Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Thank you for being a friend....

Thank you for being a friend, Traveled down the road and back again, your heart is true you're a pal and a confidant, I'm not ashamed to say, I hope it always will stay this way, My hat is off, won't you stand up and take a bow, And if you threw a party, Invited everyone you knew, You would see, the biggest gift would be for me and the card attached would say, Thank you for being a friend - Andrew Gold

Friends, you can think of the ultimate friend TV shows like "Golden Girls", "Friends" or even "Boston Legal"; these shows have permeated society and told us how it should be. Unfortunately, more often than not, it is not. Now I am not saying we do not have any friends. Thank goodness, we have good ones that we just love to hang around with (you can tell I am from the Midwest, right?). We are lucky.

Our Aspie kids on the other hand struggle with friendships. Our son does not know what to do with a friend, and only one comes over here regularly. That is only because the mom and I call each other to make sure we can manage to schedule a time for them to get together. I rarely see or hear my son calling anyone to come hang out or go to a movie.

It would be great to have phalanxes of friends. However, are they friends or are they acquaintances? There is a difference, a big one between the term friend and acquaintances. There are relatives we are acquainted with and friends who may be closer than relatives may. It is messed up how this can be. What if you think a friend is merely an acquaintance but is really a friend and how do you fix the difference?

Well, you do not fix the difference, and it is OK to have close friends. Our society makes us think we have to have GOBS of friends to be happy, successful and popular. Our kids may or may not make the cut. Their social issues are not generally acceptable. Nor are their social abilities up to speed. In the mean time what does this mean? Well, in our case it means we go with Plan B. Plan A (Gobs of friends), well, that ain't working. Plan B is where we stay with the plan of focusing on his direction and where he is going and what he is going to do.

It is a common lament amongst Aspie families that our kids don't  have friends. To have friends one must BE a friend first, that means we are nice to people, polite, don't kick their pets or do harm to their home. It also means that there is little or no complaining about what people have in their homes and how they do things. It is hard to be a friend to people who are not friendly. Our son has finally gotten to the point where he is cutting people off if there is too much criticism. He is pretty much learning to let go of people who are negative towards him and that is hard because he wants to be friends with everyone no matter what. It is a real hard thing to watch him let go of people, places and things, but it is OK. He is now accepting that he may not have a ton of friends to go out with but will have to sign up and make up his own activities and choices. He needs to hang with people who have similar interests to him and since his interests are now so subject specific it gets more complicated. Joining clubs, signing up for sports and doing whatever, to meet people and make friends/acquaintances, learning FB that can help too.

Our best example is that for about 4 years now our son has been a wrestler. He started in 6th grade, none of it he did well and he struggled. One of the boys helped him, the kid is amazing and we were so happy when our son started cooperating with wrestling (it was the kid that helped him… he did it all). We never ever thought our son would do it or even get on the mat. I think he has won one match ever, and he tries his best. As his coach told me the other evening, "The boy would wrestle a grizzly bear if I told him to." We noticed this evening, at track and field, that he is finally being accepted by the other kids. After FOUR years, mind you. This has been planned, worked on and finally the kid is getting advice, working on his throwing and learning shot put (imagine throwing a canon ball) and discus (like throwing a weighted Frisbee). He supports his teammates and they support him. Our son threw 19ft tonight…pretty good for a freshman discus thrower who has only been doing it a couple of weeks.

This did not just happen overnight. IT has been ongoing and we have been trying for ages to get things happening. Our son has ACQUAINTANCES, and like his parents very few friends… people we enjoy and who understand us and we understand them. We got their backs…hopefully they have ours.
What I am getting at is that we don't need the TV show type of friends; we need to appreciate the ones we got and be happy that they let us be friends with them and we are hanging together and learning about this weird thing called living on the edge with Aspergers.

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