This is a story of friendship and the value it has on our lives. A year ago at a blogger conference, I finally met a woman I had known previously through her blog. Her name is Helena Osorio. Through our online friendship she had shared empowering words of support with me, but having the opportunity to meet her in person and give her a hug was very special.
After the event, Helena and I planned a play date for our kids. Her son is 5 years old and my kids, Emir & Ayelén, are 9 and 6 now. I couldn’t wait for them to meet!
After their first meeting, Emir and Ariel became good friends. Emir doesn’t speak clearly and barely talks to people that he doesn’t know well. He’s included in a mainstream classroom at school most of the time, but being realistic, that doesn’t assure him making any real friends.
There are people in the world that are simply meant to become friends. Friends are not perfect people, but human beings, determined to see the best of you, support you with your endeavors, and even deal with your craziness from time to time.
Helena is a great cheerleader of mine. She is always happy and proud of my accomplishments, as I am for hers. Some people don’t know how
online media can benefit our personal lives. It works for many of us, more often than one would think, and through social media, we can find real friends.
Living and growing with Down syndrome brings many challenges to kids, young people and mature people. One of the most significant challenges is developing a regular social life. As a parent, working hard to include your kids and create social interaction with other children is not a ticket to integration and social normalcy. Yes, many times, we (parents of kids with special needs) will fight for a normal life for our children until we can fight no more, but interaction is something that can’t be forced and typical kids don’t always find similarities with kids with special needs, and it only gets worse as they get older.
But accepting this fact doesn’t mean giving up on meaningful relationships for your kids, so I’m still looking for positive experiences for Emir. With that, I recognize the positive side of the experience of inclusion in his school as it has provided him with a great increase in self-esteem. After being a very shy boy for years, he now approaches other kids, talks to them, and even though it doesn´t always work, when it does it always brings joy and pride to him, and to us as a family.
So back to our story of friendship: Emir and Ariel kept meeting during our “moms’ dates” and they have become great friends. Ariel calls Emir “the brother” and Emir calls Ariel “the nice guy” and there is much love between our families.
Emir’s first sleepover was with Ariel. Emir was so excited to have someone sharing his bedroom for a whole night, something that typical kids have as par for the course. We just visited Disney together last week for the Disney SM Moms and the sweetest part of it all was when they saw each other and became so happy and excited to spend time together. Emir’s face was priceless as he reacted to seeing his best friend. It was real happiness in his eyes.
“The nice guy” is gentle and always takes the time to really listen to Emir. He understands what he says and follows his lead many times. They hold hands when walking together and they share smiles and inside jokes that us mothers could never understand.
Sadly, our friends are moving to Philadelphia soon, but it doesn’t matter because this friendship started online and will stay alive that way. We’ll set some Google hangouts and Skype connections and we will keep sharing our lives and stories to see our kids growing together.
That’s the value of real friendship. Online friendships are worthy of the same time, effort, and commitment as in-person relationships because they’re just as meaningful and important.