xmlns:og='http://ogp.me/ns#' Yeah. Good Times.: Birthday parties and autism

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Birthday parties and autism

I have this unanswered evite sitting in my inbox right now. A kid in Child 1's class is having a birthday party and we're invited. I asked Child 1 if he wanted to go and he said no, which I knew he would. He hates parties; he hates having to interact socially with other kids. He even said just now that he doesn't like cake, which is an enormous lie because he fucking loves cake, but that's his response when you tell him things like "but they'll have cake there!" The offer of cake just isn't worth having to endure the party.

I never know what to do when I get these things. I could make him go, and we could hang out for a while, and he would be miserable but maybe he might have some fun in the end? So, do we go in the off chance that he decides he doesn't actually hate it? Or, do we go because we were invited and that's what you're supposed to do? Or, do we go because at some point the invitations are going to stop coming and we might as well go now while we have the chance?

No, of course, the answer is no, we're not going to go, because he doesn't want to go and I'm not going to make him. Maybe if I were a better teacher I could turn it into a learning experience for him, but as I've said before, that's just not where my skills are. This is that thing I'm constantly bumping up again, though: my internal conflict about what he's "supposed" to be like and how he really is. My instincts always tell me to let him be himself, in this case that would mean not going; but my societally-implanted fear tells me that we should go because that's what the normals would do. Then there's that other part of me that berates myself for not being better at this, I should be able to make this a teachable moment for him, but I just can't/don't know how.

So, as is now my custom, I will make an excuse about how we're busy that day (we're not) and thank the parents profusely for the invitation. I guess I can take heart in the fact that one day the invitations will stop and I won't have this internal struggle to deal with anymore. Sigh.


Margaret said...

I would go with letting him be himself. What an amazing gift to give him..to let him know that who is in the world is exactly what the world needs. Maybe then he will have to spend less time later in life trying to figure who he truly as opposed to others tell him he supposed to be. There is no greater gift than the gift of an authentic self.

Anonymous said...

I don't think there's a right or wrong answer as to how to deal with this invitation. What I would do is: just tell Jake someone's having a party and I'm going with you. And after we get there you can decide whether or not you want to stay. If you want to leave after a little while - it's whatever you want to do. Since he says "no" to most stuff, I would try not to give him a yes/no choice all the time. Does that mother know Jake's particular situation ?

Right wing bastard said...

Free parenting advice is worth every penny.
I've had to deal with that "what normal kids do" question a lot.
There was a time when my son had no friends at all, it must have seemed like forever to him. He admitted that he used to pray for just one friend.
When we started home school, the other parents started monitoring us like we were letting them run amuk unsupervised. Constantly asking our kids if their parents were home while they rode bikes around the neighborhood.
The Catholic school offered us scholarships from an anonymous philanthropist. It's funny how teachers were always complaining that parents were not involved enough with their children's learning but when you take them out to home school you must be neglecting them.
Screw those people Jill. Screw 'em all. You are his mommy, if you think he should stay home then do that without second guessing yourself. If the invitations stop coming for a while, then good, you have more important things to work on.

Nibor said...

As a parent of two "normals," I can tell you that going to a birthday party is not necessarily what they would do. They're scared of balloons; they don't like jumpy houses; they don't like other kids and chaos; they just think that staying home would be more fun or whatever. I've been in your situation plenty of times.

jillsmo said...

And what do you do? Do you go or do you stay home?

Right wing bastard said...

Stay home! That's what I do/did. You know eventually he gets a few very special friends who really know how to communicate with him. Then they all do everything together. maybe he gets one friend and they are buddies and do everything together. Hell, my own mom made me go out and socialize all the damn time time even when I was a teenager. I blame her for my drinking problem that I will eventually get from that trauma.

jillsmo said...


Nibor said...

Depends. Because I'm a selfish person, I'm inclined to drag the kid along if it's some of the few parents I like and want to hang out with. If it's a hassle for me, I let the kid take a pass. I've gone to parties and lasted 15 minutes before I had to take the kid home screaming. The lesson, as I see it, is that there are all types of people in this world, and some of them enjoy parties and some don't.

Right wing bastard said...

Sorry Jill, by "eventually" I just mean that Birthday parties are only a thing you deal with in grade school. But Nibor has a good point. We usually use birthday parties as a social get together for adults. The last 3 parties I took my youngest to served Margaritas.
But if it's for a protestant kid we do rock, paper, scisors, to see who gets stuck hanging out with those dullards... One of my buddies from church brought a case of beer in a cooler to one little girls parties because they were Baptists and we knew there would be no beer.

jillsmo said...

Sorry, RWB, by "Eventually?" I meant: you blame her for the drinking problem that you will EVENTUALLY get?


Monica said...

Whoa now, as a Protestant, I take offense (lol) to that comment. Its only the Baptists that I am aware of that dont drink, the rest of us enjoy our *indulgences*.

crogers said...

Baptists are just like Mormons AFAIK. If you go on a fishing trip, you better take two of them, because if you only take one he'll drink all your beer.

Right wing bastard said...

Yes, the drinking problem I currently have is my own damn fault. ;)

One from Turkey said...

Been there. Done that.

And in the response to the question: 'so what did you do?' the answer was - 'it depended.'

Normally, when it was a case of a kid (or their parents) feeling they had to invite everyone in their class, we made an excuse.

But once or twice - when a parent made a point of telling us that their son/daughter had specifically asked whether our son would be able to come, and when we felt able to talk to them about what that might involve, (and, for example, serious balloon phobia, we took the 'learning experience' approach)

I don't know how much our son got out of the two birthday parties he attended last year. I do know that it meant a lot to me and my wife that two sets of parents went out of their way to include him; and that our son's life will go better the more people there are like that.

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