Wednesday, December 17, 2008

A life that seems to mirror your own

I love Christmas! Not only because it is a joyous time of year with winter snow, sparkling lights, and gift giving, but I also just love the little extra reds and greens that are unevenly intertwined within my daily mail’s bulge of bills--the holiday cards. It’s so bittersweet, but my son only sees it as sweet!! As he should!

It’s a form of catching up, especially from people that I don’t call or visit as often as I would like (isn’t if funny how we say that: “as much as we’d like!”). Anyway, most of the cards that I receive (and give) are those with photos of their kids. To me, it’s a fun glimpse into their life—a little peek—and to see how much bigger and older their kids have grown. Some of these yearly cards I keep from year to year, and I have half a mind to show you a snapshot of that drawer of mine!! There is one family that I especially like to receive a card from; it’s always the same picture from year to year (same pose in front of their tree). This family is very unique because it’s the family of a friend whom I've known for over 20 years. We talk here and there, meet for dinner on occasion, and when we do meet up or talk, we know what to say and pretty much will pick up where we’ve left off—like time hasn’t passed.

The very last time we talked I was troubled. It was a month before Meghan was going off to her new school (July) and we had them over in June for a barbecue with their two kids. My friend and her husband were rubbing my shoulder and hugging me and offering me their support, encouragement and good friendship. But then again, this is what friends do, especially a friend of more than 20 years. But don’t get me wrong, this wasn’t the part of our visit that was troubling to me; the troubling part was how I noticed that her 4 year old daughter (a child that took years to conceive) was not developing the way that children her age should develop.

She was not responding to questions, she would not respond to direction, she would not play appropriately with toys, and she had trouble focusing on one activity at a time.

I didn’t know what to say as my friend and her husband sat next to me and looked at me like I was the only one needing consoling. I also knew that their older child had just been diagnosed with ADHD and Tourette syndrome, but the only thing I said about that subject was simply asking about his well-being and school. I wanted to let them offer me more… or better yet, I was hoping that they would. But no more came with their story.

I know for fact that her brother’s child has autism and now she has a child with ADHD (which I believe is on the spectrum) and now, again, from where I was sitting and observing, their daughter seemed much worse off than their son was at her age. She actually reminded me of Meghan when Meghan was 4, but I sucked that thought down with every gulp of my wine.

The most troubling part of this situation is that my friend (of more than 20 years) does not want to talk to me about her kids’ issues, especially since I know that her daughter has been in early intervention since she was three—but that is all she ever told me—even though I had gently prodded for more. I don’t think that she’s in denial about her children’s problems, but I think that she thinks that they will get better, unlike my situation. Then again, maybe that is a denial. And I have not taken this lack of divulging, or confiding, personally. I certainly know how tough it is dealing with two kids with issues, but, to me, that’s the point that I’m trying to make and to get through to her: The fact that I’ve been through it all, from diagnosis, to where and how to get therapeutic services, to advocating for kids on an IEP within a public school systems, and, if not most important, offer emotional support as someone who knows what she’s going through—as she already knows—and something that she and her husband have always been so willing to offer me.

I just don’t understand. How do you not utilize and appreciate the knowledge and experience of a friend who has been there?


Em said...

It is very frustrating and sad to watch a friend struggle when I believe I could offer support. I'm not saying I have answers...just support, encouragement. But for some reason, because we have a kid with a disability, it seems we are the last people someone wants to talk to when they are discovering their kid has a disability. Weird.

Anonymous said...

Maybe her child is getting excellent intervention and she just keeps it to herself. Also, she may not like the choices you have made for intervention with your kids and chooses not to talk to you about it.

Tanya @ Teenautism said...

I would feel the same way as you, Holly. I've never been in a situation like that, because before blogging, I've never known anyone else whose child had autism. But if I did, and they chose not to talk with me about it, I would certainly not be able to understand. Maybe it will just take more time for them.

Mama Mara said...

As one who tends to practically enter every room shouting, "My kids have autism", I too find the closed-mouth approach confusing. Is it a way to preserve the child's privacy? Is it shame? Is it denial? Is it fear of intimacy? Who knows. I keep it real my way, they keep it theirs. I'm sure they think I'm crazy.