I am sure you’ve all experienced it.
Maybe there were people you met in college that you spent every day with, and now never speak to. Or the person who you were inseparable with in high school is now someone you couldn’t pick out in a lineup.
Maybe your whole facebook newsfeed is filled with people you don’t even recognize. I only just recently rejoined the facebook community, and as I scroll my feed I look at pictures and have to really try hard to figure out which one of the people in the picture is the person that I know. When I finally figure it out, I realize how much that person has changed, which means that a LOT of time has gone by since I have interacted with them.
However, I have certain people in my life who I have kept close with for quite some time, and I have been reflecting on why that is.
When Nicholas was born, I was really interested in who was going to be invested in his life and who I would just lose touch with. Down syndrome or not, having a baby is extremely isolating. There’s those few months in the beginning where you just stay home. You’re always exhausted. You have to pack a whole car to go anywhere, and when you get there, it’s just a constant worry that your baby is going to need something or scream constantly. Going anywhere sounds as daunting as climbing Mount Everest. You don’t even have time to nurture yourself let alone nurture a friendship. And if you do it right, you should be putting some kind of effort into your friendships.
Luckily, some of my best friends live close. I know that distance has caused many of my relationships to phase out, which is such a shame! There are people that I know I would still be close with had we settled down closer together. I see them on facebook now and think wow, I miss these people!
Last night, on New Year’s Eve, we had two couples over. At one point, I looked around and really contemplated my surroundings.
I was overly excited for this gathering all day long, because if you’re a parent you know that opportunities to hang out with your friends do not come around often. Especially in a stress-free way where I did not have work the next day and the kids didn’t have any early commitments or therapy sessions.
Years ago, the thought of staying home with a cheese tray with a few friends on NYE would have seemed sad to me. But I was PUMPED. My kids could go to bed then us wanna-be hooligans could go downstairs.
Anyway, I looked around, and I was still with the same people I would have celebrated NYE with years ago out around town wherever the fun was happening. Except now, one of my friends was pregnant, and another had a 3 month old. I had two kids who love their bedtime, and wanted them home safe in their beds!
If Nick and I were out in parenthood land alone, I think it would have been harder to maintain our friendships. Parenting is such a weird experience as it is, and if you’re not doing it, you can’t quite “get” it. Before becoming a parent, it was impossible for me to imagine the absolute self-sacrifice that having children causes. But, having people who are going through the same things that you are give you endless things to have in common.
If having a baby does one thing for SURE, it breaks you down to the point of admitting things are so hard, and not pretending that everything is peachy anymore. I used to prefer to let people think that everything was “fine” all of the time, but parenting can be such a hot mess that you can’t even fake it.
And why would you?
If you could have a solid support system of people you could text int he middle of the night during an existential crisis, why would you scare them away by telling them that everything is “fine”?
Guess what, they don’t believe you anyway!
So, when I say that the friends who grow with you are the ones you’ll have for life, I don’t mean the ones who get married and have kids when you do.
I mean growing in the way that you are able to look at your life critically, and ask for help when you need it.
I mean when you are able to be open about your flaws, and actively make changes to correct them. That, to me, is the ultimate growth. Humans don’t typically enjoy admitting they are wrong.
Finding out that I had extremely flawed views of Down Syndrome is what sparked this change in me. In my mind, I had it all figured out. They are born different, and cannot succeed like typically-developing people do. I was so out of touch, and I didn’t know what I didn’t know, as they say. I was so blind to the limitless opportunities ahead of us until I reached out to some other families who are blessed like ours.
After making changes to better understand Down Syndrome, I started looking at all other aspects of my life. I started sharing some really personal and difficult times with my friends, and all of you via this blog. I started showing my flawed side, and it felt good. It didn’t feel humiliating like I thought it would. I wasn’t embarrassed. I felt free!
So, as we ring in a new decade, consider opening yourself up to some inner change. Invite your friends into your little world to see your secret hot mess. Stop judging other people for their looks, their choices, their… anything!
More importantly, stop judging yourself!
The goal for me is to be the best version of myself for Nicholas and Marley. I can’t do that without building a support system of people who are willing to share openly and understand that life situations change, and we have to change with it.
Thank you to friends near and far for being there for us! A special thanks to last night’s crew for accepting snacks and games as your celebration this year! As long as we are being our 100% honest selves with one another, I don’t see why our friendships can’t stand the test of time.
To many more years of friendship.
Happy New Year!