My 13 year old has no friends and she doesn't care. Non-verbal and afflicted with severe Autism, relationships of any sort do not appear to be important to her. As I stand here in her bedroom (a room that resembles a typical teen girl save the Barney DVDs in the closet) I look at a framed picture I placed on her bureau. A photo of her "best friend"... a grey stuffed bunny that was once in the shape of a pillow, but is now so bedraggled, threadbare and misshapen that it resembles a grey blob with a tattered and stitched up rabbit face. This is her best bud. She loves this mangy thing. I can't imagine her without it. I'd risk my life to save it from a fire. I look at this overly-loved clump of stuffing waiting for her on her bed and think that sometimes things are so easy in her world. Often I feel a bit sad that my daughter will never know the joy of a close friendship; a "sworn sister" friendship, thick-and-thin friend that I remember having as a young girl. Today, in my quasi-pensive (i.e. feeling a tad sorry for myself) state, I envy her that she'll never notice the empty space the lack of that kind of friend leaves.
My friendships seem to have a life span of their own, of which I've only recently taken notice. I always had one very close friend, a "BFF," along with a tight clique in elementary school through college and then in graduate school. But with each transition to a new school and stage of life, the "friend group" changed, as did the "BFF." I guess I've always been so busy and have moved residences and jobs so frequently that my expectation is that friends just come and go through the revolving door of my life. It's never bothered me much until now.
With a chaotic life full of kids, responsibilities, craziness, challenges and questions, I secretly crave that Best Buddy, Sworn Sister, "Close As Family" type of relationship. That one girlfriend to talk to every day and share each joy and stressor with. Now, don't get me wrong; I never have a paucity of social engagements, events, girls nights out, emailing, and mutual support from an expansive group of friends I am beyond lucky to have! And, I certainly feel quite confident and happy to claim many very good friends in my life that I can count on, confide in, and be myself around. But, as good as these friends are, I fear that if I were to move again and/or go back to work, outgrow the playgroup, have less compatibility in our schedules, the revolving door would slowly begin spinning, and new people would enter as the old disappeared. I remember a saying that you can be surrounded by people and still feel lonely sometimes. Today, perhaps that is how I feel, though I can't really surmise why.
I don't know if it's just me, or if this phenomenon occurs in every one's social life and I'm the only one dorky enough to sit and stew about it, let alone write an embarrassing blog "outing" me as a complete loser. I think about my daughter's disinterest and lack of capacity to form social cliques and connections. Autism (or at least as it effects HER) has its gifts and protection from loneliness may be one of them.
I laugh at myself, sitting in her room, brooding over friendships, as if I am the 13 year old girl dissecting the intricacies of my social life. There is some weird Freaky Friday role reversal going on here. Don't I have laundry to do or something? I get up to move on with my day. The baby will be up from her nap any minute and before then I have to squeeze in a shower for my Book Club tonight. Soon, my 13 year old will come off the bus, push past me as she runs through the door, silently bounding up the stairs and straight onto her bed to hug her best friend.