Recently, I saw tweet on Twitter about some company where you can buy friends. As I suspected, the friends you buy there are “friends with benefits.” I was really disappointed because I actually thought the idea of buying friends was an answer to a prayer for my son.
I know you must think I am either desperate or naïve or both. And you would be, well, right!
Building friendships has been the most heartbreaking element of my son’s struggle with his disability. So often, there have been glimmers and near-misses of friendships. There have been well-intentioned people and sometimes even relatives, who only go “so far” if you know what I mean. They will talk on the phone for a few minutes, but will they include my son in their everyday lives? Turns out they don’t.
There have been some hopeful things in our world, however. Our family is very involved with the organization we founded called XXYY Project, which serves families affected by XXYY Syndrome. We have annual events where the boys and men with the condition actually get to meet and they make friends from all over the world. Unfortunately, because the condition is so rare, there is no friends close-by. They do stay in contact by phone and Facebook though.
My son seems to gravitate heavily to people who are self-proclaimed radicals. He meets people on the bus quite often and some of them have taken advantage of him terribly. He meets young women with names like “Minx,” “Phoenix,” and “Strawberry, all of which are adopted names. Where did all the Susie’s, Mary’s and Brenda’s go anyway?
One of the most important things I have learned about my son and friendships is that I cannot put him into situations expecting him to make friends. When he is in a group, he has to be able to look around and see people whom he feels are his peers. They are not always the people I would have expected, either. Friends are on his terms, just like the rest of us.
We have stayed in the same community for a long time, which has had some benefits. He is in programs with people who went to school with him and who were involved in Special Olympics. This has also been a negative in some ways because grudges carry over for a long time!
I have tried to build communities of friends through other parents of adults with disabilities but our lives are so busy and complicated that it just did not work out.
So now you can see why the idea of buying a friend became rather appealing. (I know some of you are saying, gee, that is a good idea but I don’t think I would say it out loud!).
Renée Beauregard is the mom of an adult with XXYY Syndrome and another teenage son. She owns a business called CommUlinks of Colorado, which provides consulting to nonprofit organizations. Renée is one of the founders of XXYY Project (www.xxyysyndrome.org) and she has been involved in the steering committee of the National Organization to End the Waiting Lists (www.noewait.net). In her not-so-spare time, she advocates for people with disabilities on issues impacting her son.
What thoughts have you had around ‘obtaining’ friends for your child with special needs?