But once a year

January 19, 2009 at 10:10 pm 9 comments

     I hate birthday parties. I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again, I’m sure. I hate them when C doesn’t get invited, and I hate them when he does (a rarity; today was the first this school year). I dread them, know they are going to be terrible, and know that I’ll come home feeling sad, frustrated and angry. The birthday party has, for me, replaced the park in terms of my least favorite thing to do with C. It represents all his challenges rolled into one – large groups of boys running around mostly unfacilitated, unsupervised as long as they aren’t killing each other, and doing unstructured activities. You know, everyday life with a typical boy.

     When C was about a year and a half old, and not walking yet, the differences in him were so apparent at the park, each time I took him the pain threatened to burst through. I’d often stand at the playground, tears leaking out, being thankful for sunglasses and that I didn’t know anyone there. Now birthday parties have taken over the bad spot, only it’s a bit worse because I actually do know people there. I expected the worst today, so I was moderately prepared, but it still feels like a ton of bricks crashing down. At least now I’m starting to grow a helmet and don’t expect much.

     Yet I always come away with the same frustration. What is it about kids being mean? Why do we accept that being mean and hurtful is just part of growing up? Is it really a necessary developmental stage? I even think it myself, and find myself explaining away a kid’s bad behavior. “Kids are kids,” I hear myself saying, and I try to remember that most of them are good kids. I know even my kid has done things that seem unkind, but when I watch a child consistently exclude C throughout the party, taunting him and teasing him, and calling him “stupid,” I can’t forgive it or get past it. I just don’t get it.

     While other kids have an ability to slough things off, I’m not sure C does. He’s not wandering around tonight, crying that someone said he was stupid. Yet I suspect that there’s a chink in his armor, even if he doesn’t recognize it for what it is, and how many of those can he take? How long before all the good things the people who love him say to him are broken down by the bad things he hears elsewhere? And what happens then?

Entry filed under: autism. Tags: , , , , , .

Missing in action Boys

9 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Holly's Mom  |  January 20, 2009 at 3:51 am

    I am so sorry that people are like that. I admire your strength for enduring and taking one foot forward and showing up. As terrible as it is, you must think he gets somethng good out of it to make yourself endure it.

    You know, your words really made me think. Ultimately, I take him because he desperately wants to go. He would go play with anyone, anytime, anyplace. Truly. And how do you say no to a birthday party – unless it’s at the Playboy Mansion or something??? LOL!

  • 2. therocchronicles  |  January 20, 2009 at 7:22 am

    I don’t like the “kids will be kids” mentality either. I wish more people would take advantage of the teachable moments our children offer them. I know kids will be mean, I remember kids being mean, but I also remember kids being marched over to so-and-so’s house for doing something mean. My husband remembers this as well and remembers the conversations his parents had with him about kindness. I don’t think our generation of parents does that anymore.

    I’m so sorry it wasn’t a good experience. It’s so painful to watch and wonder what effect these experiences are having on our vulnerable kids. Your a good mama and C feels your love. That does go a long way.

    Love it – “marched over to so and so’s house…” SO TRUE! I actually did call a parent recently about a story C came home with – but only because I know the parent well and feel mostly comfortable doing it. I guess anymore I feel like lots of people don’t really care about kindness and empathy. Perhaps it’s my own hang-ups, but I’m picturing some obnoxious Dad thinking that C just needs to toughen up and thanking his lucky stars that his kid is big and cool….

  • 3. pixiemama  |  January 20, 2009 at 10:02 am

    Oh, the spiraling thoughts of gloom and despair. I’d say “don’t go there,” but what kind of hypocrite would I be?

    Foster just received his first two bday party invites of the year last week. I wanted to toss them on the spot, but the parents didn’t include an email address for RSVP (I can’t believe I have to pick up the phone). One is for a ROLLERSKATING PARTY, the other at AN ARCADE. How do I even put it into words? I’ll just lie, and say we will be out of town, or we already have plans for that weekend. I will lie, because the parents don’t know – or maybe they do – but they certainly won’t understand.

    At least here, in Internet-la-la-land, we understand.

    I hope you feel better soon.

    Boy, roller rinks and arcades! Sounds like a perfect sensory nightmare! Although C loves the arcades these days. I guess for C the invites are so rare, and he so desperately wants to go, and I just can’t say no to that!

    It is hard not to wonder about how this all changes their psyches. I know I had lots of tools at my disposal and still managed to just barely suffer through junior high and high school. I’m hoping he’ll just sail through relatively unscathed. I’d take that.

    Anyway, I hope you manage to avoid both parties and that Foster could care less about missing them! I’m pretty sure with each one, I get significantly grayer! LOL!

  • 4. goodmum  |  January 20, 2009 at 10:13 am

    Oh, how I wish I had wisdom to offer up. I don’t. All I can speculate is that C will learn whose opinions of him matter and whose simply don’t.

