Mom Pleads for ‘More Inclusive’ Parenting After Her Son With Down Syndrome Was Excluded From a Birthday Party

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The main goal of parenting is making sure our children grow up to be healthy, well-adjusted, non-shitty adults, and sometimes that means telling our kids “no” when they want to do mean or hurtful things. This week it sounds like one Canadian mom failed to do that, because she planned a birthday party for her son and let him invite every single kid from his class at school, except the one boy with Down syndrome.

Jennifer Kiss-Engele is the mother of the only boy in the class who didn’t get invited to that party, and she was understandably upset. She posted an open letter to the other mother on Facebook, and I sincerely hope that other mother reads it.

According to Kiss-Engele, the other boy delivered invitations to every other child in the class. It’s hard to believe that’s even allowed. Many schools don’t let kids hand out invitations at school unless they have one for everybody, and parents who want to throw parties for just a few people can use the postal service or email or carrier pigeons if they don’t want to invite everybody.

But that happened, and Kiss-Engele’s son, Sawyer, noticed. Kiss-Engele writes:

“I want you to know that we don’t have an expectation of being invited to every birthday party. In fact, when Sawyer celebrated his birthday last year we only invited a few close friends … But in your case, this is not the same reason. In fact, you have invited all 22 other children from the class except for my son. I know it’s not because he’s mean, you couldn’t meet a happier child. I know it’s not because he’s not fun, he has a great sense of humour and an infectious laugh. I know it’s not because your child and him don’t get along, he’s brought up your child’s name on several occasions. The only reason why you decided it was OK to not invite my son to your child’s birthday party is because he has Down Syndrome.”

No, you cannot make someone invite your kid to something. Not every kid gets invited to everything. Everyone gets excluded from stuff sometimes. Life is full of disappointments. But it’s tough to comprehend the mindset of a mother who would look at her kid’s guest list and say, “You want to invite your entire class, except for the boy with Down syndrome? Well, OK.”

It’s not a disaster if a kid wants to do something like that. None of us are perfect. But it would have been a good learning opportunity for that other kid, if his parents had talked to him about why he didn’t want to invite Sawyer to his party.

“But this is a great opportunity and life lesson to have with your child. They will remember the time that their parent said to them, it’s not OK to leave someone out because of their disability, race, or gender.”

It’s hugely disappointing that Sawyer was the only kid in his class excluded from the birthday party, but it sounds like this story at least has a happy ending. The other mother did read Kiss-Engele’s open letter and had a talk with her son about excluding Sawyer. Her son had a change of heart and made a special invitation for Sawyer. Sawyer was thrilled to have it, and his mother says he hasn’t stopped talking about how happy and excited he is about the party.

Normally when stories like this come up, one does not expect a happy ending, but this one comes through. And as great as the ending is for Sawyer, it’s even better for the birthday boy. This seems like an important life experience for him. He won’t forget this lesson, and he did the right thing.