Today's post on The Thinking Person's Guide to Autism, How Do People React When They Learn Your Child Has Special Needs? by Emily Willingham is terrific and I suggest you read it.
When she writes about how it feels to meet professionals and other parents of children on the spectrum who "get it," I was reminded of an experience I had two years ago when I crashed the BlogHer conference in San Francisco, where a then-new friend of mine, Susan Etlinger, was moderating a panel of special needs parents who blog.
After the panel, I accompanied a group of women from the panel and others out to dinner in Chinatown. All of them were parents to kids with special needs or professionals who worked with that population.
I hadn't met any of them before, except Susan, but I remember thinking how easy the conversation was, how it felt I had known these women for years, how grateful I was for being people that didn't need much of an explanation of my kid or our life and how I could just get to the really funny and interesting bits right off the bat.
And mostly I felt really fortunate that these women, who obviously had all been close friends for years and years, invited me - a random newcomer - to join them at dinner. I wrote about it at the time, referring to them as My New Old Friends.
Only much later did I find out that the group was not a bunch of longtime friends (well, a few were) but that many in the group had only just met in person for the first time at that conference.
And that's the thing about finding people who share your story or some important thread of it. There's no audition process, there's no probationary period where you have to prove yourself worthy, there's no casual acquaintance stage.
You're in. You're with us. We get you. As Emily says, "We get it."
I'm thinking a lot about those women this week and others to whom I feel close from our online connections because many of them are convening again and BlogHer in New York right now. I wish I were there to tell them all in person how much they mean to me, but a solo trip was neither in our plans nor in our budget this year.
I know that in their group this week, at their gatherings and at their table, there will be no newcomers and everyone is a longtime friend, even if they are meeting for the very first time.