I am a terrible friend. I don’t mean to be. But when shit hits the fan, I shut down. Everyone has stuff going on that they handle in their own way. When the going gets tough, I just can’t be there for others. It’s not that I don’t want to … but …
I have my reasons. When you have a child with special needs – you as the caretaker have a lot of needs too. I could certainly use some help at times. But I hate when it’s offered and I never ask for it. That’s because I don’t have the ability to return the favor. I can’t watch friends’ kids at the drop of a hat. I can barely handle my own. I don’t want to watch your dog because I’m lucky if I have time to walk mine. I have amazing friends who have dropped off meals during hard times. Yet when shit hit their fan, even though I desperately wanted to, I wasn’t able to deliver a dinner. Walking my son to school can be a challenge some mornings; so no, no I can’t have your grade-schooler tag along because it just wouldn’t be safe.
Then there’s my attitude. My son has been dealing with some health issues for some time and they’ve gotten significantly worse over the last year. I know it could be a lot worse. But it still sucks. I don’t have the capacity to hear about Susie’s sniffles or how tiring it is to take Bobby to soccer practice on Saturday morning. I missed soccer sign ups while I was carting my children back and forth to different specialists all summer.
But there’s more to it than that. I also hate being a Debbie Downer. The best parts of some of my days are a total drag. A recent ‘jump for joy’ highlight for my family was finding out our insurance approved a very expensive, hard to get medical treatment for my son. Who the hell wants to talk about that on a Friday night? Other days aren’t much different. No one wants to hear about me hauling 3 kids to another doctor or meeting with a new speech therapist. My life is engulfed in caring for 3 children and one of them requires a lot of care. It’s difficult to engage in conversations about current events or pop culture because I am WAY behind the times. When you spend your “free” time in waiting rooms and IEP meetings, it’s nearly impossible to keep up with much more than the headlines.
My conversation skills have deteriorated as well. Before kids I was the party planner, looking for the latest bar to meet up for happy hour on a Tuesday. Now I dread going out. Part of the reason is enduring the question: “What do you do all day?” As if parenting full time and working part time isn’t enough. Rather than explain my days are jam packed with school, medical research, therapy appointments, doctor appointments, teaching my then 2 ½ year old son to walk, teaching my now 6 year old to talk – I just stopped going to stuff where I have to make idle conversation. My husband has to beg me to join him for work parties. I avoid ladies nights. I sometimes hang out with the kids at birthday parties to avoid meeting new people.
I’m not complaining. I crave solitude. I don’t have the energy to socialize. Frankly I’m a bit of a mess. Lately if someone asks me how my son is doing, my eyes might start to swell with tears. It makes people uncomfortable. Hell, it makes me uncomfortable. And because I don’t want to come across as a crybaby or a complainer, I’d rather be alone than put up a front that everything is OK. When times are tough I hunker down and ride the wave. And this one is taking a long time to make it back to shore.
The strangely beautiful thing is that even though I’m a terrible friend; I still have some amazing people in my life. One of them has offered to bring over dinner so many times I finally took her up on it. Another one dropped by with flowers out of the blue the other day. I don’t think we’ve talked all summer. We’ve just waved and smiled heading off in different directions. She came in, gave me a hug and told me I look like I need flowers. She said she misses me. I said I miss you too. When I told her I’m a terrible friend – she replied, “Anyone that thinks that isn’t a friend.”
Thank you friend. I needed that.