Tuesday, November 2, 2010

A First


Every year, starting with kindergarten, we made a big deal out of his birthday, but every year the party consisted of our Birthday Boy, his mom and a whole lot of adults. Kids never came.

So after a few years we changed it up and took the party to the kids-- At school-- bringing treats to the classroom to celebrate. Elementary school kids love sweet treats, even if they weren't from a "popular" kid. But it wasn't the same as a real party and our B-day Boy knew it. So did his mom and I.

Every year we'd try to think of something engaging to celebrate another candle on the cake-- Miniature golf, the zoo, the movies-- But every year, still no kids.

It got harder and harder to talk up the big day with B-day Boy as if it was a special occasion that everyone wanted to celebrate. Last year, for his milestone 13th birthday, we had a party of three, including the B-day Boy. We decorated like it was a huge bash and made his favorite cake, but he was old enough to know that his invitations had been rejected again and his party with Mom and me felt more like the consolation prize.

It was heart-breaking. For him, and us, but especially for him.

B-day Boy is a special needs child who often gets set aside, dismissed and ignored by typical kids. Over the years they've outgrown him on different levels, in part because they never got to know him in the first place-- but outgrown him nevertheless.

He spends half his school day in mainstream classes with typical kids and half his day in a class with other high functioning special ed kids working one-on-one with teachers and tutors. It's a meaningful combination of learning opportunities and this year has been an especially rewarding experience for him.

I'm not laying blame for our B-day Boy's lack of friends by any stretch of the imagination, I'm simply saying that being "different" is tough for any kid. Being a kid who's "different" and knows he "different" is heart-breaking, confidence-shaking and miserable a good amount of the time.

But this birthday was different, very different. This year, thanks to a great group of kids and an amazing group of teachers in his special middle school class, we had a party and A LOT of kids showed up--

Every one of them had a great time! Every one of the kids will remember this particular birthday party. And every one of them will invite our B-day Boy to their birthday parties in the future because now they'll have their own birthday parties too-- With kids.

Not only was it was the very first "real" party our B-day Boy ever had, we realized it was also the first "real" birthday party any of these kids had been invited to-- Ever! In other words, these kids (and their parents) were all in the same boat we were.

Gulp.

We had an age-appropriate, hands-on, have a blast, kind of birthday party with 12, 13 and 14 year olds (and their parents who sat by happily watching the fun). You would have thought these kids had been to countless birthdays as they easily slipped into party mode laughing, joking and going with the flow. But every now and then someone would hesitate and let out a soft "whoa" in awe at a birthday activity that most kids have come to take for granted. It reminded the parents and adults in ear range how special the day was.

Towards the end of the party, one parent asked B-Day Boy what his favorite part of the birthday was. Without a moment's hesitation he said, with a huge smile on his face, "Having all the kids show up."

At which point I excused myself and cried.

Welcome to www.TheFiftyFactor.com - Joanna Jenkins
Photo Credit: © Thaut Images - Fotolia.com
I'm headed out of town. I'll see you again next week. jj

77 comments:

  1. Powerful story. I teared up reading it. I'm so happy that your boy was finally able to experience a celebration of his life with his peers. Can't put a price tag on that.

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  2. This is what I worry about with Joey. Thanks for sharing your story. Glad the birthday was great and your boy had a great time.

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  3. Aww, sh*t JJ., the things kids say can make u cry , its always enlightening, isn't it? Before I got to the part where the invited were kids of his special needs school, I was gonna suggest that... It takes a big hearted, understanding kid to become friends w/a special needs one.. Bottom line, is that its hard for them to understand the issue and also exposure... Glad, he had fun and the fact it all came together on his 13th says more than enough...

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  4. more kids (and adults) should think that way, and realize it's the people in our lives that mean the most, not the things.

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  5. dang you...you got me crying too...smiles.

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  6. Whoa! My heart doesn't know whether to break or jump for joy! What a touching story. I'm so glad you shared it. We have similar classes here, and I think I can understand what he's gone through over the years. Big hugs to you both!

