I hate Birthday Parties!

17 April 2015

Dear friend,

Birthdays are a wonderful time. A day to celebrate, to feel special, to show people you care. Magic moments spent with family and friends. Balloons, bunting, presents and cake. In Holland birthdays are a huge deal, traditionally celebrated with a Dutch circle party.

Since having kids my love of birthday parties has turned to dread and fear. It is not family parties that fill me with dread but other children's.

What do you do when your child isn't included?

Every child is different. Not every child can be the popular one and as a teacher I get that.

I am not a helicopter mum, hovering around my children, organising play dates every day, pushing to make connections, to forge friendships. I want my kids to make their own way to choose their own friends. But as a mum I find it hard to see how anybody wouldn't love my little darling, wouldn't want to be their best friend, wouldn't want them at their party.

How do autistic children contend with party season?

Let us first dispel this myth that autistic people are loners who do not want friends.

For the big lad the opposite is true. He thinks that everyone is his friend. What a great attitude to have.

Trusting, open and unspoilt.

He organises his own play and often arrives home after school with a friend saying we want to hang out. But he is happy to play with his brother or to be alone and he tends to play with one good friend.

In hindsight, perhaps I should have been more proactive? Encouraged the big lad to invite more friends to play after school. Networked more with the mums. But as an expat learning the language, I find this difficult and life is busy... I work and the boys have swim lessons and therapy. Time is short!

There have been several reports in the news and on social media involving autistic children who have had disappointments on their birthdays. These have ended up good news stories with amazing, kind hearted people making the child's birthday one to remember, sports people, police and fire departments have even got in on the act. Amazing stories but...

Why can't we just support each other, why do we need the help of kind strangers? What has happened to our community?

I spend most of my time and energy advocating that my son is treated like everyone else, that he is included, accepted. Stories like this show me that we still have a long way to go!

We assume that people 'get it', understand the challenges faced by parents of special needs kids. But can any parent really understand how it feels to watch your child struggle to do the things that their child takes for granted? Whether that be, make friends, kick a ball, read, write a story or even speak.

Both my kids have had disappointments.

But when you have a child with autism the problem is exacerbated. It is simple he doesn't get invited to many things.

This week the big lad had a massive disappointment as someone that he considered a close friend didn't invite him to his party.

How do you help your child deal with the disappointment of rejection?

When the parents of the party giver are also 'friends' then it hits you hard!

It is more proof that autism awareness does not lead to Autism acceptance even among people you thought were friends.

I am beginning to hate birthday parties because for me they signify, disappointment, rejection, non-acceptance. It is a reminder that my child is different, that he doesn't quite fit in.

I only hope that, people begin to realise that being a friend to someone a little different can be amazing too!

If you liked this post then please feel free to share on social media or drop me a comment. Thank you!
Anonymous said...

I experienced that feeling for the first time today. I was at a toddler group with my 3yo & he was trying to play with 2 other boys. They're best friends but they've always tolerated him joining in before. Today, though, one of them shouted at him to go away. He didn't really react & just wandered off. I felt really bad for him but didn't know if I was projecting my issues because he didn't seem overly bothered. I did chat to him later about who he played with at toddlers, to try to gauge if he was upset about it, & he told me "I wanted to play with X & Y but X used a not-nice voice so I went away." A little questioning about how that made him feel resulted in "I *love* X. I wanted to play with him. Why did he didn't want to play with me and used a not-nice voice?" I nearly cried! How on earth am I supposed to explain to a 3yo that he's probably going to have a lot of people who don't want to play with him because he's "different"?!

I get the feeling this is the beginning of years of me having to repeat "sometimes people want to play with some people and not others. It makes us sad but we can always choose to play with something else." No idea how I'm supposed to help him understand or not feel upset by it when I can't maintain "normal" friendships either!

Catherine Heemskerk said...

Thank you for sharing this experience. I am sure you are right and that sometimes it is more 'our' issue than theirs. Some people will never get it!

Callie Ge said...

Wow this brings up so many memories, my son has ADD & Aspergers Syndrome, His younger years were fraught with disappointment, He would be invited for play dates Once; he usually never was invited back a second time, as for birthday parties when they were very young He and his younger sister would usually be invited as a pair, having her with him often kept a lid on his over exuberance, but as they got older the invites including him came far less often, Then he received his first "Sleep Over" Invite , He was so excited and it required new pyjamas, he fussed but he went, all went well until early the next morning, came the dreaded phone call to come and pick him up, My Fault, I had not ascertained that they had Weetbix & Rice Bubbles in the house, He has eaten exactly the same thing for breakfast everyday his entire life, well porridge was served, he does not eat porridge or anything else for breakfast except a cup of Rice Bubbles with 2 Weetbix on top with 4 teaspoons of sugar, he lost the plot and I had to bring him home. The biggest blow though was when my neighbour had a pool party for her sons birthday. He went to the same school as my kids and was in the same class as my youngest daughter, I used to look after him before and after school everyday, he would come and play at my house on the weekends. He shared his excitement about the pool being built and the upcoming pool party, they had always been at each other's birthday parties. well neither of my children were invited, they had been friends and playmates for years. both of mine were devastated, she stopped sending him to me to be looked after without even telling me she was sending him somewhere else. that caused a rift with the kids There had been clashes between her son & mine; hers had ODD and was a bit of a brat (spoiled only child) but she blamed my son every time there was any trouble so hers started deliberately causing trouble and lying about it I finally barred him from playing at my house when he told my kids that his family was better than ours because they were rich and we were trash. WTF??.

Catherine Heemskerk said...

Unfortunately, some people can only look at situations from their perspective. I think we need to give lessons in empathy!
I hope your son has better friendships now.

JANE Owen said...

My son had an autistic friend and if his school friends found out he was going to my son's party nobody would turn up! If they arrived and saw the friend some would leave! In the end I stopped inviting these biggotts and so my son never got invites. I taught my kids family is more important. It's hard tho. At the time you just want to cry. It's hard when your kids are not popular whatever the reason. What doesn't kill them, makes them stronger and they have grown into caring young adolescents unlike some of the people who rejected them because of our friend!

Catherine Heemskerk said...

Thank you for sharing this positive story. I don't doubt that your children have grown up to be caring individuals with your excellent example.

mackyton said...

Yeah you are right, same thing happened at my last party but this time I have planned to throw a party at private parties Los Angeles bar. What do you think is it a good idea?

An imperfect mum said...

You know your child best. We decided to keep things small for our son and took him and 4 friends out to a park for the day. This year he wants to have a small party at home.
Perhaps it would be an idea to have a small go to area at the venue so if things get too much s/he can escape their for a while?

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