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Please Don't Say This to Your Disabled Loved One's Friends

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I am a person with a disability. I have cerebral palsy, am an amputee, and a wheelchair user. In my life, I have had consistency issues — not with creating friendships, but keeping them. Growing up, I would always get close to someone, and we would be friends for a few years but more often than not, our friendships would end without explanation. This happened a lot in high school minus a few exceptions.

As an adult now, I am lucky enough to have what I call my “core four.” These are my best friends I have had for some time. Still to this day, after we’ve done something fun together, I find myself repeatedly thanking my friends for spending the time with me or for the fun we had. I used to say it a lot more often than I do now, but I still do it more than average.

I have noticed that my mom will always thank my friends for coming over or spending time with me. She does this every time, whether it’s simply a day trip or a weekend away. I can understand why she does it; seeing me constantly have plans I made with friends fall through over the years was difficult, I’m sure. However, it puts my friends in an awkward situation. In their eyes, they are just doing what any friend would do, not something that warrants excessive gratitude. I believe I am good at expressing my appreciation already and they understand how much their friendship means to me.

Another reason this bothers me so much is that I can tell my mom only does this specifically with my friends. She does not thank the friends of my siblings who are not disabled. She seems to think they feel bad for me, when in reality I know they are hanging out with me because of the person I am, not because I am disabled. Both disabled and able-bodied people have friendships. I believe parents, caretakers, and society as a whole need to stop glorifying these friendships and treat them just like any other friendship — because that is what they are.

I think when we change our perspective and consider how much unnecessary attention we are putting on these kinds of friendships, we can change our outlook for the better. Friendships are friendships and no matter how they come to be or who they’re between, they all deserve the same respect. If you are an able-bodied person, how would it make you feel if your parents thanked your friends for spending time with you?

Getty image by Nikula Barbutov.

Originally published: August 16, 2021
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