I don’t kick puppies. I don’t hate babies. I don’t even pull wings off of flies. But I am a cynical person when it comes to playing the special ed sympathy card. So when I saw a piece on a Good Morning America about a little boy who got a huge celebration for his birthday, my eye started twitching.
Here’s the gist of the story. A mom asks her son to help plan his birthday party. He tells her that he doesn’t have any friends. She creates a Facebook Page and asks people to tell her son how much they love him. The page goes viral. The boy winds up on GMA and gets free trip to Disney.
Let’s step back and examine this. The mother starts off her new Facebook Page by explaining what has happened.
I am Colin’s mom, I created this page for my amazing, wonderful, challenging son who is about to turn 11 on March 9th. Because of Colin’s disabilities, social skills are not easy for him, and he often acts out in school, and the other kids don’t like him. So when I asked him if he wanted a party for his birthday, he said there wasn’t a point because he has no friends. He eats lunch alone in the office everyday because no one will let him sit with them, and rather than force someone to be unhappy with his presence, he sits alone in the office. So I thought, if I could create a page where people could send him positive thoughts and encouraging words, that would be better than any birthday party. Please join me in making my very original son feel special on his day.
His mother, known only as Jennifer, states that her son has a disorder “similar to Asperger Syndrome” which limits his ability to interact appropriately with his peers. Her answer to his situation is to ask the internet world to “Show my son how much he is loved.”
Let me see if I understand. This child has a disorder that keeps him from having appropriate relationships, and Mom thinks that asking complete strangers to tell her son that they love him is a good way to handle this? This isn’t realistic. This is sad. I am a mom, and I’ve seen my fair share of pity parties. My son once canceled his birthday party because most of his friends had decided they’d rather do other things and kept dropping off the guest list.
If this mom wanted to help her son have a good birthday party and build some friendships, perhaps she could have, I don’t know, had a birthday party with the kids at school who say they don’t want to sit with him at lunch and show them that Colin can be a friend if they give him a chance. If her son already has a difficult time understanding typical interactions, asking 2,000,000 strangers to send her son “love” isn’t the way to make him understand.
Why did this story touch a nerve with me? Why am I irritated that a sad, sweet little boy got the Rock Star birthday treatment? Because it’s not real. Because he still doesn’t know what it means to have a typical friendship. He got all this attention because he stated the truth; “I don’t have any friends.” He doesn’t. And what this mom should have been focused on is helping in son in the real world where kids eat lunch in the lunchroom, not the office. Her greatest gift to him could have been to help him figure out how to be friends with even just one other person. But instead, she made him an internet spectacle.
According to this quote by Colin’s cousin, his mother never expected all this to happen. She thought maybe 40-50 close family and friends might say something to him and send him cards. So after reading that, I’m left wondering why Colin said he wanted to go viral for his birthday; why the mom didn’t turn down a GMA appearance; why they allowed things to get so out of hand.
Parents, if you want to help your kids, give them skills that will help them in realistic situations. Don’t let them think that they are so special that the whole world will want to tell them Happy Birthday and give them a trip to Disney.