Any parent knows the excitement and joy an invitation to celebrate a classmate’s birthday party brings to a child — and the pain they suffer if they feel excluded.
Imagine finding out your child is the only kid in a class of 23 to not receive an invitation. And the reason? Because your child is different.
That’s what Langley, B.C., mom Jennifer Kiss-Engele believes happened to her son Sawyer. Sawyer has Down syndrome.
Mom of Down syndrome son writes heartbreaking Facebook post
‘You couldn’t meet a happier child’
“You have invited all 22 other children from the class except for my son,” Kiss-Engele says in a heartbreaking open letter posted to Facebook.
“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 okay to not invite my son to your child’s birthday party is because he has Down syndrome.”
Kiss-Engele notes that she has learned the slight was not a mistake, it was a conscious decision. It wasn’t until she discovered this, that she stopped and thought about how few invitations Sawyer has received this year.
But — while acknowledging she is a “mama bear” — Kiss-Englele has taken this devastating news and turned it into an opportunity to educate and create a dialogue.
‘I am not mad at you’
“I am sorry that you are not informed, maybe scared, or uncertain about what it means to have Down syndrome,” she writes.
“I know if you knew more about Down syndrome you wouldn’t have made this decision. I am not mad at you. Rather, I think this is an opportunity for you to get to know my son better.”
And, in perhaps the most humbling part of a letter that has rallied hundreds of supportive comments — and (at time of writing) close to a thousand shares — Kiss-Engele says she takes part of the blame.
“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 and I haven’t felt the need to talk about Down syndrome to his class until this moment. I realize now that I have let him down.”