for who they are and brings out the best in them and me.
I’ve known Friend Three the longest. We met our junior year in college in a History class. She liked to doodle on her paper as much as I did. Again, somehow, we hit it off. We were both Geography majors. We both had a love for orange food. We both hated the same teachers and loved the same wine. It was a friendship that was meant to be. Over the years we stayed in touch. Months – years – could go by without seeing each other, but somehow we’d still connect. She’s that friend that even if you haven’t seen her for years, you feel like no time has passed. Now, we connect almost every day through Facebook chat as she kicks my ass in Scrabble.
She’s a single mother of four incredible kids, and I consider her my parenting role model. She is the bravest, strongest woman I have ever met. She is my sounding board for all my venting, and we share the most personal of details over chat. She came to visit with her oldest son two weeks ago. We took her son and Gerry out for the night – to dinner and to the New England Patriots Hall of Fame – and it was the easiest night I had had in months. Years. The conversation between her son and mine flowed. We laughed like I hadn’t laughed in a long time. They stayed overnight, and the next morning she was on the floor with Howie and Lewis, playing with their Hot Wheels cars. Not pretending to play, but actually playing. Howie designed a car for her on his “Create-A-Car” app, and she hung it on her fridge when she returned home. And sent him a picture of it. She connected with my kids – all three of them – instantly, again without judgment.
She has a big birthday coming up. A big party. I can’t go due to circumstances beyond my control. Because that’s the way it is with me – always circumstances beyond my control. She’s not mad. She gets it. Without explanation, she gets it.
These three incredible women have pulled me out of the deepest holes more times than they probably know. These friends may not walk in my shoes, but they walk beside me along the path. Just as I would be lost without my village, I would be lost without them as well.
If they ever need me, I’m here. With my glass of wine and my listening ears.
“A good friend and a glass of wine
Someone to say it’s gonna be alright
A good friend and a glass of wine
A little pick me up to get me through the night
We talk trash n’ we laugh and cry
That kind of therapy money can’t buy
Every now and then, every now and then
Every girl needs a good friend and a glass of wine” – Good Friend and a Glass of Wine by Leann Rimes