Several weeks ago, my son came home devastated because one of his close friends told him that his parents didn’t want him to be friends with my son anymore. To the little boy’s credit, he told my son he didn’t care what his parents said, he still wanted to be friends. But the damage was done. My son, who has been diagnosed with OCD and anxiety disorders, could not get it out of his mind that there was an adult out there who thought he was not worthy of friendship with their son. That he was so terrible to be around they preferred their child end a two-year friendship. And he kept saying, “But I don’t understand why.”
Honestly, I don’t either, although I have guesses. My son has had a very rough school year as we have processed new diagnoses, struggled to find the right medication, gone through testing and therapy, and experienced all the joy of pre-teen hormones that seem to throw out any predictability of the aforementioned treatments and wreak total havoc on his emotions. He has had multiple incidents at school which resulted in total meltdowns and fits as he struggled with obsessive worry and anxiety. His poor impulse control has resulted in unacceptable displays of disrespect with teachers and conflict with peers.
While I don’t know of any incidents that personally involve this boy (and I’m pretty certain I would since my son’s school is very good at communicating these things), I can only imagine this friend has gone home and relayed stories of my son’s outbursts and meltdowns to his parents and that was enough for them to decide he was not the kind of kid they wanted their son to associate with.
And that certainly is their choice. While my initial reaction when my son told me was heartache mixed with a healthy dose of anger, time has softened my heart and I am left with just sadness. Sadness that my son has so much he is struggling to overcome and how aware he is that he is different from the other kids. Sadness that he feels ashamed of his differences and worries what other people think of him. Gut-wrenching sadness that in the hardest moments he has cried out to us and to God saying he wished he was no longer here on this earth. It’s really more than a mother’s heart can bear some days.
But I don’t dwell in this sadness too long because I have an amazing God who loves my son even more than I do, and I don’t doubt for one second He has a plan for my boy. I know all the amazing good that resides in my son and see glimpses of the man he might one day become and know this is all part of the journey to get him there; one day he will be able to help others because of what he’s been through.
So, no, I don’t dwell on sadness for my son too long.
But I struggle to let go of the sadness and disappointment I feel for this other boy and his parents.
I am sad this little boy is being taught it’s OK to end friendships if the other person acts strangely or differently from you.
I am sad this little boy is being taught people with disorders or disabilities should be avoided.
I am sad these parents aren’t willing to see past the outbursts and meltdowns to the little boy with a big heart who is hurting and struggling, embarrassed and ashamed, scared and overwhelmed by all the extreme thoughts and feelings swirling in his head and heart. The little boy afraid no one will want to play with him at recess or sad about how others are talking about him behind his back.
I am sad they are all missing an opportunity to make another human being feel loved and accepted, even when he is sometimes difficult to love and accept.
Parents have to do what they feel is best for their kids. I get that. And truth be told, there are other kids I have wished my children would not be friends with because of things I’ve seen and heard. But if there is one thing parenting a special needs child has taught me it’s this: there is always more to the story than what we can see on the outside . . . and every child is just waiting for someone to love him.
I have great empathy and compassion for the quirky kid. The weird kid. The different kid. The hyper kid. The kid that sits alone at lunch. The kid who gets picked last for the team. The kid who struggles. Because that is my kid. And I’m teaching all three of my children these are the kinds of friends they should seek out.
I’m trying to teach them loving others is not always easy, but it’s always worth it. That when we look for the best in others, when we see past the surface and instead focus on the good that resides just below, we are able to reflect that goodness back to them.
So to the parents of the little boy who was told he can’t be friends with my son anymore, know that while you have to do what you think is best, my children will always be expected to love your little boy and look for the good in him.