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  7. Wonderful and touching. I'm so happy the birthday boy had a great party!

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  8. Awesome and touching story....
    And maybe a little too close to home!
    *sniff*
    Mind if I share in the happy ending?

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  9. I have tears in my eyes after reading this. So glad the party was a success.

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  10. Heartbreaking, but I'm so glad that he has finally found his 'tribe' and enjoyed a birthday with them.

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  11. So touching.. and tear-evoking.

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  12. Wow, that was a great story, and I'm so glad it has a happy ending. Something many of us don't consider; these normal rites of passage that some kids don't get to experience. How nice that the whole group will benefit for years to come!

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  13. now you made me cry. Tell him, 'it gets better'.... it's getting better already!

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  14. What a touching and heart tugging story. I'm so glad he had kids at his party and that he truly enjoyed himself - every child deserves that!!

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  15. Oh wow. I'm crying reading this. What a wonderful post.
    PS - enjoy your week!

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  16. Oh my, what a touching story, thank you so much for telling it. I feel quite emotional now. x

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  17. Joanna, I am sitting here with tears rolling down my face. I am so thrilled this was a different year, for your grandson, his mom, the other kids, their parents and you. Especially you because in your words I can just hear how heartbreaking that was for you. hugs to you, this was a beautiful post. I am still crying here. all good tears though. hugs.

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  18. I couldn't help but cry as I read this. I related all too well to this story with having a special needs brother and then working in that field. I am so happy that he got a party with kids. I am so happy that these kids will invite him when it's their special day. That makes me cry tears of joy!

    I linked to your Thanksgiving comes first post today. XX

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  19. OK ... this brought me to tears and warmed my heart all at once. Bless your son's sweet, precious heart.

    It also made me angry ... that his classmates, for so many years, chose not to attend his parties and get to know him ... and that their parents didn't make an effort to get their children to do so either. To me, that is unacceptable ... kids should learn to be open to everyone ... even if they're a bit different from them.

    I am SO glad that he now has so many new, wonderful friends and that his birthday party was a smashing success ... so well-deserved for you and your sweetheart son.

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  20. beautiful story and yes, i could feel the tears starting. i'm glad his day went so well, sugar. xoxox

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  21. I can feel just how much this meant to not only you but to B-day Boy. I'm sure the smiles lit up the sky that day. That's got to be the most wonderful feeling to be accepted and make new friends all in one day's time. This is just the beginning of many more parties with friends. (You are going to weep at his wedding.)

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  22. This breaks my heart on many levels,.. I can tell you if my kids would have been invited they would have been overjoyed to come! I am so elated that he has found an awesome group of kids,.. but he will always have his rockin' cheerleaders,.. you and his mama,.. Much love to you and him, Happy Birthday Beautiful boy <3

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  23. What a beautiful story. I'm so glad it had a happy ending.
    For the past couple of years I've been moderating a website for adults with autism - I'm not sure what special need your boy has, but I've heard similar stories from the adults I've communicated with. It sounds like all of the parents have made a step in the right direction - social interaction is so important to every kid! And adult!

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  24. And you made me cry, as well. As the mom of a high functioning autistic boy, I'm waiting for the day when the playdates stop and invites cease. It's going to be hard, but I'm hoping that we can avoid some of it... that's heartbreaking.

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  25. This just put a huge lump in my throat. I am so unbelievably happy that they all go tot have this experience. And you too.

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  26. That's a beautiful touching story and I am pleased for everyone involved that there was a happy ending.

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  27. This is such a special story, Joanna. Extra kudos to you for all the years you celebrated and for making this year so very extra special for him.

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  28. Being a retired Special Educator this story just makes my heart leap for joy. These kiddo get left out of the treasures of ordinary childhood far too often. A great group of teachers can change the world for these 'special' children.

    God bless you sweetie and have a most extraordinary day!!!

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  29. oh, Joanna. another crying reader here.
    and a virtual hug to you. you rock.

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  30. Crying here, a good cry, with a full heart. Wonderful!

