When I became a mom, my life changed in expected and unexpected ways. I never imagined having all boys, coming from a female-heavy family. And I certainly never imagined having a sweet boy with autism. His extraordinary life has helped transform me in ways I never knew possible. But this journey has also opened floodgates of challenges, leaving me with a new definition of the word overwhelmed.
Here’s the thing, I never thought having a son with a disability would affect my ability to make friends, but these past years have been a struggle. Even though I’ve been pretty good at making friends in the past, developing authentic relationships with moms right now, in this stage of life, has been an uphill battle.
And irony of all ironies: this is the most crucial time for a “village.”
This is the time when I crave sisterhood and support like never before. Contrary to our culture’s opinion, parenting should never be done alone. And even though it happens all the time, it doesn’t mean it is the right way. We should be doing this hand-in-hand and heart-to-heart. I know making momma friends is hard for everyone, but when you have a child with a disability, the desire for a caring community becomes more than a desire — it becomes a need.
I realize there are many good people out there, people who smile and ask “how are you?” And while that is nice, what my heart really needs is someone who will pursue me (and my kids) past the surface level. I can honestly count on my fingers the number of moms who have initiated spending time with me and my kids… besides large birthday bashes or parties. I have tried to make playdates happen and have continually put myself out there, hoping that for once, we would be asked over to their house for a cup a coffee and some life talk. Because it’s been few and far between.
I could sit here and try to guess why. Why do I see other moms hanging out around me without extending an invitation to join them? Our family is a little more intense and unpredictable, and it comes with the territory when one of your babies has autism. I get that we are not the safest bunch, and that can be scary for other families, but it is also scary for me to invite myself into their world. Meltdowns happen, we are loud, and we are disaster-zone level messy. Still, I promise you this: my boys all remember those who have opened their homes and lives to us.
And so do I.
To those beautiful ones who have loved my boys without hesitation and shown them grace upon grace, I want to thank you! They remember you and your children and ask about you often. And I remember how you cared about my sanity that day I was crying outside, and you dropped off my favorite Starbucks latte because I was losing it. You cared about what I was going through, and you sat long enough to hear my heart. You are not just friends, you are family. And the impact you’ve had on our lives goes far beyond what you could imagine. It is precious to us.
I know nobody is perfect, and I put myself at the top of that list. I never want to judge another based on their actions, but it’s really true that our choices matter. We have the ability to choose to engage in the lives of others, especially if their situation is unlike our own. And if anything, it will require us to be courageous. It isn’t easy to be the people-pursuers; to be the ones who walk towards the unknown, pushing past fears for the sake of understanding. But it is worth it.
I’m speaking to myself as I write these words, but I pray they point us all towards love and compassion, even when it’s easier to stay in the safety of similarity. Because our differences make us unique, and the diversity of our stories can help us learn and grow. I think we can all agree, this world doesn’t need more division and separation. It needs connection and people who are bravely willing to close the gap.
And trust me, my friend… kindness will always be the bridge.
(This post was originally featured in The Mighty on March 11, 2018)
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