When and how do I tell people about Brielle? That's a question that came up time and time again at my 25th high school reunion last weekend.
Thankfully, it seemed as though everyone had moved past trying to boast about their lives and accomplishments. Instead, my former classmates' first questions were almost exclusively, "Where do you live?" and "Are you married?" (sometimes followed by, "Did you marry someone I know from our high school?").
But, the next question frequently sent my mind racing. "Do you have any children?" Seemingly innocuous, the question carried extra weight in my mind. Of course, I answered, "Two girls, ages 18 and 16." But, then what?
The conversation often turned to questions about what activities they are involved in and how difficult it must be to have teenagers. Some had no idea just how hard it is.
So, when did I tell them about Brielle? And how?
I often started with chatter about Ashley starting college and how difficult/strange/exciting that is. Then it's time to say something about Brielle.
When I delicately told them Brielle is disabled, I was often met with looks of shock and pity. I hate those looks. The silence that followed was the loudest silence I've ever heard and yet I have heard it so often since this was not my first time in a new situation introducing people to my disabled child.
I wanted to try to ease the tension with my long lost "friends" and often quickly added, "Oh, it's been a struggle, but Brielle is wonderful" and "at least she's healthy" and "it could have been much worse".
For them, it was likely a fleeting moment of uncomfortable tension in a weekend of trying to make small talk with people they once called "friends". Inside, my heart ached and I wondered in a teenage self-centered way if my disabled child and I became the subject of discussion when the seemingly jolly group broke into smaller cliques as the night wore on.
I am confident there were others there who felt the same dread when they had to reveal a divorce or joblessness or a lack of children. So, I know I was not alone in my anxieties last weekend.
On the other hand, there were true friends there that I had stayed in touch with who knew about Brielle and asked eager questions about her and the progress of my book. I was grateful for those small bits of respite in the weekend's events.
So, if you're one of my classmates who felt uncomfortable or unsure of how to react to news of my disabled child, no worries here. I do it often. I don't expect it to be easy for you since it never gets easier for me either.
Just telling you the truth here...
* If you truly want to know more about Brielle, you've come to the right place.