sometimes

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{image is a screenshot of the guest replies to Brooke’s birthday party invitations on Paperless Post}

Brooke’s 12th birthday party is on Sunday. Every day, sometimes multiple times a day, sometimes multiple times an hour, she asks to see the guest list on Paperless Post. She looks for new responses. She repeats the same line, “Ryan was going to come but then he couldn’t. Why couldn’t he?” And I tell her, as I do every time, that his family will be away for the weekend and he can’t make it. She asks why each person who sent regrets can’t come. For those who simply said that they couldn’t make it, we make up reasons. It’s important to her. She needs to know why.

In elementary school, I knew every kid and every parent on the list. I would call them, or hand deliver invitations. In middle school, I don’t. There are four kids on the list this year whom I’ve never met. They are from her homeroom class and she wanted to invite them. I spoke to her teacher and asked if she thought they’d be a good fit. She suggested a couple of tweaks and I brought them to Brooke. She agreed. I asked the teacher if she’d be willing to help Brooke get email addresses so that we could send invitations. She generously agreed.

We sent the invitations. We heard back from two. Every day, Brooke has asked why the others hadn’t responded. Every day I said I didn’t know. Every day she asked why I thought. Every day I made up a possible reason. Every day I wondered if we’d made a mistake in inviting them.

Then stories in the news did nothing to help. Twenty people must have sent me the screaming headline reading, THOUSANDS OF STRANGERS TURN OUT TO HELP A 13-YEAR-OLD BOY WITH ASPERGER’S CELEBRATE HIS BIRTHDAY AFTER NONE OF HIS CLASSMATES RSVP’d TO HIS PARTY. Have you seen this, they asked. Yes,  saw it, I thought. I $!%*ing saw it.

I wondered if I’d set her up for failure. If allowing her to reach out past the comfort zone of kids and parents we knew had been a really, really bad idea.

I resent the invitation along with a friendly nudge via Paperless Post.

“Hey, there,” I wrote. “Hoping you make it to Brooke’s party this Sunday. Please let us know today as we have to get the numbers together by tomorrow. Thanks so much!”

The response was a deafening silence.

I wrote again to two the moms of two boys whom I knew, this time straight from my email address. I wanted to let them know that the other boys we’d invited had declined, so depending on each other’s responses, their son might be the only boy in attendance. I wanted to give them the out. One responded apologetically that her son couldn’t make it. She felt awful, she said, that she hadn’t gotten back to me sooner, but it had gotten away from her. A few hours later, the other said that her son didn’t care and he’d be there. I was still waiting on the others.

Brooke was still asking her questions. I was still saying I didn’t know. She still wasn’t satisfied. I was still making up reasons. And the truth was, that the reason that screamed in my head was autism.

My kid is autistic. The vast majority of the kids on her guest list are too. They’d all responded immediately. Their moms had reached out to ask what she might like as a gift. One told me she’d send her gluten-free kiddo with her own cake. One gave me instructions as to what to do if her daughter had a seizure. It was the typical kids who hadn’t responded.

Another day passed. We were now just four days from the party. I circled back to the teacher. I asked for her help again. God bless her, she didn’t flinch. She got a different address for one of the girls – this time it was her mom’s. I sent another email. This one I agonized over. I didn’t want to sound desperate. I didn’t want to sound frustrated. I didn’t want to sound whatever the hell might set my kid apart even more. After nearly twenty minutes of typing and deleting, I finally came up with this.

Hi, Jane.

My daughter, Brooke is in homeroom with Ashley. She is hoping that Ashley can join us for her birthday party this Sunday. We had sent the invitation (attached) to Ashley email via Paperless Post, but we weren’t sure if it had made it through.

Please let me know if she can make it and don’t hesitate if you have any questions.

Thanks!

Jess

(names changed)

An hour later, an email popped into my inbox.

Hi. I don’t think she did get it, so thanks for reaching out. She has [something else] that ends at 11 on Sunday. She can come, but she may be a bit late.

Thanks for inviting her!

Jane

I exhaled.

We’d been sending the invitation to a twelve year-old girl’s email. If we even had the right address. She hadn’t responded because she hadn’t seen it. Or if she had, she hadn’t responded because she’s, well, twelve. The mom of the boy who couldn’t make it? She hadn’t responded because she forgot. She’d been waiting to find out his schedule and once she did, she forgot. Like we all do. All the time.

It took work. It took an invitation, a reminder, help from the teacher (twice) and four personal emails asking for a response. It took a whole lot of getting over my own awkward. Yes, I’m making it a noun.

