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Mom Sparks Drama After Refusing To Change Son’s Birthday Theme To Accommodate His Autistic Friend

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Planning for a birthday party can be really stressful, especially as the guest count starts creeping up. But when you also have guests planning to attend who need special accommodations, it gets even harder.

A mom discovered this when she refused to provide further accommodations for her friend’s autistic son, and then lost their friendship over it.

The OP (Original Poster) “throwacc9090” shared her situation from two years ago on the “Am I the A**hole?” subReddit, asking if she was in the wrong for not wanting to provide further accommodations for her son’s friend.

The OP asked the thread: 

“AITA (Am I the A**hole) for not accomodating a special needs kid for my son’s birthday party even though my son is his only friend?”

The OP clarified that this happened two years ago, but she wanted to know if she was in the wrong this whole time. 

“I have always been conflicted about this. So, I thought I would post here.”

“This happened 2 years ago, but let’s see.”

At the time, the OP’s son had a wonderful friend named Jack, who was also autistic. 

“Me and my husband were planning a 4th birthday party for my son. He had a lot of friends around the neighborhood.”

“There was also another kid, Jack, in the neighbourhood. He has low functioning autism and he is nonverbal. My son plays with him quite often.”

“At that age, not every kid is as understanding, but my son got along with him very well (except some meltdown incidents here and there). I would say that Jack didn’t have any friends or kids who hang out with him as much as my son.” 

The OP wanted to be sure to include Jack in her son’s birthday celebration, but it turned out it wasn’t going to be so simple. 

“My son loves dinosaurs. So, me and my husband planned the party with that as theme and ordered most of the supplies and cake. I also made some dinosaur shaped invites for my son to color.”

“I was telling the parents about the party and asking about diet restrictions. Jack’s mom told me that I cannot have any animal themed party because Jack will have a melt down as he is scared of them. Everyone was looking at us and I was just ‘umm’.”

In retrospect, the OP knows she could have offered further accommodations, but she wanted her son to be happy with the theme. 

“I will be honest. It wouldn’t have been the end of the world to change the theme. I hadn’t told my son. So he wasn’t going to be disappointed.”

“I could have used the party supplies for something else. I could have called the bakery and changed to cake order from dinosaur to something else. But at the same time, I had put a lot of effort into this and I didn’t want to see it go to waste.”

To the OP’s surprise, Jack’s mother took the plans terribly. 

“I told her I can’t change everything now. She insisted that I have to change the theme and my son was jack’s only friend and he would be heart broken. She said I am heartless if I don’t do this.”

“So, I offered her some alternatives. Maybe they can come over in the morning, I would bake a small cake that all of us can share. This also ensures that Jack can play with my son and enjoy time together, especially because Jack doesn’t do well with crowds.”

To make matters worse, Jack’s mother cut off the entire relationship. 

“She point blank refused and said I either change the theme or they don’t come. I also said no.”

“She then proceeded to cuss and yell at me in front of everyone about how we (all the parents) all are conspiring to push her son out just because he has autism and that I am as bad as the rest of them. She thought that all of us had purposefully planned this to exclude Jack.”

“Despite trying to explain, she never let me. After yelling some more, she left.”

“She didn’t attend that party and also refused to let my son see Jack. He was upset and asked a few times, but he is 4 years old, he forgot about it after sometime.”

“Few months after that, we moved and never really thought about this. She never even let them say goodbye to each other.”

In retrospect, the OP wondered if she was in the wrong. 

“So, AITA here?”

Fellow Redditors wrote in anonymously, rating the situation on the following scale: 

  • NTA: Not the A**hole
  • YTA: You’re the A**hole
  • ESH: Everybody Sucks Here
  • NAH: No A**holes Here

Multiple Redditors pointed out that the OP was not in the wrong for offering accommodations to her son’s friend, while still wanting to give her own son a birthday party that he would love. 

“There’s definitely two mindsets about disabled or neurodivergent kids.”

