Carolyn Hax: Parent of disabled child is tired of his friends’ pity

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Adapted from an online discussion.

Hi Carolyn! I don’t mean to imply that I’m an incredibly special snowflake, but I have a child with a lot of disabilities, and my old friends do. Not. Obtain. This.

To the casual observer, my son looks fine, but he has autism and has battled anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, etc. He was hospitalized several times and our life is a revolving door. of various professionals trying to help her.

My friends for the past 10 years are amazing, have their own difficult kids, and have provided an amazing community. My college friends, however, just can’t understand the life I live.

I feel torn about keeping in touch with these old friends. It’s exhausting explaining things to them and watching them react over and over again with shock and pity. It’s disheartening to listen to them talk about their fun family vacations (which we’ll never be able to take), their kids’ amazing academic achievements (my idea of ​​success is my kid not throwing things at a teacher), extracurriculars brilliant of their children and vibrant social networks lives (hahahahaha).

At some point, do I cut my losses and say it hurts to be with these people? Part of me feels like they need to remember that there are families like mine – lots of them! — but constantly educating others is a lot. What do you think?

— Snowflake with special needs

Special Needs Snowflake: I think you have no further obligation to friends who don’t consistently serve the purpose friends are meant to serve. You also have no obligation to educate them on their behalf, yours or the world’s.

And if you still want to keep in touch with them, you have no obligation to explain yourself. You can calmly let them not get it.

People of all kinds leave friendships of all kinds for all kinds of reasons. It really doesn’t warrant a deep analysis if you don’t want it. You have other supports now and warm memories of then. Good enough.

Re: Snowflake: Have you told your friends about the trend in their behavior? (Friends you might want to keep, anyway?) Something like, “I feel like I’ve explained it to you over and over – that’s my child’s condition, those are his limitations , it’s permanent – and yet you seem surprised every time. What’s going on?”

Anonymous: I like it, thanks – but only if it doesn’t feel like more work on top of all other work.

Dear Caroline: Is there a good way to navigate a friendship with someone whose significant other is a little toxic? I’m doing my best to see her just one-on-one, but she invited me to a group event this weekend where he’ll be there. I want to see her, but I almost feel like leaving only allows the dysfunction between them.

Activation? : “Toxic” is a big category.

Are we talking about abuse? Then go to to learn how to best support your friend. It’s a fine line: don’t tacitly approve of the relationship, but also don’t help the abuser isolate your friend. It’s about staying present and close but not buddy with the abuser.

If it’s just that you don’t like SO, then it’s more about deciding how much couple stuff is needed to stay close to your friend.

And don’t underestimate the value of being there to say, “Hey, don’t talk to my friend like that. Or a private, “I’m here for you, 24/7.”

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