Every time I've read one of these posts something has niggled in the back of my mind and it was only today as I read another wonderful blog post that I realized what it was.
I don't want anybody to treat me any differently to how they would treat me if I didn't have a son with special needs. I don't consider myself a special needs parent - I am a parent with a child with special needs.
I purposely go out into the world as me - Jane - and I don't label myself as anything else. It's never occurred to me to be anything else. Yes, I have a son who has lived to tell a lot of amazing tales and likewise has given me a lot of tales to tell but I also have a daughter who challenges me in completely different ways and gives me lots of tales to tell too. I'm a wife, a sister, a daughter, a niece, a cousin and a granddaughter. The list goes on and on.
I like being me and I will purposely walk into situations and not share the unique aspects of my family life so I stay uniquely me for a little while longer. Eventually if the opportunity arises I will share our uniqueness but I think because they meet me first news about Cameron becomes just another part of my story.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not embarrassed or want to run away from the reality of my life, quite the opposite, I will happily talk for hours and share our experiences with anyone who wishes to know but when that is all someone focuses on I am left wondering why? I haven't enquired about only one aspect of their life.
Don't we all at different times in our lives stand out from the crowd because tragedy or triumph strikes? We are all unique when we become expectant mothers, mourn for our parents, stand tall as proud parents or huddle together as scared siblings. We make connections because of our experiences and some of those connections turn into lasting wonderful friendships but we don't always need a commonality to become friends, sometimes our differences are what make our friendships stronger and these people can turn out to be our greatest allies and supporters.
I see the life I live as my way of growing and learning and at times the lessons are extremely painful and quite frankly life would be a lot nicer if I didn't have these lessons to learn from but I'm here to grow and learn and my children's extraordinary journeys are a part of that.
As I read lists on blog posts about how people would like their friends to treat them I reflect upon my friends and my good friends treat me as me. I sit and laugh with them, eat out with them, complain about my day with them and celebrate my achievements with them. We all get too busy and have to remind ourselves to make time for each other just like everyone else and we all struggle sometimes and fly high other times. (No we don't take drugs) I can be me with my friends and that is just the way I like it. I don't need a lot of friends, I just a need a few truly good friends who care about me as I care about them.
I've experienced friends turning away because of the discomfort of what happened to Cameron but truth be told, at some point those friendships would have ended anyway because they obviously weren't strong enough to withstand the test of time.
I've made friends because of Cameron just as I've made friends because of My Little Angel. Some of these friendships are lasting and some of them have not but there is a common thread. The true friends see me first and my child second.
Of course I've experienced the tactless comment mostly made by strangers and friends who haven't stuck around but occasionally also from good friends who just didn't stop and think because their life was hectic at the time or they just didn't have the insight into my life to understand the impact of what they said. But from my good friends I know they meant no harm, I know they were trying to help or trying to understand because they see me and my family as an important extension of their lives and they wouldn't want to hurt us in anyway.
My true friends treat Cameron as he should be treated with love and understanding. They learn his little ways and follow our cues for appropriate behaviour. They support us when times are scary and laugh with us when things become just down right ridiculous. They receive Cameron's seal of approval and when Cameron thinks you're special - you are. And they do the same for My Little Angel.
My friends let me be special. Not because I am a Special Needs parent but just because I am me,