Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Birthday Party Blues

Birthdays happen every day.  And for the 6-7-year-old set, parties are part and parcel of the getting-older experience.  I'll cut to the chase, make my point without dancing too much here...

Last year, Samantha was not invited to even one birthday party of any of the children in her Kindergarten class. 

Not one.

And it breaks my heart. 

I can just envision the conversations held around the tables in other homes as the invitations are being written, the mothers asking the children who they want to invite, Sammi's name not coming up until the children bring it up to say they don't want Sammi there. 

I don't know if that's really how it plays out, but that's how I see it in my mind. 

This year it's happening again, although we did, finally, just get one invitation the other day to a party being held in one of the bouncy-places. 

And, while I hold onto that invitation without RSVPing yet, waiting for the hour in which it's due, while I know that Sammi enjoys that kind of place, I still resist.  Was the invitation written under duress?  Was the whole class invited?  Was she actually requested?  Will she enjoy herself or feel left out by her peers? 

I know, I know, I need to just be happy that she's been invited, let her forge her own way amongst her classmates as she does every day.  And I know that those children like her.  They like her.  But will they include her? 

I have a whole other post waiting to be written about growing up in a neighborhood, having the true experiences of childhood.  But I'll save that for later, when I can better gather my thoughts.  It goes hand-in-hand with this one.

And, in the meantime, I clutch the shiny, bi-fold paper invitation with the date and location of the party, willing it to provide me with the answers I'm looking for.  Hoping to inhale clarity and peace from it's fibers.  Knowing that the only answer will be found once I respond, once we get there and Sammi takes off to play, joyously ignorant of the painful process of decisiveness, the slights with which we are surrounded, noticeable only by absence.  And isn't that ignorance, that joy what it's all about? 

She's happy.   

And, on that note, Samantha's teacher gave me a beautiful thank you gift this morning, a completely unnecessary thank you for the nomination letter and packet for her for Teacher of the Year.  The gift was a beautiful reminder to  believe.  A book, full of quotes and reminders about believing.  And I'd like to share a quote each day from the book.  I think they apply to all of us at some point in time, if not every day

Today's reminder:  Believe in fresh starts and new beginnings.

Today's quote:  "The capacity for hope is the most significant fact of life.  It provides human beings with a sense of destination and the energy to get started."   ~Norman Cousins


miradoro1 said...

Oh Becca
Don't feel sad - Samantha will be included in so many things as the months go by. Not every one and I can assure that not every child is included in every one. She's so vibrant that people do and will want to be around her all the time. Don't worry - and go to the one that you have an invitation to!

goldenleaves said...

This is a big fear of mine when Lauren starts school. In all honesty, it's a big reason I've wondered whether main stream classes will be a good for for her. While I'm not at all happy that you guys are experiencing this, it's good to know that Samantha is oblivious to it so far.

Hugs. I would invite her to my birthday party!

Becca said...

Btw, it hit home that I should write this post after overhearing one of Sammi's classmates on Tuesday, a little girl, tell another child that she'd had her birthday party the previous day at one of the bouncy places. *sigh*

lovemy3 said...

I am dreading this as well. I'm already having issues with parents of toddlers not "letting" their children play with Hailey now and she's only 2. It hurts.

Becca said...

Wow, that's interesting that the *parents* are the issue for so many people. Someone had commented on Facebook that their worry was that the parents wouldn't want their child to go to the party, not that the *birthday child* wouldn't want our children at their parties. I have found that at least in my community, the *parents* are more likely to champion my child to their children, to teach compassion and understanding and inclusion. But after Samantha, in a fit of obnoxious silliness yesterday, started blowing in people's faces in the lunch room and getting up in their faces and *growling* during music time (WTH, Sammi???), I'm pretty sure it'll be the kids alone who decide they don't want to invite her. :-(

CMSavage6 said...

It's not exclusive to Ds. We had to have a party of our own and invite all the kids from her class before we were able to "fix" some damage my third daughters teacher caused. Mrs. J had labeled my bright daughter a disturbance in her class and encouraged the other children to tattle on her if she sneezed wrong. No, seriously. And my daughter A has no special needs. As for Samantha and her lunch room and music time fun, the other kids will get over it. They already know Sammi is fun. And for the kid who you found out didn't invite Sammi to a party, she might have been only allowed to invite a certain number of kids. You might want to find out what the school's policy on parties invites is. Ours is if you pass out invitations at school you have to invite the whole class or all the boys or all the girls. No exclusions. That helps cut down on it in the elementary school. Good Luck!

Lisa said...

We are lucky, the neighborhood parents & kids from her school just accept Cate as part of the package when they do invites so she has been invited to many parties. She frequently participates in her own fashion not always they one intended but they are very tolerant. I'm sure all the mothers think I'm nuts because I don't take this for granted and know it could be different. So every time we go to one I'm giving my heartfelt thanks to the mom instead of leaving it at the "say thank you honey" comment like the rest of the moms. I know that that invites will probably stop soon as the kids move into areas that Cate doesn't care about like "spa" and American Girl parties. I think you should go if for no other reason than to make sure the other moms & kids see Sammi participating and maybe think of her next time. Who knows it is probably more of a matter of omission than an active decision not to invite. I know when Cate had a party we asked the previous host for their email address list.

