Wednesday, April 4, 2018

He does not want what he hasn't got

Yesterday I signed Max up  for an upcoming Sunday event for youth with disabilities, run by university students. It's a carnival, with arts and crafts, games, movies and performances. As usual, I felt a rush of gratitude that such events exist.

If it were up to Max, he'd spend his hours roaming Home Depot to shop for furniture for his future home in Florida, where he'd like to move, and watching YouTube videos of fire trucks around the country. He also enjoys taking walks around our neighborhood, going to malls and eating out. Shows, too, and maybe the occasional museum visit. I am grateful for all of this, because when he was little his sensory issues made going anywhere hard for him (and us).

Dave is Max's best friend. The two of them eat bad food together, go on drives and generally roam around, often with Ben in two. But while I am incredibly grateful for their bond, and for the social opps that exist, I am also heartbroken about the lack of friendships in Max's life.

The students in his classes, both at his former school and his current one, don't live close by. On occasion, I arrange hangouts, and Max goes to parties with classmates. His school hosts social events where students from other high schools spend an evening with students at his school. Max loves these evenings—he is a really friendly, social person. Which just makes it that much harder for me to deal with the lack of friends in his life.

For a while, a really cool teen boy was visiting Max through a program. A few months ago, the visits stopped. This boy no longer had the time or dedication for Max. Max cried when he forgot to show up one day. I understood, on a certain level; teens get busy. But then, I felt awful for Max. A new person, a girl, has taken his place; Max really enjoys her company, yet he still asks about that boy.

Although I have forged many paths for Max and opened many doors, I can't make friendships happen.

Max doesn't talk about this. He is content. Only I know what he is missing—best friends who bring fun and adventure and comfort and support and perspective and reality checks and shoulders to cry on and all sorts of consolation, serenity and happiness. And while I try not to project my own experiences and feelings onto Max, the thought of him not having this makes me sad.

And so, I'm glad for the social events that crop up. Unlike friendships, their satisfaction is short-lived, but what does that matter? Max has a great time.

As sometimes happens, I have to push my feelings aside and remember that he is not me. Max is his own person, he has a good life and he is happy.


  1. Ellen it sounds like you are supporting Max in many opportunities! I did not have close friendships until avout 10th grade. Max still has time and the right couple people who "stick".

  2. Ellen, I can only say I feel your pain. A year back we moved to a new country. It has been extremely tough for our son who has an intellectual disability and is on the autism spectrum. After a year, we still have no friends, and he keeps talking about his best friend back in Spain. I still don´t know how to help him, because he also has behavioural issues that make it difficult to organise play dates. On one hand he craves friendship, but at the same time he pushes, shouts and scares the other kids in his class. Work in progress, I know we will get there.

  3. Everything about you is so heroic Ellen. Don't even sweat it.
    It's interesting to see that Max took time to "get over it". It actually doesn't surprise me, he seems to be growing up into a balanced young adult especially in each new post. Hugs!

  4. I struggle with this, too, because my 13yo has had very few close friends his own age of his own - partly because of the walls he puts up. Thank goodness for his older brother, a few amazing adults in our lives, and occasional cousin connection (which would happen more often if someone could invent a time machine and a teleporter). A therapist recently told my husband that it's ok if we're our son's best friends right now, so we've leanlea into that when he seeks connection with us.

    Thanks for sharing Max's struggles, his progress, and your thoughts & concerns. It helps me a lot.

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  6. This post really struck me. Friendships have elevated the good times and helped me through the tough times. But I didn’t form close friendships until high school, and feel that one or two friends is all a person really needs. Max is happy and considerate with a wonderful sense of humor. These are traits most people seek in friendships, so he’s already halfway there! Also, thanks for reminding us-the parents-that although we sometimes view our kids as extensions of us, they are not us. What makes us happy does not necessarily make our kids happy.

  7. I love your blogs but this post in particular struck me, too. I work in the special needs community and I consider myself a "social advocate". I run disAbility Awareness experiences around town called B'More Inclusive (Since we reside in Baltimore). The main message is to think about people who have special needs as a person first, get to know the person and find what you may have in common. The goal is to make friendship between typical kids and kids with special needs and mental illness by finding common ground. What do you and your readers think would be a good next step to bring this attitude to the fore?


Thanks for sharing!

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