Monday, January 21, 2013

Social Life...What Social Life?

It can be a lonely world when you have multiple children with special needs especially when you add a bit of shyness into the mix (okay, a lot of shyness).  A few years back, I started to realize the majority of my daily social interactions were with my kid's teachers, therapists or doctors.  A busy schedule of therapies, developmental schools and doctor appointments make up our weekdays, while on weekends we may have a few activities, but for the most part we often stay home.  Waiting rooms can be a social outlet for me to meet people, but rarely do any long term friendships arise and usually I run (blissfully kid free) errands while the kid(s) are in therapy or school because taking my kids shopping gives me hives.  I'm kinda kidding. By the time I get home at the end of my day, I'm ready to collapse stay at home.

Another unusual factor is my husband, Matt, is home most days (since he's a musician he usually performs at night) and that contributes to my lack of social life with other moms because we do so much together during the day.  Plus, the majority of my kids don't socialize with their peers typically and consequently they don't get invited to anything, so forming a relationship with other mom's via my kids has almost been nonexistent. My 6 year old, Izzy, has been invited to more birthday parties than Kaelan, Reagan, Dasha & Lily combined.

My inner circle of friends rarely tends to extend past my siblings.  They are the ones I text, phone or email the most because basically I think I can just be myself and not worry about over-sharing the latest drama, catastrophe or frustration. Even on Facebook many of my "friends" are fellow adoptive families, Down syndrome families or autism families, yet sadly I've never met most of them face to face because they live in other states.

I'm also often painfully aware of all the peculiar, sometimes annoying and even gross behaviors that are the norm in my life can be potential deal breakers for many (adults and kids alike). Watching us chase after runners & wanderers,  trying to interact with kids who have little to no social skills or who speak unintelligibly, and seeing a 9 year old who isn't potty trained is a little daunting.  Then there's the nose pickers, hand lickers, screamers, and the child who randomly strips down to her undies that make people squirm.  I think our family overwhelms some and scares off others.

Don't get me wrong, I do meet many kind and friendly people, I just don't seem to follow through with forming a deeper connection/friendship with them.  I've begun to think my kid's social deficits are starting to rub off on me.  Maybe it's contagious.  I just don't seem to have the ability or gumption to get out there and forge new friendships let alone sustain old. If my phone rings at night after a very long draining day, I usually cringe and avoid answering.  I forget to call people back, rarely enjoy chatting on the phone anymore and hardly ever feel like going out.  I've become a homebody.  A recluse.  I've become my dad.  Crap.

Someone suggested to me the other day, I should "go on dates" with other moms to explore and accelerate potential friendships. She also advised I tone down talking about my kids initially. I had to laugh because I do tend to talk at great length about them.  Think diarrhea of the mouth.  Once I get going, it's hard to stop.  Not always a good thing to start a new friendship off with a dissertation about my 7 kids and all of their issues.  Their eyes usually start to cross as they begin formulating a plan of escape.  I've thought about her "date" suggestion and have decided it's a great idea. Now I just have to lose some of my inhibitions and brazenly ask another mom out.  EEK!

I was also thinking about how great it would be to have a website for posting personal ads or profiles for finding new friends in your area.  Here's my tentative first attempt:

Mom of 7 looking for new girlfriends:  Must like autism, Down syndrome, big families, quirky kids, chaos, movies and going out to eat at restaurants who's sign doesn't involve golden arches.  If future friend has a child that doesn't mind parallel play to the extreme and little to no talking from a playmate that would be a huge bonus. ;)



Toni said...

Well if you lived close to the San Joaquin valley in California I would love to meet you. Only have two kids a 17 year old daughter and 9 year old son. He was adopted from Kazakhstan at 26 months. He would be more than happy to hang out with the girls and Leo.The kid is a social butterfly! Hope you find someone to hang with!

Suzanne said...

I loved this post! It is how I feel so often. I think if you're naturally not a hugely sociable person, it's pretty easy to become even more so with a child (or multiple kids, in your case!) that makes "normal" socializing tough. In looking at how mothers make friends, it seems like it's usually through their kids, and if your kid just doesn't even have a single bit of interest in other kids, that is a strike right there. And then there's the habits like not being toilet trained that make it even tougher---like when we got invited to a friend's lake house last summer and Janey proceeded to pee all over the host's mother. That would be no big deal to me, but it was to them! I love your writing.

Melissa said...

Interesting. My husband and I were just talking about the incredible social isolation of having three special needs kids. I think this post reflects how I actually feel a lot of the time. If there was a local group for kids who are bi-polar, autistic and chronically ill I would be all over it.

pamela steuart said...

I only have one kid with special needs (but two grown, husband that travels and I work from home, so)I completely relate to everything in this post and LOVE knowing that there is someone else out there who is articulate but has no social life. I would LOVE a playdate ( I love Ds, autism, quirky kids-all of it)parallel play with a peer that doesnt speak (in fact. my little one often "roars" from sensory issues) We are in Virginia...let me know. Of course, we can also be great "virtual" friends. That way I can still wear my pajama pants and do IEP and "issue" research while we "hang out" :)

Ali H said...

I definitely relate. I am a mom of four living in Central Michigan. My two boys (three and six) have Autism. We have a five year old Neurotypical and then a almost two year old with Downs Syndrome.

I often, very often feel the way as you described. It is very isolating and that creates behaviors and feelings all on its own. Then add the hectic schedule and demanding routines on top of that. It can be daunting to say the least. I would love lasting, long relationships with friends who get it. Even friends who don't, but still are accepting and loving.

Becky said...

I just read this from The Mighty. I so get you. And I laughed when I read the name of your blog because, you see, mine is called This is My Ordinary. Soul sisters? And not in a creepy way??

Anonymous said...

I know this is off the subject but by the time I was school age, I never went to a "neorotypical." birthday party where the parents stayed too, it just didn't seem to be done 35 years ago.* Have things changed a lot in this area since then? I have Asperger syndrome myself, which I didn't know about at the time because just about no one knew about it back then.

*when you talked about birthday parties and other moms, it made me think about this.