I saw you there, eating lunch alone in the cafeteria and it broke my heart. You had a smile on your face and didn’t seem to mind the isolation. But my heart broke for you because of what you couldn’t see. Because of what you didn’t have. Just a few seats over a bunch of boys laughing loudly and tossing straws at each other. At the next table, two boys eating lunch and chatting about the latest movie they had seen. And there you were, alone.
It broke my heart for more than one reason. I get to see you for you. For who you really are. I get to see all the charming bits and the funny bits and all the wonderful, amazing pieces of you. The other kids? They don’t really get to see that. All they see is the boy who eats alone. The boy who leaves class early and the boy who meets with the teachers once a week.
People say you’re lucky to have high functioning autism – because really it’s just all social and there’s nothing else wrong. I don’t think they know how wrong they are with that statement – but even if that was really just the problem, how is that okay? What would they do if they couldn’t make friends? If they had no one…
It’s hard to imagine a life without friends if you have many, or even just a wonderful few. The people you call when something wonderful happens. The people who let you cry on their shoulder when something goes wrong. The people who share in your joys. The people who go to the movies with you, the people who you take road trips with. Imagine a life without that.
That’s what I see for you, and it breaks my heart.
I see boys playing on the playground together. I see you alone on the swings, and I am so glad you’re happy swinging there. But you’re alone.
I know the difference between classmates and friends. Classmates are the ones who you’re stuck with for the school year and who put up with you and are friendly to you because they have to be. Friends are the ones who like you and call you on the weekends to hang out and spend the summer playing outside at the park or going to the pool.
I desperately want that for you, but you can’t force friendships. No matter how many times we talk about social skills and have group time or go to the Best Buddies program – it doesn’t fill that void.
You’re so happy in your bubble and it breaks my heart. You are unaware of what you’re missing and there’s peace in that. But I know what’s coming. I know how hard the next few years will be when you’ll start to notice. I know how difficult the days will be when you reach middle school and the classmates who have mostly ignored you will turn to bullying you. I know how lonely you’ll be in high school.
I don’t know what to do for you and it breaks my heart. I pray for a good friend – one is all you need if they are real and true. And until that day you meet a friend who loves you and accepts you just the way you are, I will love you through the loneliness.