Every parent worries about their child’s ability to socialise with others.
From the very early stages of their lives, we are thinking about their social skills. Playgroups, pre-school and then the very first question most parents ask their children after the first day of big school, “did you make a friend?”
It doesn’t stop there. We may at some stage express concern for our children if they come home from school sad because they had no one to play with at lunch. We will worry about having the birthday party where no guests come. We want our kids to be liked, popular leaders. It’s human nature.
As a parent of a special needs child, I have not really talked about the fact that my son Billy has no “real” friends.
Billy’s little sister Sienna has asked several times if Billy is allowed to have a friend over for a sleepover. Each time she has asked, tears fill my eyes as I run through Billy’s list of friends, “me, you, aunts, cousins, grandparents.”
Maybe it’s a “pick my battles” type thing. Maybe I have decided to “pick my heartbreaks” and this heartbreak has been too sad to think about. I mean I know my child is playing alone at lunchtime, every lunchtime. I have also never heard a little voice asking for Billy’s company. Why do I need to think or talk about it?
Today I am excited for the first time, talking about it.
Billy is ten years old and finally has a real friend!
Last weekend, Billy was invited to a birthday party. I was looking forward to catching up with the mums I had met through Billy’s school. The party was at an indoor play venue. The past few times we visited a place like this, Billy wasn’t interested in doing much other than blocking the slide. You would see him sitting at the top and me trying to move him while trying to calm and apologise to ten complaining toddlers. I hoped it would go smoothly.
Instead, I got more than I hoped for.
I witnessed something so special. I finally got to see my boy with a real friend!
Billy was climbing on the play equipment and with him was Joshy, calling out, “wait for me Billy B”. The two boys sit together in class at school. They have visited each others homes. They have never interacted like that day.
When you meet other special needs parents, you instantly bond. It is the familiar thoughts, feelings and words she speaks that have you feeling as though this person knows you inside out.
You can talk about anything and everything and feel completely understood. There is no judgement. There is no jealousy. There are no misunderstandings.
There is only a raw, deep connection. It is old and comfortable. It is easy like you would expect from elderly sisters.
You don’t get to spend all that much time together. It makes no difference. Each time you catch up, the friendship grows stronger. You feel happy and like you belong.
Our children were not having a verbal conversation, nor were they grabbing each others hands and running to the slide together.
They were climbing on the equipment one after the other. Joshy calling out for Billy and although Billy wasn’t stopping for anyone, he knew his mate was right there.
They felt comfortable, understood and easy.
I will be forever grateful for witnessing that moment and for not only a very special friend for me, but a very special friendship for Billy, his first real friend. Although Billy may never speak a word to his mate, it’s nice to know he may feel comfortable and understood in his company.
Like he belongs…..