Dr. Robin F. Goodman documented that between the ages 10-12 children start to make “cliques” with one another. They are usually of the same-sex and interested in the same things. This is when children acknowledge each other’s feelings, opinions, and point of views. In Mel’s world, the friends at this point no longer mixed. Church friends, school friends and her disabled friends; they met less and less.
The best, neighborhood friend was the first to go. I could see it happening. They were so different and the proximity was no longer enough. It broke my heart. In all honesty, the mommy bear came out. I was angry. I hated what that child did as she pulled away. She lived so close that I could hear her playing with her other friends. It hurt. I cried. Now, as I look back this was a transition that I now understand so much better. Kids grow and their needs and their interests change. Look at what is known; friends are those with similar likes and dislikes; similar abilities. That matters at this age. I had to accept.
As middle school neared and then turned into a reality, the true best friend, the one who had been by her side since 1st grade was also pulling away. Again, same interest came into play. Calls from her become less and less. Mel struggled with this loose. I hurt for her as well. They do still text I hear, but that closeness they had slowly became no more. Her peer group of friend with disabilities, like her, was expanding and for this I am thankful.
The teachers said she had friends at school. She was in all regular classes. Teachers said kids liked her and she interacted well with them. However, school peers were invited to our home and I so wanted the invitation to be reciprocated. The invitations become less and less frequent. In all honesty by 9th grade the only time she interacted with the school friends was in school and at school functions.
From my studies I knew common interests were the key to friendships. The key to that best friend that I so desperately wanted for my child. I was glad my child was active, active in church, active in a few school groups. It gave her the connections she needed. It gave her that common thread. It did not blossom into that lasting forever, fairy tale of BFFs forever. I envy those who find that. However; I also realize that is probably not the norm – for kids to meet in kindergarten and be best friends forever. Her friends become her peer group of similar interests and similar abilities.
Wheelchair sports and disability camps gave her connections. It allowed her to meet many with similar abilities and medical experiences. It gave her a connection and happiness. The conversations were so different. They talked of surgeries, shared photos of pressure sores, scars and other medical stuff. Stuff the other kids had no clue was significant. This ability to talk with others about the same kinds of stuff is important.
As her disabled peers lived so far away, I became her ticket to weekend entertainment. I shopped, took her places and become her ticket to see the new movies. I did not mind; however I struggled with “was this the way it was or was not supported to be?” How many other kids sat around Friday and Saturday nights texting but never going?
At first I pushed for her to take school friends with us on outings. This did not last long as I began to feel like the other kids Taxi. I recall taking one friend to a school football game. She ended up sitting way up in the stands with her other friends. Another just vanished at the Mall and texted Mel her mom would pick her up later. Really! That hurt.
For now, she appears happy. She has her sister to interact with on the weekends. I’m glad they are 4 years apart. I also make it a point to take her places and for her to see the latest movie. Again, common grounds for the school friends. She texts a lot and has a BFF that lives over an hour away. For now, it seems that is how it is supposed to be.
Will college be different? How about the workplace? What happens during those stages?