A couple of years ago I sat outside of a sign language class with a fellow mom and we connected over our special-needs deaf children. It’s not every day you find someone who is living your life in so many ways. Her daughter is about four years older than Ollie.
She shared with me these two things: “The two things that will change your life Amanda are these- Number one, when Ollie is potty-trained. And secondly, when he gets his first friend- not just a friend or someone to play with… but his first real friend.”
(Note: When I heard her say real friend I understood it as someone who Ollie would have a unique connection with that reciprocated that unique connection. And in this friendship Ollie would have the desire to seek out their needs beyond his own… and the other child, to Ollie.)
I remember so vividly the way it felt to my ears to hear the other mother say those two things. At that time Ollie wasn’t potty-trained. And now he is. And she was SO right. It CHANGED MY LIFE.
But when I heard her talk about the friend thing, I shrugged it off quickly. No sense in getting my hopes up just to be brutally dashed. Her daughter can make friends- that’s so great. But Ollie can’t even initiate taking turns passing a ball back and forth, let alone invest in another human being. He has no need for anyone to join him in a conversation. How will he make a friend? Short Answer: He won’t. Move on. Don’t dream. Quickly push it all away…. #selfpreservation
Well recently I began to wonder if I was wrong. I can’t say he’s really “offering” that unique connection quite yet… but I will say that he’s “dabbling.” 🙂 And I have to say this loudly- Ollie’s (or your child’s) value does not change if he is a friend or has a friend or whatever! It’s perfectly okay for him to experience life with or without that unique connection I have in mind. He is loved and he loves- period.
That being said… 🙂 I see him learning how to be a friend more and more.
Last school year he continued to invite a sweet friend over and they’d play hide and seek over and over and over. She was incredibly patient with his requests! And just so you know- it’s not as easy as it sounds. This involves an adult at all times, helping count, helping to stay hidden, and helping to stay on task to “seek”. This same sweet girl went on a Deaf and Hard of Hearing field trip with him and they palled around. Picture below…
Last week he had two friends (what it looks like is so different from with my other kids!) come over. I have finally started asking other parents for play dates because Ollie will literally find a person in class or wherever, point at them and sign “home”. Translation- “Can I take this person home?” He’s adorable! So two friends came over and they all played… And they did different things and they did similar things. And they spoke in English and they used ASL. And Ollie was momentarily grumpy and then he was happy. And then we all went bowling and in all of their own ways- they enjoyed playing and communing and eating french fries. And my heart was delighted.
So… When Ollie gets his first friend in that unique way that my friend described- not only someone who is wonderful and who we play with. Not just someone who loves him deeply and he loves deeply… but a person that he considers his person.… ? I look forward to the day 🙂 And I think he’s well on his way… I’m not in his brain and heart. He may well have already decided some of these things.
But as his mother… I love watching his process. I love seeing how it unfolds. I HATE waiting. I HATE worrying 😉 But take that away, and it’s great! (grinning to myself as I write this now…. such a ridiculous notion to say that it’s great except for the parts that aren’t great..:) )
But whatever 🙂 It’s good. It’s ugly. It’s beautiful. It’s messy. There’s no flippin’ road map for it. And it’s mine and it’s his. 🙂 And I’m thankful for the people who have given him the opportunity to grow in friendship… (so for all of you friends reading… Don’t you dare think I belittle your sweet friendships! Without you guys we would be so lost! Your love impacts us daily! TRULY!!!! ) For those of you that stick around us and pull Ollie out of himself… I’m thankful.
Thankful for friends and for more to come 🙂