Seeing your child being excluded hurts more than anything.
But it’s worse when you know that it’s all because of something they can’t control, such as a disability.
That’s how it was for Jennifer Kiss-Engels whose son Sawyer.
Recently, the eight-year-old boy was the only child in his class not invited to an upcoming birthday party, and Jennifer knows that it’s because he has Down Syndrome.
Devastated on her son’s behalf, Jennifer took to Facebook, penning a heartfelt open letter “to the parent that thought it was OK to invite the entire class to the child’s birthday except for my son.”
And she doesn’t back or mince her words, acknowledging straight away that she knows why her boy was left out.
“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,” she wrote.
“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.”
Incredibly, Jennifer isn’t angry, just disappointed and eager to educate people on her son’s condition; to make them realise that people with Down Syndrome “want the same things you and I want.”
“I am not mad at you,” she writes. “I too was scared uncertain and misinformed about Down syndrome.”
“You see, having Down Syndrome doesn’t mean that you don’t want to have friends. It doesn’t mean you don’t have feelings. It doesn’t mean you don’t like to go to birthday parties.”
“Maybe you are struggling with the words to say to your child because your child did not want my son at their birthday party,” she wrote.
“Maybe you let your child decide that it was OK to single someone out. I know it can be difficult to teach our children about something we may not understand ourselves.”
But Jennifer is adamant that such a talk needs to be had with children, so that they understand and accept children who are a bit different.
“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,” she wrote.
Impressively, Jennifer didn’t lay all the blame at other parents’ feet, but at her own. “Other parents I know that have children with Down syndrome have often started the school year by educating the class and I haven't done that.”
"He's always just been Sawyer to me. I realise now that I have let him down.”
But the good news is that Jennifer’s post had a positive effect.
The parent of the birthday boy read her letter and spoke to him about Sawyer. And it resulted in the boy creating a special invitation for Sawyer.
“Of course he’s been beaming ever since and can’t stop talking about it,” Jennifer wrote.
“There are so many kids with special needs (and without of course) that just don’t make the cut.”
“I hope that parents who read this will help open that dialogue with their own child and perhaps make that one ‘extra’ invitation.”
You can read the full post below.