    You know, that’s just about the best sum-up I’ve ever heard! You said it beautifully!

  • 5. robinaltman  |  January 20, 2009 at 5:11 pm

    Grrrrr…. Where are the parents of the kids being mean? It’s just not acceptable. Parents need to teach their kids to be nice. Some kids naturally are nice, but a lot aren’t, and need the guidance. My older son was sort of naturally sweet as a young boy, but my younger one wasn’t. I’d watch him at any social gathering, and drag his ass to time out if I caught anything mean. They can’t teach themselves.

    I might have overdone it, because now he’s so self righteous it’s annoying. He called me “culturally intolerant” last night because I said it was insane that Sheiks offer up their daughters to men as awards. “It’s just a different culture, Mom.” Twirp.

    I know – I have no idea where Mom was or if she was even there. I had never seen this kid before but he’s friends with the bday boy and goes to C’s school. But as usual I’m in there trying to facilitate and help teach the other kids as much as I’m trying to help C participate fully. It drives me nuts that I’m the only parent doing this. I think once kids get out of preschool parents tend to think they don’t need supervision when they are playing with other kids – as if they’ve already learned all the rules. Grr…

    Ahh, culturally intolerant, eh? What an interesting conundrum. You gotta love young people that age – they’re trying so hard and it’s all you can do to not tell them that someday they’ll realize just how silly they sounded….lol!

  • 6. mama mara  |  January 20, 2009 at 9:57 pm

    My favorite part of your post: “I hate [birthday parties] when C doesn’t get invited, and I hate them when he does”. YES! That whole lose-lose aspect of it drives me nuts. I so want Taz to get invited, and then when he is, I hope for the party venue to burn down.

    It is a lose-lose situation a lot of the time. And I never thought about wishing the place would burn down! You had me chuckling at that one…maybe sometime we’ll get lucky with that…lol!

  • 7. Angie  |  January 21, 2009 at 7:21 am

    Oh my gosh…the things you and C go through! You know, there is a girl in Jackson’s class who had a tough beginning and I know her story but J doesn’t. And I try to tell him, in really vague terms, but he doesn’t get it and he gets so frustrated by her. I hope he is kind to her and I hope her mom would tell me if he wasn’t.
    Anyway, I’ve always wondered if I should tell him straight up what her story is…do you think the parents in C’s class, or even the kids for that matter, should know the unique challenges/attributes C has?

    Maybe this is a chance to start a diversity/kindness workshop for parents and kids alike!! Like you don’t already have enough on your plate;)

    There’s a girl in C’s class – probably the first child who has ever irritated him on a regular basis – who has a rough home life, and I have talked to him about it very vaguely and about trying really hard to be her friend. She loves him, but she drives him crazy and is very aggressive. I keep telling him that anyone who wants to be his friend as much as she does is a great thing, and I keep trying to help him be empathetic toward her. It makes me realize how hard it probably is for some of C’s classmates too whose parents might be trying to encourage their kid to be friends with C.

    But yes, I have thought about telling the kids more about C sometime. The idea came through about telling the parents, though, and I think I might try that at some point. I’ve told a lot of them, but not with a plea that they help their kid understand my kid. Hmmm…..

  • 8. hopeauthority  |  January 21, 2009 at 11:38 am

    I hate the parties too. And I endure.

    Why not get the class list and mail each parent a copy of your beautiful post “The Other Mother” along with a heartfelt explanation (that you are comfortable with) of “C”s condition and request that they open a dialog with their child about the obstacles “C’ has and how to be sensitive to them. Tell them how much bullying and teasing hurts “C”. Give them the words to use to explain what you want them to tell their kids…because they won’t know what to say, even if they want to try. If their kids can’t find a way around the obstacles to be a real friend, they should at least learn to be kind to him.

    Consider this at the start of each school year…or now for this year.

    And until it stops, I’d hunt down the parent of every little JackAss who hurts “C” at every party (since some won’t be from school) and come up with a line or two…something you can say that won’t make a scene, won’t make you cry, and won’t take long, but will get your point across.

    And if your hunt reveals that the Little Jackass was dropped off…well, then he’s all yours…

    You know, this is a fabulous idea. Someone else mentioned that I should go into C’s class when he’s not there and talk to the kids myself, and I always thought because C was so close to “typical,” that telling the other kids he has a challenge might make them even harder on him. But doing it through their parents is a really, really, good idea. THANK YOU! Fortunately little obnoxious mean boy isn’t in his class – just some random kid at the party.

  • 9. kristi  |  January 26, 2009 at 9:56 am

    I have gotten onto kids at TC’s daycare for being mean to him. They are usually 8 to 10 years old and I tell them he has Autism even though they may not understand what that is. I let them know he is not to be mistreated, at least not while I am around!


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