As parents of autistic kids, we get it. We respond to each other’s invitations immediately for thousands of reasons. Parents of typical kids may not. For just as many reasons. And sometimes the prevailing reason really is the one to which we jump. The one that screams in our heads, thriving on insecurity and fear and our own awkward (yeah, noun again) and feelings of otherness. And those moments suck. They are why I write and why we talk and why we still have so much more work to do.

But sometimes, all that stuff – the fear and the insecurity and the awkward and all those deeply ingrained feelings of otherness – all of our stuff – really is just that, ours. Sometimes, the reasons, the ones I repeat to Brooke every single time she asks why they haven’t answered yet, really are as simple as a world that’s gotten too busy, a school in which parents don’t know one another, an Internet in which emails end up in spam, and an ending in which, when we try yet again, a parent says, “Thanks so much for reaching out.”

Sometimes.

 

17 thoughts on “sometimes

  1. First a giant happy birthday to Miss Brooke!! And I totally get this. Even when I rationally know that invitations get lost in the bottomless pit of backpacks, and evites and other internet methods of inviting get lost in spam, or people think they responded but didn’t, the immediate reaction is “they don’t want to come”. It’s hard not to jump to it. I’m glad that you went out of your awkward and reached out because you just never know.

  2. I hope Brook’s Party it awesome!

    In February my guy turned twelve and he had his first Birthday Party since age three. This Momma was a mess. We are rural and he attends a rural school with nine kids in his class. I received only one R.S.V.P. I was sweating bullets. I talked to a couple parents, had cousins on the list and of course the best friend (autism–they understand). It worked out beautifully. It was a success in complete Minecraft glory. P.S. All of the typical kids showed!

  3. Brooke, you are awesome. Your party will be amazing because mama is honestly the best mom in the world. Jess, you make my heart smile. Always finding ways to just figure things out and make the world a better place for your girls. Have a lovely party, can’t wait for pictures !

  4. My son is now in high school. Elementary school was “easy” in the birthday party world. Middle school was harder and high school is rough. As he has grown I have started making his birthday a special family celebration where we do something REALLY BIG in his eyes. In middle school I used to have a big balloon bouquet delivered to him at the end of the day. He loved walking down the hall with all those balloons and I can’t begin to count how many “Happy Birthday’s” we would here as we walked by. I decided to save the money on a party only 1 or 2 classmates show up at and use it to create a wonderful memory. Much easier on Kyle (emotionally) and he is celebrated by all who truly love him!
    Wishing Miss Brooke a very Happy Birthday!!

  5. This reminds me somewhere on my desk right now I have an invitation that was sent to my son for a party this Sunday I have yet to respond to. ACK! digging right now….

  6. “But sometimes, all that stuff – the fear and the insecurity and the awkward and all those deeply ingrained feelings of otherness – all of our stuff – really is just that, ours.” This hit home for me today. My daughter has her own awkward and struggles, and last night all my fears came rushing forward. I loved being able to read your blog and knowing that others feel those same fears for our children. Thank you for blogging, Hope Brooke’s birthday is the day she hopes it is!

  7. I am awful about responding to invitations If I can’t respond right away, the messages often slip away from me. I hope I’d be better if I knew how vulnerable the person on the other end felt, and I’m going to resolve to try to be better about it. Most of the invites we get are not obviously vulnerable kids, but everyone is a bit vulnerable when they ask someone to join them. I need to fix my behavior, and this is a nudge.

  8. I also think it’s important for us to teach our kids that not everyone understands how important it is to RSVP. I’ve seen this for years, long before Baguette was born, much less diagnosed. People just don’t seem to RSVP.

  9. Jess, IAm a 62 year old mom, with two adult kids. I read every blog that you write. Just because. I hope Brooke has a beautiful, Happy Birthday. Keep on keeping on. Love to you and yours.

  10. Happy birthday, sweet girl! Happy birthday to you, Jess. (I believe that, since moms do all the work, it is their “birth day,” too!)

  11. I just started following you a few months ago, you are a fantastic mom! Happy Birthday to Brooke and I sure hope it’s the best birthday ever.

  12. Happy Birthday Brooke – I have run into the same thing for birthday parties for my NT child – it can be very hard with parents are divorced and you don’t have the right contact info.

    Our older daughter (who is autistic) gets to pick something fun to do with 3 of her friends for her birthday – we are limited by the amount of space we have in the car to transport people – Last summer we took them to the Renaissance Festival and in past years we have taken them to the local amusement park – it is so much easier than a big party and no clean up after!

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