Nobody likes to be left out and when it comes to school parties, it can be excruciating to figure out who to invite to your kids' parties without having to go broke feeding 50 children pizza and ice cream or leaving some kids out and starting a clique of mean kids. It's not an easy line to navigate, which is why if you do go the "invite the whole class" route, you have to invite the entire class. Which is why this mother of a son with Down Syndrome wrote a letter to the mom who didn't invite her son to a birthday party. Because he was the only kid left out.
Having a soiree with a small group of six of your kid's besties and leaving out the other 20 kids in the class is one thing. It's a terrible feeling for the child and the parents of the child, who are left wondering, "what the hell is wrong with me/us that we couldn't come eat your crappy birthday cake in the first place?" (Birthday cake is always disappointing, let's be real.) Jennifer Kiss-Engele, from Canada, took to Facebook to talk about her son Sawyer, Down Syndrome, and her own struggles making sure Sawyer gets everything — even friends — that he deserves.
She starts off super rational, saying that she understands that no one is "entitled" to an invite, but given that it was reportedly an "intentional decision" to not invite her son Sawyer to the shindig.
I am not mad at you. Rather, I think this is an opportunity for you to get to know my son better. You see, having Down Syndrome doesn’t mean that you don’t want to have friends. It doesn’t mean that you don’t have feelings. It doesn’t mean you don’t like to go to birthday parties. People with Down Syndrome want the same things that you and I want. They want to have close relationships, they want to feel love, they want to contribute, they want to have meaningful lives, and they want to go to birthday parties.
She then shares her own personal experience learning about Down Syndrome and the difficulties that come with raising a child with Down Syndrome. And she wrote that she feels the mother's pain and did nothing to really shame her. Instead she empathized with how hard it is to teach your kids the big stuff.
Maybe you are struggling with the words to say to your child because your child did not want my son at their birthday party. Maybe you let your child decide that it was OK to single someone out. I know it can be difficult to teach our children about something we may not understand ourselves. I struggle with this as well...I know you want the same things for your child that I want for mine.
She then admits that maybe she should have taken better care of educating people about Down Syndrome and taking more control of his social life.
It’s only until this happened that I realized myself that Sawyer hasn’t been invited to hardly anyone’s birthday party this past year. The kids are getting to that age where they often only invite a few children to their parties and he hasn’t made the cut. Other parents I know that have children with Down Syndrome have often started the school year by educating the class and I haven’t done that. He’s always just been Sawyer to me and I haven’t felt the need to talk about Down Syndrome to his class until this moment. I realize now that I have let him down. I have let a year slip away where I could have done more to educate families. Perhaps then we wouldn’t be in this situation.
That's a pretty brave and vulnerable message for everyone. Luckily, the story has a happy ending as Kiss-Engele wrote in an update to her original post. The mother talked to her son and had him create a special invite for Sawyer, who has been "beaming" ever since. What's nice about this story and this mom's letter is that it's not a rant and it's not angry. It's not a Mommy War. It's just one mother standing up for her son and understanding that parenting is hard as anything. Almost as hard as elementary school social wars.