If you have kids of school age, chances are that to some extent, you dread birthday parties. Chances are, too, that you attend a fair amount of them, and throw a couple or three a year. As I wrote about our particular birthdaypalooza, I am as guilty as the next mom of throwing them, a process that I have to admit I enjoy as much as I hate it. I have done the craziest things for them, from fitting more than 50 people in our tiny townhouse and cooking for it myself, to ordering cupcakes while in labor, to the horror of the L&D nurse and the concern of the Molly's Cupcake's salesperson on the other side of the phone (God knows what they thought all that panting was about...), to attending my oldest son's Pump It Up feast three days after pushing out his brother.
So, by now, 9 years into this motherhood business, you may wonder why on Earth I got so excited about one of my kids receiving an invitation for a birthday party. Right?
The truth is that, at five and a half, and after three years in school, this is the first invitation he has gotten on his own. Of course, he has attended parties as part of the clan, where he was invited along with his brothers. But that is not the same as receiving an envelope with your name on it, and knowing that YOUR friend invited YOU.
Sadly, this is very common for special needs kids. My son is deaf, and he has spent a good part of his childhood going to therapy. No time for Wiggleworms or swimming classes at the Y here, or for play dates for that matter. At the same time, he was attending an oral-deaf program in a school far from our house. That meant that most of his classmates, including himself, were bused, leaving little opportunity for the parents to interact or the kids to play together out of school. I hesitantly threw his first individual birthday party this year, overcoming the fear that no one would attend. It wasn't huge, but some kids came, including two kids from his school.
In a way, he is lucky. As I write this, he is happily bouncing with his classmates who have been incredibly inclusive since he started kindergarten a few weeks ago. His social life seems to be slowly starting. And that is the first step towards normalizing his life. The first step towards full inclusion.
Some special needs kids will never receive an invitation to a party, or have friends or classmates attend their own parties, as we read on Facebook every now and then. But, instead of throwing up our arms in rage when one of those appears in our news feed, writing a comment, or even sending a card (all laudable actions, don't get me wrong), please do me a favor. Next time you receive an invitation from a differently abled kid, please urge your child to attend it with an open mind. It probably means the world to them. And, when you are planning next year's birthday party, try to include those kids who are different, or quirky, or weird, or act up. Send an extra note to their parents to ask how you can help them. You will make their day.
As this mom made ours.
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