Monday, March 2, 2015

Standing at the end of the road, boys, waiting for my new friends to come...

I have made a huge parenting error. I know, try not to fall down from the shock of it all. Truth be told, it's more of an error in my regard of humankind, as opposed to a poor parenting choice. But, I made an error.

PJ is in his first year of inclusion education. Just in case you don't already know, this means that he is in a classroom with both typically developing children and children with special needs. Before that, he had been in a self-contained room (populated with only children with a medical or psychological diagnosis).

At the start of the year, I was nervous. I did not know how the kids would respond to PJ. He does not always answer back when spoken to, his speech is far behind his peers, and he often acts out in a negative way when upset, angry, or challenged. It's sometimes difficult for adults to understand PJ's differences, so I was not sure what to expect from young children.

Early on in the school year, PJ was was among the few children in the room who did not receive an invitation to the birthday party of a fellow classmate. Truth be told, I felt like it was a shitty thing to do to snub a handful of kids. Either invite all of the kids, invite none of the kids, or invite just the boys or just the girls. Really, when it comes down to it, though, it's the prerogative of the parents and there's no law that says one has to like or include every child. As far as I can tell, PJ's feelings were not hurt one way or the other, which took some of the sting out of the wound for me.

The next part is where I made my mistake.

After The Snub, I put all of my protective walls up. I assumed that all of the parents would have the same attitude towards my son, and that his special needs might be too much to handle. I worried that he wouldn't make any friends, and that birthday parties and play dates would elude him as invitations of that nature are facilitated by the parents at that age.

You know what they say about assumptions- they make Brie look like an ass. As the school year went on, I started to see in little ways that if nothing else, I underestimated these sweet, small, young children. One of the kids stopped me at pick-up one day. "Are you PJ's mom? I like PJ. He is so funny!" It didn't occur to me that the kids would think he was funny. I was afraid they would think he was weird, that ambiguous affliction that meant he wasn't quite like them. I wasn't expecting funny.

I had to blur out the face because I am not his mama,
but this sweet one is always so kind to PJ. They are friends. 
A few weeks later, I opened his school folder to find an invitation to a birthday party. This was his first "school friend" invite, not from a family member or the child of one of my friends. My husband, especially, was beside himself. Although he never expressed it, I know that he, too, was afraid that envelope wouldn't come. But it did, and on a Saturday afternoon we took PJ to his first friend birthday party. The kids bounced and played, ate pizza and laughed. PJ talked about the party for a few days after. The whole things was uneventful and exceptional through the eyes of the parents who weren't sure they would ever witness it.

Over the next few weeks, a few more small miracles in the form of envelopes arrived, tucked in to PJ's school folder. At one party, a clump of kids ran up upon our arrival, crying "PJ! We missed you!" Later on, I overheard one of the kids say to the other, "Did you know PJ's favorite color is pink?" I wasn't sure if they would see anything but different, but they know his favorite color. They slid down slides in clumps, PJ sandwiched in the middle.

There will be many more Snubs. They happen to every human through every stage of life. Not everyone will find him to be their cup of tea, and that's okay. That will be a lesson for another day. What I should have known, at nearly 40, is the the Snubs are rarely the Norm. I underestimated the grace these kids had to offer PJ and, even worse, I underestimated the gifts PJ would bring to them.

And there it is: Parenting Mistake #9,530,937,646

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