“One is ‘my kid deserves a normal life like everyone else, and that means experiencing things just like everyone else’ and the other is ‘my kid deserves a normal life like everyone else, and that means listening to their needs so they can have as good an experience as everyone else’.”

“I think we can sort these two different parents into these two camps.”spongekitty

“NTA. While reasonable actions are fair to make, you planned the party around things that your son would like, given that it was HIS birthday. It’s unfortunate that this womans child couldn’t take part, but that’s kind of not your problem.”

“You offered alternatives and she refused. Her demands were unreasonable. It’s sad that her kid lost out, but it wasn’t because of you.”

“‘She didn’t attend that party and also refused to let my son see Jack.'”

“‘You didn’t completely change your party to accommodate my son, so now i’m going to stop my son seeing his only friend – that’ll teach you!'”

“She punished her son for her own pride. What an a**hole.”cyfermax

“I made a similar offer to the parents of my daughters autistic friend before my daughters last birthday party and the girls parents were ECSTATIC about it. She came over about an hour before the party, we had a tea party with some special treats and then her parents came to pick her up about 20 minutes after the party started.”

“When I called the mom to make the offer, I could literally hear the dread in her voice when dissapear when I followed ‘Hey, I wanted to talk to you about my daughters birthday.’ With ‘Would she be more comfortable coming over early?'”

“I get that autistic kids can get left out of things often, but the OP tried to accommodate the child and the mother refused. What kind of parent, even if an autistic child, thinks that they can dictate the theme of another kids birthday party? The entitlement is real.”Fairykinn

Some Redditors pointed out how much better of a situation this pre-party would have been for the OP’s son’s friend anyway. 

“With OP’s son being Jack’s only friend, she really did a number on Jack in this. She wanted Jack to be around all sorts of kids that weren’t friends with him, that would likely exclude or tease him, at a party he would be uncomfortable at, and when she couldn’t control things punished Jack by preventing him access to his only friend.”

“If she cared for her son, it would have been better to have a little intimate party for the two boys while the parents chatted over a snack and beverage. Then she could have had more say in the interaction, given Jack a more enjoyable time, and avoided all the drama.”

“H**l, I’d say that’s more special, a mom saying ‘we are going to have a special party for Jack and my son, and take additional time out of my busy schedule because he’s important to my son and I know the issues that surround your son. It’s important to me that he feel as special and comfortable as possible.'”elvaholt

“This was my thought too. How fun would it have been for Jack to have a party just with his friend with cake, balloons, games, etc and time alone, for just the two of them.”

“Jack’s mom let her misguided pride get in the way.”tappytaps

“The last part is the saddest part. I hope she calms down or this kid is never going to have any friends, because odds are other folks aren’t going to be willing to do what’s best for someone else’s kid 100% of the time, which is apparently what she expects.”TheSilverNoble

“[The] alternatives sound like a better way for a kid who really struggles in crowds to actually have fun celebrating his friend’s birthday instead of being miserable because of all the noise and shrieking and running from a bunch of other 4 year olds.”neobeguine

It’s good to see that this mother checked herself by sharing this situation in the subReddit to see if she should have handled things differently.

But as some Redditors pointed out, sometimes pride gets in the way, and that can be as damaging to a friendship as anything else.

McKenzie Lynn Tozan

Written by McKenzie Lynn Tozan

McKenzie Lynn Tozan lives in North Chicago, where she works as a poet, freelance writer, and editor. She received her MFA in Creative Writing from Western Michigan University, and her BA in English from Indiana University South Bend. Her poems have appeared in Rogue Agent, Whale Road Review, the James Franco Review, Thank You for Swallowing, and elsewhere; and her essays and book reviews have appeared with Memoir Mixtapes, The Rumpus, BookPage, and Motherly, among others. When she's not reading and writing, she's in her garden or spending time with her family. For more, visit www.mckenzielynntozan.com.