This is one of those posts that sounds a little pathetic and is full of self pity. Sorry in advance.
When I moved in with my husband I was finishing up graduate school and working full time. I didn’t really have time to make a lot of friends. I was commuting from New Jersey to New York City. Then I had Sam and between working full time and spending time with him, I didn’ t have time to make a lot of friends. I stared to – I got to know a few more people around the neighborhood and we spent some weekends with friends of my husband. I changed jobs and was working closer to home. I thought I was getting into a routine that would allow me to meet other young parents and build a social network. Then Sam started to show his symptoms. My life became all about therapy, research, and work- as it should have in that situation. As it became more and more difficult to take Sam places I just stopped going anywhere but therapy appointments, work and the grocery store. I have people I talk to at work but there are limits to that. When a friendship doesn’t extend beyond the walls of a particular building it doesn’t fully develop. The financial problems don’t help. On exam or professional development days when we have more than the usual 25 minutes for lunch most of my coworkers go out to eat. Because I worry about splurging on a restaurant meal, I often opt to sit in my room with whatever I packed to eat that morning. No one really calls anymore. I understand why – you can only hear no so many times before you just stop asking.
I am a relatively introverted person. All my life I have needed a certain amount of time to myself so I think I handle the isolation better than many might. There are days and even weeks when I don’t notice or mind at all. But then there are times when it is just lonely.
But even the occasional bought of loneliness would be manageable for me. I might feel down about it from time to time but I would work through that. What is really making me upset right now is that it is starting to affect Maya. You see, her birthday is coming up and I can’t give her a party like she wants – because I have no one to invite. Maya went to a “real” birthday party last summer and ever since she has been dreaming about having a party –with friends- when she turns 4. I assumed that would be possible. I assumed that once she started pre-school she would start getting play date invitations and birthday invitations. So far, she has only had a play date with a girl she knew before school started (don’t misunderstand – this girl and her family are lovely - Maya would play with her every day if she could). She has not been invited to a single birthday party this school year. I don’t know if it is just the age, the particular culture of this school, that fact that I work and so none of the other parents know me? I tried to put her in a Sunday school program to make more friends (and since I would be at church I would meet the parents) but I haven’t found a place that has any kids her age in my religion. Do I have to convert???
I realized how quickly Sam’s and Maya’s birthdays were approaching a couple of nights ago. I started to realize that even if I wanted to plan a simple “kid” party, I don’t have anyone to invite. I don’t have other parent friends with kids who could come, I don’t know any of her classmates’ parents, and our extended family is very limited. We WILL have family over to celebrate but that will be her grandmother, and her great aunt and uncle who are in their 80s and maybe her 2 year old cousin. We love to have them over and it will certainly be a fun time but it is not a get together with friends which is what she keeps asking for and hoping to have in addition. (I am not minimizing the importance of a family celebration here - please don’t misunderstand)
I realize that at her age this is not the biggest deal. She probably will have no memory of not having a birthday party at this age but what I keep thinking about it that I have no way to change this. There is no chance I will ever be able to quit my job. My hours will never allow me to drop her off/pick her up at school so I will never know her classmates or their parents well. Sam is not likely to improve to the point where we can start reconnecting with past acquaintances. At age 5,6, 7 she will notice if other kids have birthday parties and she does not.
So what do other parents of special needs kids, who also have typical childre,n do to give their typical kids a chance to socialize?