I have always been upfront about M’s challenges. My colleagues, friends and family may not know what’s happening on a daily basis (unless they read my blog), but they know he struggles from time to time. M has taken his meds in front of friends and when they ask questions, we simply answer that he needs them to help him pay attention better or to be less anxious. We don’t make a big drama about M’s issues, but we don’t minimize them either. We don’t want M to be embarrassed about the fact that his brain works a bit differently from other kids. And we want him to know that we, his parents, aren’t embarrassed – we accept that he has certain challenges and many more strengths.
Despite the fact that friends and family are very supportive, many of them don’t have a true understanding of what we go through every day with M and what it is like for him. It’s as if they are visiting a foreign country – lots to see and do, but a completely different experience from that of the natives who actually live there.
So it was wonderful to have a chance to chat with a long-time friend who has a child with many of the same challenges as M. She and I don’t live in the same city – not even in proximity to each other. We really only get to see each other once a year when she comes to town for work.
Naturally we spent a better part of our evening together talking about our kids. Part of it was catching up on the essential information – age, grade, hobbies. But we spent most of our time discussing how it is for us, the parents, to parent these wonderful complex children we have in our lives. My friend is the single working parent of a teenager, so she has a lot on her plate. But I understood exactly what she meant went she talked about the sheer amount of energy it takes to help her child successfully navigate school. Not to mention the time and effort required to identify resources to support her child. Neither of us begrudge one single moment we spend with our respective children or advocating on their behalf. But once in a while, it is reassuring to talk to someone else who really understands what you are going through – who knows that some days are a total grind and others are an adventure of discovery. Someone who knows without explanation what you mean when you talk about your child’s recent meltdown.
My friend and I were not comparing battle scars or war stories. We were not commiserating with each other. We were simply being honest with each other and sharing our common parenting experiences. We both love our kids to bits. But we both know it can often be hard work. And occasionally it is just nice to talk to someone who really understands what it`s like.