Monday, May 8, 2017

Why I feel the need to thank Benjamin's friends. Sigh.

Last week found me at Benjamin's college several times celebrating his peers as they performed their final senior theatre showcases. Repeatedly, I found myself wanting to hug them and thank them for being Benjamin's friend, for being kind, thoughtful and well...friend-like.

Even as I processed the need, I flashed back to the triplets' kindergarten year. I was seated in the cafeteria as the teachers announced each classrooms' "Star Student Awards." I wasn't sure how the whole process worked -- if they would have let parents know beforehand or what -- and frankly I sat through the first monthly award ceremony thinking one of my trio MIGHT get the Star Student award. They had met all the challenges of that first month of school with courage, flexibility, and the cutest smiles ever. (Ok, that last part is just me being completely biased!) Mason was coming to school straight off a huge spine surgery and was overcoming more just to get to school every morning than I could have ever imagined as a child.

Yet, I cheered as loud as the young man's Mama when one of their friends won instead. I loved that young boy who was such a sweet friend to my three. And then the teacher listed his attributes -- one of which was playing with Benjamin and Mason.

What? Why did that deserve an award?

And then the next monthly awards ceremony was held. Same thing happened.

And then again.

And again.

And again.

I almost quit going to the little award ceremony all together. But how in the world would I explain that to my children? I didn't, after all, want THEM to resent their friends or their teachers.

But I was still processing what being mom to these extraordinary children meant and frankly, the message I heard over and over (and over) again was that it was obviously a burden to be their friend. It was something remarkable to be kind to them. If you could summon the strength to overcome the burden, you would be publicly rewarded. (Do I sound bitter?)

Except, I knew that my boys enjoyed video games, super hero everything, Star Wars, and even silly Knock-Knock jokes. It wasn't hard to be friends with them. It wasn't.

It still isn't. And so I refrained from thanking the young men and women last week who are Benjamin's peers. I hugged them. I assured them I was praying for them during their exams. But I didn't THANK them for being friends with one of the most amazing young men I have ever known.

And so in love, I want to say to you that your child does not deserve a student of the month award JUST because he or she was nice to my sons -- or any child with special needs.

I'm sorry. But he doesn't.

I was asked once by a precious mom friend, how to help her children interact with kids with special needs. I fairly shouted, "Socialize with families with special needs." 

Hear me dear ones, if you model friendship -- and I mean model it across the board -- by being kind to those around you. Guess what? Your children will learn to be kind to those around you.

Oh parents, if your kids watch you manipulate people, bully them with your words, and ridicule them behind their backs -- you can bet that is exactly the behavior that will be repeated.

And if your children see you talking slowly in a patronizing manner to the young man in a wheelchair, you can bet they will patronize the next person they see with special needs and never even know it wasn't an ok manner in which to speak to them.

Just so you know my boys have true friends.

Star Wars Con....

If you find the things you have in common with Benjamin and Mason, you will quickly forget the things you don't. Isn't that true of everyone? Isn't that what we should be encouraging our children to do? Find the common ground WITH EVERYONE???

Because here is the thing, if you reward your child for "being nice" to the kiddo with special needs, you are teaching them a huge lesson -- but the lesson is that the child is deserving of pity, rather than deserving of genuine friendship. And you have taught a mama that she should be thankful that your child was willing to show such pity on her child.


Now I am all about giving some GOOD FRIEND awards out -- show me children who interact well with all of their peers and let's reward them; show me children who know how to find the common ground with others regardless of abilities, ethnicities, economics and I will cheer with you as we reward them!

Let's come together as mothers and commit to teaching our children to look for the common ground that will bind them as friends -- not the differences that set them apart. And let's stop rewarding condescending behavior. 

For the love of all that is good and Stars Wars-y -- I promise you will not regret it.

Carol - The Blessings Counter