By Cheryl D. Peters
Many of the blogs I follow regularly have been talking about friendship a lot. Even here, Louise has been talking about it as well. (Side note? When I read about Ben's birthday party, I wanted to call Louise and ask if I could come. Everyone needs and deserves friends along this journey called life.
A little background about myself and my family. I am a young (ish) mother to two beautiful little girls, Lauren who is 5 and Jillian who is 3 1/2 (photo left) and has been diagnosed with spastic diplegia cerebral palsy (CP). We live in Toronto with my husband and cat. One would say we don't quite fit in here. We arrived in 2007 for a three-month contract position for my husband's job. Since my husband is such a rockstar, three months has now turned into four years. We left all of our friends and family behind in Nova Scotia, and it's been quite the adjustment period.
I've always been a pretty social person. After growing up as a military brat, I adapted well to change and strived to meet new people. I suppose that's why I enjoy volunteering with Holland Bloorview so much. When we first arrived in Ontario, I had vowed to keep in touch with my friends back "home."
Meeting new people is strange when you're an adult. I can't just run up and ask them if they want to play with my toys with me. ;) Now that we have a special needs daughter, we're not eager to move away from here. Funny how things change.
I try not to feel sorry for myself, but I'm realizing how difficult it is to maintain great relationships with my friends from Nova Scotia while caring for a special needs child.
Shortly after Jillian was diagnosed, I had the pleasure of going out for dinner with a few other local girls. Funny, we were a group of special needs moms that needed some time away. I guess I brought up something about CP and later that evening, one woman confided in another friend of mine saying "I'm SO tired of hearing her talk about Cerebral Palsy all the time! Does she not know how to talk about anything else?" Ouch. Early into the diagnosis, I do realize I brought it up a lot, but it was mostly because everything was so uncertain. This woman and I never spoke again.
The friendships that bother me the most are people that I thought were my close friends. In fact, I was just "unfriended" on Facebook by someone I considered pretty close to me and my family. In fact, she was named as the godmother to our children. I do realize I haven't been the greatest friend as of late: I'm stressed and worried about school and an IEP process, not to mention worrying about spending enough time with my "typical" daughter as well as continuing all of Jillian's therapies. I tend to blame myself, that I should have been a better friend, but there comes a time when you reflect back and say "Well... you either call and talk about CP and dominate the conversation or you just say you'll call on another day...The phone works both ways and the beautiful thing about technology is that it can bring people that are farther apart, closer together."
So here I am. Four years into a three-month contract stay wondering where do you go to find friends? Perhaps I should put an ad in the paper. ;) I am so lucky that through volunteering with the family resource centre at Holland Bloorview that I have met some pretty fabulous people, and for that I'm eternally grateful.
Cheryl D. Peters is a member of Holland Bloorview's family advisory and blogs at The Beautiful Side of Hectic.