Meg said...

It is sad and surprising to me that in K and 1st grade most parties are not all inclusive - at least for the same gender. It also surprises me that the girls that came to Sammi's party last year are not automatically inviting her to their parties. At that age, my kids certainly didn't have the last say in who could be included, especially if only one or two kids fropm their class were excluded.

It may be that things in your town are different, but it is not easy to have your kid be the one left out. As someone said, it is not just kids with DS that are not getting invites. Often, the parents are often more upset than the kids.

If you didn't last year, one suggestion would be to invite lots of little girls to her party. It could also be that some will not invite Sammi if they weren't invited to her last party (sad that this is the way some folks are, but some familes are that way).

Chromosomally Enhanced said...

This is hard...just hard...I am scared of this...I know I will cry and wonder...Maddie has been invited to one birthday party in her 3 years and I have to say it make me sad...I feel ya! Smiles

Becca said...

Last year I invited a bunch of children from her class to her party (can't remember how many, but they were the kids she seemed to be particularly fond of), and 3 came - 2 girls and a boy. The boy is the one whose party I have an invitation for right now. The other children at the party were other friends with Ds. This year, I think I may invite the whole class and see what happens... A good thing about our parties is that the weather is usually good, and we do it at a local playground every year, so inviting lots of kids is just fine. :-) However, because Sammi's birthday is *right* at the end of the school year (May 30th), there's a real chance that she wouldn't be in the same class the next school year as the kids we invited, so there may not be that urgency for reciprocity. One of the little girls that came last year is not in her class this year.

Anna Theurer said...

Oh Becca. . . this makes me so sad and is often one of my biggest worries. Right now Bear gets invited because the entire playgroup gets invited. . . until recently. Ellie was invited to an older girl's bday bash because the girl "specifically" asked for Ellie to be invited. I cried tears of happiness. This darling, sweet, compassionate 5 yo considers my rambunctious 3 yo her buddy! The thing is, Becca, this can happen to anyone with or without Ds. I recall many times I was not invited to parties. Let her attend the party. Once the other see Sammi's awesomeness at the bouncy house, they too will want to invite her. {{{{ HUGS HUGS}}}, mama bear! This parenting stuff is hard!

Heather said...

I hear you and understand. I really do.

How about the lack of an invite to not only the typical children's parties but our extra chromosomed friends as well?

Now that tugs at your heart. Trust me. It does.

Sammi will have her very own circle of gal pals as she continues to grow. And probably will be the party planner herself. this I have no doubt of.

Kerri said...

I've actually RSVP'd a regret to a birthday party because I could not handle Boo being invited, and the kids wanting her there, but her not interacting with them. Of the noise being too much to handle, the sensory overload.

I think you have to go with your gut on this one. Sammi will have fun, no matter what. But can you handle it not being ideal? I know I have trouble with that! It is such a hard tightrope to walk. Good luck to you and believe in yourself.

PS--found you via Love that Max

Becca said...

Thanks, Kerri! Actually, Sammi really doesn't like birthday parties. LOL She loves the idea of them, but hates the noise, chaos, singing of the birthday song, etc. Her own parties are fine b/c they're at a playground (can't go wrong with that!), but others are pretty rough. I always have to remember to bring her headphones with us. But that being said, I think it's more the principle for me, whether or not she's invited. I know, I'm being silly. :-) Thanks so much for your comment!!!

Anonymous said...

Hopping over from Love That Max. I hear you mama, times like this can be difficult. In our experiences, kid's b-day parties have become over the top. It is all about how much you can spend and impress the other parents. I have come to like her not be invited. Odd, but true. We have a few close friends that we do attend though. ~ Jamie

Anonymous said...

I would invite Sammi because she seems like a sweet girl. I really hope that I can teach my boys to understand that everyone has the capacity to be a great friend no matter their differences. Any suggestions on how us moms with typical kids can do to not make you and Sammi (or another set of parents/child) feel this way?

Becca said...

To Anonymous - you're so sweet! Thank you, and thank you for that question. To be honest, I don't know that there's anything that can be done on the part of the parents of typical children (other than those parents that actually have prejudices and purposfully steer their children away from other kids with differences, which you are obviously not!). I think a lot of it rests *within* me. We parents (and I don't actually mean to speak for all of us here!) of kids with disabilities will often perceive issues where there are none, and feel each inch of the developmental *gap* between our kids and the typical kids when they're interacting with each other, regardless of the fact that the kids are *all* having fun, and we worry about that gap. It's just something we have to learn to work past. LOL And again, THANK YOU for that question!! :-)