When your child is young and in school the teachers have a rule: if you send a birthday invitation to one child, all must be included. This is how Bridget got invited to a birthday party where we didn’t know anyone.
In the preschool years I saw the other parents at drop off and/or pick-up. In kindergarten we never intermingle. In the preschool years Bridget had classmates that were an even mix of “typical” and children who were various degrees of typical. She wasn’t the only one or the minority in this completely integrated setting. In kindergarten, Bridget is only one of two children who are differently able. They spend a portion of their day with their class, but not the full day. When she was invited to a party I could have an honest conversation about her ability to either go or not. In kindergarten a complete stranger invites you to an event and I wasn’t sure how to proceed.
When we received the invite I almost declined. Until one of Bridget’s ESPs from preschool told me it was my fear and not her ability to participate. So with a deep breath I called and gave our RSVP, never mentioning that Bridget was slightly different than her classmates. The day of the party arrived and we went to the arcade.
Not one classmate recognized Bridget. Not one child said hello to her or ran around with her. It should have broken my heart. At that moment when I heard a mom ask her child who Bridget was and he responded: I don’t know, I realized it didn’t matter to me. That these children are young and probably know Bridget when she is in class, but they have difficultly placing her outside that one room. The parents didn’t realize Bridget was different, until I had to help feed her the pizza. They didn’t say a word when all she wanted to do was play on the “little” kids ride. They kept their stares to a minimum and while not “friendly” they were not judgmental. They saw her braces and no one asked about them.
Until this moment….
When seeing Bridget’s absolute pleasure at bowling, one mom commented: she is just so happy. When all the other moms had to run after their children in the arcade as they went from one game to another, my girl found happiness in bowling. Something I didn’t even know she could do. The first comment made to me wasn’t to ask what was wrong with my child, but to comment on how happy she is.
What more can I ask?
Not one thing. If the first thing the other parents noticed about Bridget was her happiness, then that is all that matters. Maybe at the next party they will also know her name. And if not, that is okay too.
My girl is happy.