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A friend or not a friend, that is the question

Kid's birthday parties and beer.

Some combinations are
just made for each other

Don't mess with
This week, I wrote a very awkward email. It was one of those situations that I tried to explain my kids to someone who may not have been aware about the complexities of their Autism or even knew that they have Autism.

#2's birthday is this week. He is not the kind of kid that does well with big parties. He usually gets overstimulated and melts. He is the small intimate gathering kinda guy, but he does best one on one. He is happy if he has someone to talk to, about the things he wants to talk about.

So when I asked him the question, "do you want a big present or a party?" he replied, "I want a small party and a small present." Ok. We can handle that. I asked him to make a list of his friends that he wanted to invite. He came back to me with a list of five kids.  One was our good friend's kid, two were little Mexican kids who had limited English and one was a kid he used to be friendly with, but I remembered there was an altercation that #2 caused a couple years ago, and I don't remember how it resolved. The last kid, was the crazy one from his class party three years ago that tried to climb on our roof while his father ignored him. He was probably the oldest kid in the grade and all the kids looked up to him, including #2. The problem was, I wasn't sure if the last two kids even liked #2. I said to him, "I didn't know that you were friends with them" and he replied "oh sometimes we are. I did manage to get their attention on the playground a few times." Great. Just great. Suspicions confirmed.

We then had a conversation about what constitutes a friend and the differences between "getting someones attention" and being friends. I'm really not sure what sunk in, but of course he responded, "Of course I know that Momma." Yes, Mr. Aspy, of course! You know everything!

I sent a note into school for his aide and asked who his friends were. Later that day, I got an email from his teacher listing five kids that weren't even on his original list of five. Great. No cohesion what so ever.

I decided to find out about the two kids in question myself , so I got out the student directory and wrote awkward emails to the moms:

Hi,  I'm writing because #2's birthday is approaching and we are planning a little Birthday bus;  I take him a a few of his friends to see Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 and then for ice cream. He told me he wanted your son to be a part of his 5 friends. As you may know, #2 has Asperger's and interpersonal relationships are hard for him. He has a difficult time understanding the foundations of friendship and often mistakes any type of attention, negative or positive as a gesture of friendship. This is a little awkward, but, I'm not even sure if your son likes #2 the way that he says he does and I'm afraid that he will get hurt if this isn't handled properly. We are planning to go on 9/27 for the afternoon showing, the time hasn't been announced yet. If your son does not want to go, I'd prefer that we tell him that you have a conflict because we don't want to trigger a meltdown that may last for days. I appreciate your honesty and understanding the delicacy of the situation, Shari

After writing that email, I had my moment. Parents of special needs kids know what that moment is; it's when we have to step back from our daily "getting through the day" routine and acknowledge some painful truths that exist about our children that we can't fix. The truth is, that unless I had asked him about who his friends were for the party, I wouldn't have realized there was a discrepancy between the friends he thinks he has, and the friends he really has. When he is home, he is a volcano spewing facts and plays with his siblings the antagonistic way that siblings do. His interpersonal  relations with his classmates isn't even on the radar. 

I did get an email back from one of the moms. She thanked me for the email and let me know that her son does indeed consider #2 one of his friends and he'd be delighted to join him for his party. And then she offered her help if it was needed. Whew.  Thanks you for giving me that piece of mind. My kid isn't entirely delusional.  Kudos to you mom of kid in question. Well played.

I haven't heard back yet from the mom of the crazy kid. I can only imagine her staring at the computer screen not knowing how to tell me her kid doesn't like mine without sounding like an insensitive a-hole.

I'd like to tell her, it's ok. It's perfectly fine if your kid and my kid aren't buddies. We don't usually like every person that we come in contact with in our lives. The lesson is, that we teach our kids to be cordial to people and treat every person as a potential friend. If we have common interests, then we can become friends and if we don't, that's ok too.  I also know that he is a hard one to be friends with. I get it.

I am just happy that he has some kids that he calls "friend" and they call him that too. That's a great start.


  1. I think that's fabulous that he has a friend and it IS mutual!! So exciting! I think bday invitations are some of the scariest things we have to do as parents... I can only imagine how those fears are amplified w. your boys.


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