August boasted Friendship Day. How did I miss that one? Okay this autism mom may have little time to mess with Hallmark Holidays, but I did reflect upon what some of my own friendships mean to me (as well as those Hallmark Movie hunks- but I digress). You see, I had myself convinced for years that forming any type of meaningful relationship with a “typical” mom was not in the cards. The typical mom has typical kids. She is fun. She doesn’t have a care in the world and couldn’t possibly relate to my crap. I envy (okay, kind of hate) her.
Unfortunately for me, that mom doesn’t give up either. She is relentless. She WANTS to be my friend doesn’t care that my son doesn’t know which way is up. She must be a nut, and I no longer have an out.
So I hang. Sadly I am too busy making excuses for my child’s behavior (he is embarrassing me!) or attempting to deflect by relating my “sob” story to the group (yes, typical moms hang in clans) to enjoy my vodka. I continue to accept her invitation because she (she=they) like vodka too. Twist my arm.
For what reason other than my stellar looks would these women want to call me friend? Because their kids are as horrific (ok, as “noncompliant”) as mine at times. Because they need vodka (and shopping and gossip) just as much as I do. Because they are compassionate human beings. Because I, too, am worthy of friendship (their words).
I am so blessed. When I read about an autism mom who is feeling isolated (and there are millions), it saddens me. If it weren’t for the shoulder of (or shopping tip from) one of my pals, I’d be lost. If you’re anything like me, you need friends like you need oxygen. In honor of “Friendship Day” I’ve compiled a list of the types who breathe the most life into me, and pray you have at least one of your own. With or without a side of autism.
The 4 Types of Friends an “Autism” Mom (Like Me) Needs:
1. The friend who doesn’t know a thing about autism.
She can’t figure out why my kid isn’t in the same kinds of class as the rest of the neighborhood kids. “Rainman” was super smart, right? She innocently throws around the word “retarded” like I did when I was in high school, back when it ironically was my favorite term.
This friend feeds into my son’s repetitive behaviors by gifting him all the things I think he shouldn’t have, not to mention ruins his diet by treating him to all the delicacies he can carry. She does so with my permission, but how can I say no? This same friend LOVES my kid to pieces and offers to take him home with her. Weekly. “What could possibly happen?” she says.
She happily holds a ten-minute conversation with my (nine year-old) son about Thomas the Train. And loves every minute of it. She tells me he’s bright, and they hold standing private jokes together. She gets him to do things I never thought imaginable just because it is she who is requesting. Can you guess to whom my son gravitates, even prefers to spend his time with? Yep, autism-ignorant-chick. You should see him light up at this sight of her. He even misses the biotch when he’s not around.
Guess what? I think her ignorance is refreshing. If I pretended to not know a thing about autism, I’d probably enjoy my son a little more and he, me. Because of her outlook I’ve learned to take “risks,” like taking my son out TO A RESTAURANT (eek!) in spite of the fact his tablet’s power is at 8% (double eek!). Unthinkable for moms like me who don’t have the influence of carefree friend like her! Because of her I am a better mom.
2) The friend who is the amateur comedienne.
She texts to tell me she forgot her pants that morning, and noticed this while she was in the school’s drop off loop. Photo proof is attached. This girl is “on,” all of the time, and she always makes herself the butt of her own jokes. I feel a connection to her because I secretly want to be able to laugh at my own life as effortlessly and confidently as she. Where is she when my son is melting down because it isn’t raining and the weatherman promised it would?
I can’t wait to see her again because of the way it makes my weak abs hurt from all the deep belly laughs she induces in me. It beats the shit out of paying for Pilates. Laughing at and with her makes the pain I may be feeling that day simply melt away. Not to mention the minute she finds the least bit of humor in anything I say, my day is instantly made. Because of her I laugh more with my son, who I’ve recently learned is a RIOT! When I told him the other day that I’d be able to help him in just ten seconds, he said “Mom, if I count down from ten, will you explode at zero?” Now that’s funny.
3) The friend who is your same stilettos, different size.
Her kid has autism too. Hooray for us, (I think?)! Our children are exactly alike, yet completely different. And so are we. We may be in an exclusive club to which nobody wants an invite, but we are there together.
I feel like a slouch next to her as she does everything humanly possible to seek improvement for her child when I, well, just don’t. That’s just me and she doesn’t judge. I hope she is happy for me that I have friends that fall under category 1. I pray every night that I am her category 2.
My happiest moment comes when I realize I can’t live another day without this girl, and it has nothing to do with that sucky thing we have in common. Together we seek and find paradise within our normal.
4) The friend in herself.
I admit, I haven’t always liked this girl. She’s made more mistakes than she can count. She struggles to find balance in her life, and often doubts her own ability to be true friend. Fortunately, she gets by with a little help from, well, you guessed it. Because a “clueless” friend gives her confidence, a humorous friend hilarity, a “shoe” friend blissful companionship, she’s gained a new trait: self-love. I invite you to get to know this chick better. If nothing else, her heart is in the right place.
Kristi Vannatta is mom to two boys, ages twelve and fifteen. Her blog focuses on her (not always crappy) life with her fifteen year-old who has autism. In her infinite spare time (ha!) she runs Puzzle Peace Now, a South Florida based charity that raises money to send children with special needs to summer camp. Her newest passion is podcasting with, yes, that autism mom friend.