My oldest child will turn 12 later this week. I find this hard to believe because I'm pretty sure I just had him a few weeks ago. He is honestly a great kid: smart, funny, loving, genuine. He is also unlike any other 12 yr old I know.
My son has never been on a sleepover.
My son has been invited to one birthday party in the past 3 years.
My son has never gotten a social phone call.
My son hasn't been asked to go anywhere with a friend in over 2 years.
My son cannot tell me the last names of anyone in his class - or the first names of many.
If he forgets his homework, I have no one to call.
My son cries when he has to leave the house.
My son cries when he has to go to school.
My son got kicked in the genitals at school last week.
My son wants to have a birthday party, but I am afraid no one will come.
And, here's the part you may not believe.... Your son makes fun of my son.
I know you think your child is a good kid. I know you are raising him to be nice to others and understand that some people are different. That's all very good. But I know your son makes fun of mine, because I've seen him do it. It's subtle, but there. He whispers to other kids and points in his direction. He derides him for not knowing anything about sports or girls. He rolls his eyes at him and gives the other boys a nudge. He calls him a nerd - or worse.
I'm sure you taught your child not to stare at people in wheelchairs. I'm positive your child would never tease a child with Down Syndrome or limited vision, for example. But, because my child's disability is not so visible, it's like it doesn't count. It makes him fair game. He's just weird, nerdy, different. Actually, he's a kid with Asperger's. And, while it may be hard to see, it's very real. It will never go away, but it will get easier to deal with as he gets older, I hope.
But, you see, it shouldn't matter that he has an actual disability. Because he has the right, as does everyone else, to be as weird as he wants to without having your kid tease him. He should not be left alone because he has Asperger's, he should be left alone because he's just a kid. A goofy, prepubescent boy - not so much weirder than the rest of them. And, as parents, we need to remind our kids that laughing at someone, teasing them, excluding them - all of that diminishes them as people. It makes us less human. It makes life harder for everyone.
Last week, when he came home with a bruise on his groin after being kicked on the playground, he told me what happened. He had gotten in an argument with another kid. It started when my son sat on a bench near this boy - and the boy slid all the way down to the other end after making some kind of gagging sound. D asked him what his problem was and called the kid stupid. The kid had some choice words for D and ended up kicking him. I'm sure there was more to it, but none of it merited a kick that had him crying on the playground and unable to get on the bus home. As we talked about it, I told his little brother this: Bullying doesn't affect just the kid getting picked on. It affects a whole family. He saw the tears in my eyes. He heard his brother crying. He promised me that he would never do such a thing. He promised me that he would reach out to kids who seem lonely. I believe him. He gets it.
Please, don't misunderstand. I don't think your kid is a monster. I think he's just goofy and confused and trying to fit in, like most kids. He just needs to try to see things from the other side. He needs to know that picking on someone else will never make him feel better about himself. He needs YOU to teach him that. If laughing and pointing is ok, then kicking and punching aren't so far away.... Instead, wouldn't it be great to be the one that stood up for someone?
Like you, I did not give birth to an angel. I know this. Raising my son is frought with unique and complicated challenges, but I know I have it easy compared to some. My son will very likely grow into a smart and talented adult, but I have to help him get through middle school first. I just don't think it should be so hard.
And now to plan a birthday party and hope for the best....