Blogging about life in Minnesota, raising our six kids with Down syndrome while battling Breast Cancer.

Be the kind of woman that when your feet hit the floor in the morning the devil says, "Oh shit! She's up!"

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Where have they been?

It happens all the time.

Everywhere we go people know her.

They're usually in crowds.

"Hi Angela!"

"Oh my God! Angela!" followed by their fake teenage girl hugs.

Girls I have never met. Pretty girls. Popular girls.

Girls who have never picked up the phone to call, or invited to a movie give my child hugs.

I stand by silent.

The same conversations have been happening with their parents for years. It happened again today at school conferences. Twice, in five minutes, almost identical conversations.

"Oh, you must be Angela! My daughter talks about you all the time! She just adores you. She says you're one of her best friends."

The first time we said our pleasantries and walked away. I turned my attention to papers in my hand, refusing to be annoyed.

The second time I stood. Still. I looked the mom in the eye. The words screamed in my head.

"Really? She talks about Angela all the time? Have you ever asked her why you've never met this girl? Don't "best friends" do things together outside of school? Have you thought to encourage your daughter to do things with my daughter since they're "best friends"? Please don't patronize my daughter. Please don't let your daughter patronize mine."

The words pounded against my clenched teeth and pursed lips as the mothers continued their conversations with Angela. I kept them there. To myself.

They don't know. They can't know how my child hurts. Do those friends think she doesn't see? That she doesn't hear? I was told today that Angela knows every home or away game the football team plays, even though she hasn't been to a game in two years because who wants to go to a game with their mom? She knows who won, who lost. She knows who the popular players are. She knows all the cheerleaders. She pays attention to all of it. She pays attention to who is dating who. She knows everyone. She wants nothing more than to be part of them.

She knows when she is left out.

She knows all of it.


Stephanie said...

This post breaks my heart. I'll never understand why people think it's so great that their kids are "friends" with our kids in school but would never even think to invite them to their home after school or to a movie or to a game. So it's OK to be "friends" in school but that's as far as it goes? It must make them feel SO good about themselves that they've befriended the special ed. kid, right? I'm sorry, Angela. I wish those girls were truly your friends.

Dianna Chabot said...

Well stated. Way to go Leah!!!! You are right on track with this post. Having a disability myself, I can relate to this well.

Bri Herrera said...

People who don't live this life don't know. They just don't understand because they've never had to. Though it shouldn't have to be your job, help them understand. Maybe they don't think. That's probably a good part of it. They don't stop to think that Angela is a teenage girl, the same as they are. Help them see. Call one of those moms and say that Angela would like to go to the movies or a football game with her daughter. I bet you that after the first time it happens you won't have to arrange it again. They will see by doing just how like everyone else Angela really is and just how much fun she is to hang around.

eliz said...

Oh my goodness Leah, you expressed this perfectly! I've had this happen with so many of my kids. Even when a daughter was dying- none- of those "best friends" visited her during her last few years. Not even the teachers who "loved" her. When I put Samson in homeschool the teacher said the kids were devastated- Why? He they could easily call him or come over! And the kids do feel the rejection and awkwardness. They get it.
Excellent blog post!
(((HUGS))) and prayers

Suzanne said...

Has Angela ever called one of these girls to invite them to catch a movie or an ice cream after class?

It's not exclusively the responsibility of other kids / other kids moms responsibility to invite or include your girl.

Leah Spring said...

Angela isn't able to write, so it would be up to someone at school to write the info down for her. I'm not at school to know if she's asked, but I wouldn't doubt it since she asks her other friends who have special needs.

eliz said...

My kids do collect phone numbers of "friends" and have called them. They do not call us.

Alexandra said...

Hello, I found your blog through My heart goes out to your daughter. I HATE this fake friendliness. My children have experienced this for different reasons (my husband teaches at an expensive private school and our children have the privilege to go there, but they are clearly second class citizens, as we don't have a pool at home, don't do fancy trips and have big parties), and it's so hard to explain to them. I will remember your post. My husband and I have always been the weird and nerdy ones, so we both know very well how it is to be the one who was not called, and we are trying to instill in our children to include anyone who is new in school, who is different for any reason, who does not speak English very well etc. (it's private school, so unfortunately no special ed kids)Thank you, and I wish you and your family well.

Cindy said...

This is heartbreaking. It's not new. I remember giving our number to the teachers, asking them to give it to certain parents so we could get our kids together but either the teachers didn't... or the parents never called.

It truly is heartbreaking.

Kimberly Jackson said...

My daughter does was classified as as a "Able Learner" & "Gifted" but she dealt with the same issues as Angela does. She was never invited to "hang out" or to birthday parties etc. it is not the end of the world. She has now found her place and passion in the world. She has learned what a "true friend" was and that is far more valuable to her as an adult.

Leah Spring said...

Kim, "its not the end of the world" is a bit condescending, don't you think? You have a child who has gone out in the world, is now an adult doing her own thing. We won't ever have that. We will have parts of it, but never all. My post wasn't meant to be a post to gain sympathy. It was pointing out something that parents of typical kids - you included - don't understand. Thank you for making my point even more clear.

And it is not just Angela. I have 5 here who experience the same thing. A kindergartener never invited to parties. How said is that? His ENTIRE class was invited to one party that I found out about after the fact. The parents later said, "Oh, we didn't know if he'd like it." Ummm how about ASK???? (this was right at the beginning of the year before we had contact information for any of the kids to do our own invites.)

MY kids may or may not ever learn what a "true" friend is because they trust everyone. So far, Angela has never found a "true" friend.

Kimberly Jackson said...

Point taken Leah. I did not mean to offend at all. Just knowing that I understand since I had a child that felt left out a lot when the "cool kid's" never included her. There were MANY things that my child was not included in with her "friends.

I think we have more in common than you think. My heart broke for my daughter many times!! School dances, football games, birthday parties etc.