Today is the fifth day of the 31 for 21 effort to raise awareness for Trisomy 21.
A couple of days ago I took my girls to a mother daughter event, with music playing while everyone danced together. I was filled with such a feeling of joy to see my girls so much part of everything.
The happiness I felt then was matched last night by how sad I was at the simchas beis hashoeva sponsored by the local Talmud Torah school (cheder). This is where my ds13 goes to school and where my other boys are currently registered in gan. This is also where ds6 was until a month ago when the school year started.
Really, all the elements were there for it to be a fantastic evening. Great music, energetic dancing, and plenty of room where it was held outdoors for everyone to be comfortable. There was just one problem – my boys were miserable. (Ds13 is in the US and ds5 fell asleep right before we left, so dd17 offered to stay home with them.) Ds10 and ds6 wandered around trying to find a way to join in and feeling they didn’t belong. Finally they just sat down at the side.
I had been watching from where I was at for a while, trying to see where they were. When I finally saw them, I went over to see how they were doing. One turned to me with tears in his eyes and told me he didn’t know anyone, and the other sadly said he wanted to go home. So we left.
Ds6 is a very friendly boy who knew all of these boys from kindergarten and was considered one of them until a month ago, and felt so rejected. When I commented to him that he knows so many people, he looked at me dejectedly and said, “I hardly have any friends any more. None of them know who I am anymore.” He said they don’t talk to him when he speaks to them now. Ds10 hasn’t been able to get to know any of the boys because he’s not in school with them.
In the entire crowd there, we were the only ones who send our boys to a different school, even though it’s just a five minute walk from this school. We’re part of this community but it seems my boys are essentially not. This was the potential issue I grappled with for the last year when trying to decide about ds6′s school placement, wondering if this would be something to worry about. Finally I decided that he knows all these boys and they like him, and he can continue to be friends with them outside of school hours. But I was wrong.
Unfortunately, ds6 has already had another very unpleasant experience when we went to shul less than a week ago. Some older boys (already knowing the answer) asked him if he has a male or female teacher. When he answered that his teacher is a woman (ironically, the woman who was making the kiddush at shul that everyone was there to celebrate with), they started making fun of him. And then some boys his age started making fun of him because of this as well. He came home and spent a half hour curled on the floor of his room crying instead of of being at the meal. I see him being pushed to the outside of the social circle and it doesn’t make it any easier that I know it’s not about him but about the social reality of how tightly defined communities are.
I guess I’m too sensitive and so are my kids, and maybe they’ll just have to learn to toughen up. This is a new reality for us. Maybe this happens to everyone and kids just have to learn to deal with feeling rejected. But it’s hard to see and I blame myself for making a choice based on my ideals instead of going along and doing what everyone else does.