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  31. Stopping by to say hi. I'm glad I did to read about this beautiful day. I am so glad he finally got his wish, a party full of kids. A beautiful moment!

    This moment brings me back to when I was in kindergarden. There was a boy in our class in the same boat- I was his only friend and his mother would tell mine. 45+ years I still wonder at times whatever happened to him. The following year he didn't come back.

    Have fun on your trip.

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  32. What a marvellously touching post. Made me cry a little.

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  33. Awe! I´m so happy for him and you and his mom! That really must be the best birthday gift of all, seeing how happy he was!

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  34. Oh my gosh you have me crying here! What a beautifully moving post! That was the best birthday party ever for sure!!
    Woot! Woot!
    Congrats on your POTW award!
    Hugs
    SueAnn

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  35. "Whoa" is right. It sounds like you pulled off a minor miracle of many wonderful memories. Good job, Joanna!

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  36. Not being accepted into the group of cool kids hurts. Good thing for him is the grown ups who love and accept him just as he is. Wonderful way to describe heartache and how with help and encouragement he moved on. Great description of the smile and happiness that kids came to his party.

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  37. Congrats on POTW Joanna; so well deserved with this incredible, touching story.

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  38. Well done. Fantastic.


    congrats also on POTW mention.

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  39. Okay, now my mascara is running down my cheeks. God bless you and your sweet boy--and HAPPY birthday to him this year!

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  40. What a wonderful and, yes, inspirational story. You are lucky to have B-Day Boy in your life. And vice-versa.

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  41. You tell this touching story so well. I do wish more "mainstream" kids could understand the meaning of a story like this and appreciate and improve the world around them.
    all the best to you and B-Boy.

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  42. What a tear jerker! But so glad that this was a really truly happy birthday for this fella. Thanks for sharing and being a special part of this boys life. He is lucky in a lot of ways that other kids might not be.

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  43. Oh, cripes (snif). Congratulations on a well-deserved potw. Really.

    I needed to read this today.

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  44. I also have a high functioning special needs child who rarely got invited to the birthday parties of the other kids at school. On the few times he was invited, it was like he was invisible. As he's grown up, things have slowly changed, but he'll never be the social butterfly. It's heartbreaking as a parent... yet somehow, he managed to make it though with his sense of self intact. It's a wonderful miracle!

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  45. Thanks so much for sharing this with us.

    SO glad these great kids are able to share fun times together now. :)

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  46. My heart is filled with saddness and joy!! My brother is a special needs adult now and I am wondering and thinking about a lot of things that I hadn't thought about.

    We had a big 50 party last year for him that was so great!!

    I am so happy that this bday was so wonderful for this special boy!!

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  47. I had to come back to say congratulations on POTW mention...this really was a moving post that touched my heart big time. Hugs dear lady. XX

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  48. Congrats on your POTW and on being such a great parent!

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  49. with tears in my eyes and a heavy heart, happy birthday to that sweet sweet boy !

    thank god for special teachers of special kids...
    and to the parents of those kids, well, they should be praised !!

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  50. That's awesome how it turned out. I'm sending you a big hug Joanna. BIG HUG. (can you feel it?)
    xo d

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  51. We can all learn from this- showing up means a lot these days- to anyone, anywhere- bless you for sharing this, joanna

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  52. Any kid is special for his parents and I'm happy you did such a great party for your boy. Happy memories are the most important in our life and they remain in our soul over the time. A late Happy Birthday for him!

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  53. that gave me chills. I am so glad he got to have that experience, but so sad it took so long. what were the other kids parents thinking all the years they didn't respond? that makes me mad and sad. But at least you got to tell us something lovely. I would have cried too.
    I have 5 kids, but one of them doesn't have any of her own friends, i always dread her b'day as she invites her sibling's friends. they come and have fun, but I wish she could gel with at least one person of her own. she is the one who doesn't get picked in games when her older and younger sisters do and she is the one who really wants to be picked. sigh. i can't live her life for her, I can't control the others interpretation of her. I wish I could be young again and be her friend.

