We shared antenatal classes and birth stories. We had it all perfectly planned. Our babies were going to be best friends forever.
We both struggled at the start; but you could see my troubles were more than just new baby anxieties and my hospital appointments were more than just precautionary.
You watched me struggle and held my hand. You dealt so sensitively with the obvious differences between my baby and yours. You were by my side as I cried inwardly at baby groups, you took him from me to give me a break, you played with him and talked to him like he was really special to you. You showed compassion when I was weak, and protectiveness when I was faced with difficult social situations. You cried with me when I talked about the latest hospital appointments.
You hugged me the day of diagnosis. You helped me through those first few days and weeks, and reminded me of how awesome he is and how that will never change. You researched his rare condition and gave me insight and useful resources.
As friends drifted away you remained steadfast. You wanted your own child to be an advocate for mine even though they were still only toddlers. When your child was the target of an overzealous hug or a flying toy you made light of it. When your child recoiled from his approaches, you encouraged him to be patient and understanding.
You talked to me about your own problems, the things that were petty to me but to you were your world. You knew that was what I needed; a life-line to normality. Like school catchment areas, potty training, and pregnancy with a second child.
You showed understanding if I was too emotionally drained to come out on an evening as planned, and told me not to worry. If a family day out was becoming chaotic, you were the one to turn it around and keep the little ones happy.
When people further down the path told me that as a parent of a disabled child I’d end up with just special needs parents as my true friends, I didn’t believe this would be the case for me. You were my exception that proved the rule.
You invited my child to birthday parties even though your child probably wouldn’t have put him on the list. You knew it was special to us because we rarely received invitations and even though we were anxious to attend, you reassured us. You made special provision for us.
You didn’t mind when my child broke the picture frame in your house, the remote control and the vase.
I became close to your family.
You defended me to people, and my child to other children.
As more ‘regular’ friends drifted away you remained - you fell more into the background but still close. You naturally accumulated new friends, with their regular children, and then more new friends, with the birth of your second child, then more new friends, in the circle of school mums. I was accepting of the natural drift but still believed we had a tight bond.
It is a fact of life that friendships are fluid: life changes, our children change, and we change.
Nonetheless, it was a painful realisation that things had clearly changed, and would never be the same again between us.
Only now, looking back, I am able to distance myself and resist the feelings of blame and accountability. You were fully entitled to allow your child to choose who to invite to his parties. You were fully entitled to choose not to invite us to events you were hosting, even though you knew that I’d hear about them from mutual friends.
You had very good reason to tell mutual friends that you thought I was unreliable, flaky, and that I cancelled too often. It was the truth.
I muse over other underlying reasons, trying desperately to rationalise the last few years. Have I become so child centred that I am no longer worthy of friendship? Is it the incompatibility between our children that drives you to not want to enjoy family time together? Did I do something, say something, to offend you?
I tried to salvage the friendship and I picked up the phone. We met for lunch and it was nice. That was six months ago.
Friends come and friends go. But I thought you were here to stay.
I always felt I could talk to you about anything. Not anymore. So, I wrote this blog instead.