A popular story I read recently about a special needs girl celebrating her birthday alone this week broke my heart. It broke a lot of hearts, but apparently not those of anyone she invited. Hallee’s predicament caught my eye, because that had happened to us, more than once. We live in a society that’s busy and quite honestly, frequently selfish. People have too many things competing for their time. We all want to spend our time on only the best things, only the things that make us happy, instead of trying to make someone else happy. This poor girl’s birthday party is just another example of why we need to teach our kids compassion, and it makes me so very sad.
Throughout the years, I’ve run into a lot of mean people. I had one parent outright tell me that she wasn’t going to force her son to be kind to mine or to spend time with him because he had ‘normal’ people to be with and she didn’t want him ‘forced’ to be with someone that he didn’t understand. Another woman told me that she didn’t like my son so she wasn’t going to spend time with him nor let her kid. When did we get to be a world where our needs are oh so important that we can’t lose a few hours to be kind to someone else? I’m scared for our future if we continue like this. In this world that preaches tolerance and acceptance, we are still blind to the opportunities to display it towards disabled people.
This poor girl just wanted her friends by her side on her birthday. When you invite an entire classroom of people and some others and no one shows…yes, you wonder, what’s wrong with the kid, but if you were invited, chances are that you already have the answer. Nothing is “wrong,” the kid is just different. We have to learn how to deal with different people. We don’t have to be happy every single second. We’re not helping ourselves or our children by perpetuating the myth that our happiness matters above all. If we want people to accept everything we say — even when we don’t need to share our feelings, but we do anyway — we have to extend that same acceptance towards others.
If my child was invited to this party, my child would have attended. I wouldn’t let them use their busyness or ‘better’ invitation as an excuse. They’d go and be reminded that this party is about the other kid, not them. It’s another opportunity to teach our kids compassion. They don’t need to stay for hours, but going for a couple is okay. It’s the right thing to do, and we’re missing out on opportunities to teach our children that the right thing to do matters.
Why We Need to Teach Our Kids Compassion and Selflessness
Hallee, my heart goes out to you. It also goes out to your family. We can relate. We invited 35 school friends to my son’s birthday this past December and NO ONE CAME. NO ONE. Some texted to say sorry, no ride suddenly. Others said nothing, in reply to his “are you coming?” texts, yet he’d see them on Snapchat or some other social media playing video games at home. As the evening went on, my heart broke into more and more pieces. I was sad. I wanted to wrap him in a bubble and take him away from this, yet I didn’t want him to see how mad I was.
Before you defend or come up with reasons, understand the situation fully. Put yourself IN the situation. We all want to think our children are perfect and that when these things happen, that the kid is somehow at fault, but none of these kids are perfect. Mine isn’t perfect, just different. He didn’t deserve this. NO child deserves this.
We ended up taking him out to dinner to splurge on whatever he wanted, which just happened to be steak and lobster. The waitress’s face when he ordered it was priceless. (And note to waiters/waitresses out there: even when a teen child’s parent whispers ‘bring him a birthday candle or dessert or whatever you do for birthdays, please’, don’t judge by the kids’ age. You have no idea what it could mean. It’s not your place to say ‘he’s too old.’ Our son needed that cake that night and your lackadaisical attempt to bring it, alone, while others sang to a different table five minutes later? You added insult to injury.)
What he didn’t know is that we’d called our younger daughter, who was equally mad. She put a massive plan into motion that resulted in 30+ people waiting at our home 1.5 hours later. They had decorated the house with streamers and football decor. The entire menu was in a football theme. My son walked in, completely surprised, and almost cried at how happy he felt. He told me later “I had to tell a tear, get back in there, man. I realized, people DO care…other than you guys, mom, dad and sibs.”
Sniff. Cryballs, big time.
Major thank yous to everyone who dropped what they were going to get there that quickly. We had little time, but they pulled it off. I will forever be grateful to everyone who attended and apologies to those we didn’t have time to include due to the time crunch. My son has amazing memories from that night that he will never forget.
We have a chance to do it for Hallee, too. We’ll be sending her a card via information shared on the website we linked to above. It won’t take but a few minutes. We can do it for all disabled and differently-abled kids. We can teach our kids compassion and to be kind, but we have to be kind ourselves. We have to encourage them, give them a ride, and model the behavior. Children naturally are kind so it’s not hard to enable them to have further opportunities to display it and share their kindness. The world’s a much better place if we remember it’s not all about us.