February 14th, Valentine's Day, a day of hearts, cupids, candy, a day of unrealistic expectations and disappointment. This day reminds me of the joy of being pregnant. All the fantasies you have of giving birth to a ballerina, a rock star, a world class athlete or the person who cures cancer. When you hold your son or daughter for the first time, so excited and so proud, never in a million years did you think that you would ever send them to school on a shorter than average bus.
Often when we are pregnant we are lucky to share that pregnancy with another couple. How exciting to plan future camping trips together, maybe our kids will end up being married to each other and we will be family. A friend of mine bought our soon to be born kids matching teddy bears with their names engraved on the bellies of the bears. I never see them anymore. We used to go to all their parties, and then kid's birthday parties. But I saw the pictures from the recent party on Facebook, and we weren't invited.
When my oldest was a baby he belonged to a regularly scheduled playgroup. As he grew older and his ADHD became more obvious. And I had 2 more kids, one with Autism, it got harder to attend this playgroup. But I always responded to the emails, and I was so happy when I could get all of us there even if my youngest didn't last long. Suddenly the emails stopped coming. I checked my spam folder and saw nothing. I let it go. I saw this group at a park and they look so ashamed.
Having kids lets you know who your real friends are, whether your kids are typically developing or have special needs. Now I only gravitate to friends who support me and the struggles I have with my kids. The friends who share in the choices I make, and the joys of small successes. I don't bother with people who act like my kids are contagious or are just “naughty”.
With the prevalence of Autism in our society these parents are going to find it harder and harder to shield their children from “different” children. I am sad and disappointed to think that people I considered close friends are raising their children to be intolerant. And being the parents of special needs kids we really don't have the time to coddle those who don't “get it”. To hold your hand, while you decide whether my family is worth your time and effort. I know it's important to educate others but I don't have the time to do that if my son is getting ready to run out into the street.
Real friends, and loving family take the time to educate themselves, to ask questions, to reserve judgment and just be there. These cherished people offer an attentive ear, an open mind and a big hug. The most priceless gift you can receive for Valentine's Day, or any other day of the year, is to know that you are loved and supported. Chocolate doesn't hurt either.