Well, I said this was going to be a summer where I tried to take a pause and breathe a little. But you know what? Uhm, I'm not really like that.
So instead I have scoured every local list and found camps that will make my daughter happy for most of the summer. And I have signed Jack up for two different visits to his favorite camp. I have scheduled one weekend with friends at the Lake house, and have invitations out to two other families we know well-enough to invite into our intimate life, and I am planning ten days at the lake house with the kids.
Also, I'm leaving for Mexico in the morning. That's right. I am going on a vacation with some girlfriends. My bags are packed and my purse is cleaned out, and I have books to read. I am going to read, and sleep, and laugh, and nap for four days. I'm not even staying the full week with everyone, but I know it will be enough time to relax and have some fun. Just knowing that I am only going to carry only my purse onto the plane is practically a vacation!
It was a bit of a last-minute opportunity, a combination of the host's generosity and me feeling adventurous, but it came together, and I am so excited. I'm going with some women I know from the special needs world. Two of them I have known since Jack was a tiny-tot in early intervention ten years ago. The other woman I've known for almost six years, and we met because of our boys too, and the Special Education PTA (SEPTAR.org).
I don't see these women that often (or at least outside of our PTA duties). We are busy with children and their schooling, and husbands, and jobs, and life, but I know them deeply when we meet. There is something in our friendships that make it so that we don't need to start over every time, and there are so many things that happen in my life that they just understand in such richer detail than parents with only typical children can conceptualize. These women, they are my people.
Having a child with special needs marks your life as different; different than you planned perhaps, different from other families, different from what the books tell you that parenting will be like. But there is one way it is marked differently that I am thankful for every day, and that is the character and depth of the friends I have made on this journey.
All of those parent groups, laughing about things that really aren't funny to most people, finding ways to hold each other up when illness, or desperation, or fear try to get the best of us. I have shared so many important stories with these women, and with other people I have met along the way, and I am changed by the conversations we have had. The insight we can provide each other, from personal experience or research, is invaluable, and the compassion and understanding are models for what nurturing looks like.
I am grateful for the friendships I have made and the community we have built. As lonely as it can feel sometimes, I have always known there are people who will help me figure something out, who will willingly be the emergency contact on our camp forms, or quietly be with me as I come to terms with whatever parenting failure I am trying to resolve.
It's one of the first thing I tell someone who has a child that as just been diagnosed... with anything: Find your people. It is the best thing you can do for your child, your marriage, and yourself. Finding people to lean on, and a group to care for almost always heals up some of that feeling of "other." You will need friends who understand your family. You need to know there is at least one other person who can get your kid from the bus in front of the house and shepherd him safely in to the house. Find people you trust with your challenges and your failings, people who you can count on emotionally through difficult times. Then know that the good times, the easier times, which there really are a lot more of, will be just that much better with friends who will always know how far you've all come.