Like many people, I have been rewatching Golden Girls this past week in remembrance of Betty White. Gosh, that show was delightful. I think my favorite part (other than Sophia’s and Dorothy’s snarky comebacks) is just how ready the characters are to help one another at a moment’s notice, whether it’s with a funny story or a slice of cheesecake. In one episode, Blanche and Rose even filled in for Dorothy in a tap dance performance when she hurt her foot!
In November, I sprained my ankle. It was not, as most 80s/90s sitcoms would have you believe, a minor inconvenience rendering me a charming damsel in distress. I did not win a dance contest at The Max (like in Saved by the Bell), nor did I trade places with Monica Geller and meet George Clooney (like in Friends). I could not put any weight on my foot for 10 days. The majority of my daily activities – carrying JB, lifting his 50 lb. wheelchair in and out of the car, etc. – were suddenly off limits. We are extremely fortunate that my husband was able to use paid time off, and that we have incredible family and friends nearby. Otherwise, I honestly don’t know what we would have done.
This experience gave me a lot of time to think about what makes a real friend as the parent of a disabled child. Here’s a list of what has meant the most to me over these past few years:
True friends are the ones who:
- Want to learn more about your child’s different tools/equipment, so they can assist you;
- Offer an extra set of hands, whether it’s to wash dishes or fold laundry or even just hit the pause button on the feeding pump;
- Talk to, not over, your child, recognizing they are just as present as anyone else in the room;
- Ask questions about your child’s interests, not their milestones;
- Understand that you may have to cancel plans at the last minute due to illness or behavioral issues;
- Distract you with funny texts and gifs while you are anxiously waiting to see a doctor or for test results;
- Visit you during your child’s hospitalizations, even if it’s just to bring you snacks or play card games;
- Arrange play dates (in-person or FaceTime) so their kids and yours can play and interact;
- Realize that language around disability is changing constantly, and do their research because they want their words to convey the most compassion and dignity possible.
This is not an exhaustive list, but I believe it’s a good jumping off point for when you want to help a friend who may be dealing with a child’s diagnosis or illness and you aren’t sure what to do. Sometimes, cheesecake doesn’t solve every problem (though it sure comes close)!
I’d love to hear what ways your loved ones have helped you during particularly difficult times. Please feel free to share in the comments.
(Photo credit: Canva)
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