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  54. Oh, dear, you made me cry with this one. This was just a simply beautiful story, Joanne. Thank you for sharing it!

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  55. I would have cried too.
    How wonderful that FINALLY he had a real birthday with KIDS!

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  56. Well that just made me plain old-fashioned cry my eyes out. I'm so, so glad that your birthday boy had a real party, well attended :-)

    I'm so glad for him, and for his guests and for a world that can be surprisingly kind and loving to us all, at times.

    Jeez, I'm still a blubbering mess.

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  57. Oh, now you went and did it! Now you have me crying too! So glad he had a great time!

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  58. "The Fifty Factor" has been included in this weeks A Sunday Drive. I hope this helps to attract even more new visitors here.

    http://asthecrackerheadcrumbles.blogspot.com/2010/11/sunday-drive.html

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  59. This post made me realise how lucky we are that our sweet Sam has always attended a special needs school, as him, and most of the kids there, almost always have (a very chaotic, and often manic) birthaday party with their peers. It also brought a lump to my throat to realise what so many kids like him have to deal with, if they are high functioning enough to intergrate into a mainstream class.

    I am so glad he was able to finally celebrate his birthday in such a special way. (Hugs)

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  60. i am so glad this year was different. sending you and Birthday Boy lots of positive vibes.

    one love.

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  61. it is so sad when a child is rejected by his/her peers. Awful for the child, and awful for the loving parents who look on with broken hearts for their beloved offspring.

    So glad his 13th year marked a change and that he may now experience the joy of birthday parties with his friends! Bravo to all who made this happen for him, and the other kids as well. Sounds like everyone had a terrific time!

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  62. I'll second what Kalei's Best Friend said - aww, sh*t, JJ. Says it all really! Oh, and :) for B boy!

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  63. Yeahhhhhhhhh for bday boy!!!! (and the party)

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  64. Happy, happy birthday to b-day boy!
    Beautiful story.
    Best,
    Colleen

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  65. Oh wow. That is just an amazing story. I'm so very happy they all experienced that. So happy.

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  66. The things we take for granted - I even KNOW special needs kids and have never considered party days.
    This story should be circulated to every school in the world. How many other children are in the same boat? How many other little boys and girls would love to celebrate their birthdays with kids their own ages, kids who have perhaps the same abilities as their own, kids who won't snub them because of their differences?

    I saw a bit of a story on the news the other night about special needs kids being crowned homecoming king or queen - there was one story in particular about the most beautiful and popular girl in the school who had been chosen homecoming queen...and SHE chose a special needs boy to be her escort. He was practically dancing with joy as they walked arm in arm across the football field, and the whole school cherred like nothing you've heard. I cried then and I'm crying now.

    Darn. I should've waited a little longer before putting on my mascara today.

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  67. Fantastic read and thanks for sharing such an inspirational story.

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  68. Oh that just makes my heart break.

    We had a similar issue with Little Guy, so we took it in hand with the school.

    Every year we hosted a party at a local res (depending on the mood, it was a different one every year), and invited the entire special needs class, teachers and aides. Although our guy was mainstreamed for the most part, he still had some classes in the transitions room.

    Anyhoo, the school treated it like a field trip, got permission slips, and provided the accessible transportation for all. It happened during school hours. We got menus in advance so everybody could be prepared.

    Good times...

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  69. OK that made me cry. Beautifully written as are all your psots.

    Life is cruel and glorious all at the one time and all in th eone blog post. The resilience of children is amazing. And what fabulous people you and his mother are too. His time has come. This will do so much for his confidence and something tells me it will be full force ahead from heron in.

    Just fabulous.

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  70. We all take so much for granted. We take nearly everything for granted.

    I am so glad the kids had a great time. Everyone deserves friends. We just sometimes fail to see who are friends really are.

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  71. Oh Joanna, this was such a touching story. It brought tears to my eyes and a lump to my throat. I am so happy that the b-day boy finally had a birthday with his peers.

    ~ Tracy

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  72. I'm not crying. I have something in my eye.

    The more I get to know you the more I love you. Seriously.

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