Well, first off, I’m hurt. Your intention was to hurt someone, I guess, with your nasty Instagram poll and meme. You did. You hurt Jack. He obsessed all day about the kid who he thought was his friend who publicly humiliated him on social media. So, well done. You hurt his dad, and his sister (maybe), and his mom. But I’m trying to put that aside and be a parent. I think this is a learning moment.
What I’m not sure you know is that there is a suicide epidemic in this country. Kids like you and Jack are killing themselves at higher rates than ever before. Experts indicate that social media is a factor. Kids on the spectrum, like Jack, have even higher rates of suicide. I think it is because although social interactions don’t come naturally to him, he’s smart enough to observe what other kids do and try to do the same thing – and he’s constantly failing. Do you know how it feels to know you are constantly failing at being normal?
So, what you have done is shown him that everyone else knows he is failing, too. In posting your poll about how happy everyone is that he’s leaving, you’ve just reemphasized how disliked he is. For the rest of his life – because you know he has the memory of an elephant – he will remember how his classmates were happy to see him go.
And it will fester. It will be added to all the other mean things kids have said to him that he can’t forget. But it will mean more because it came from someone who had him over to spend the night, who went to QuikTrip with him and bought him doughnuts at DD, who worked on school projects with him. It came from a “friend.”
It is as a friend that I want to say this next part. Jack is not the only kid who will remember. I’m old, almost 46. Middle school and high school were a long, long time ago. But I still weigh those men and women by some of the choices they made back then. Were they a total jerk to their boyfriend? Did they lie to the teachers? Did they pick on the little weirdos in the class? These are the building blocks of their character. While allowances are made for what they were going through as kids and what they learn as adults, their actions when I knew them as young people are still part of how I see them today. I don’t know your plans for yourself, but you might want to consider that these kind of digs might get you a few snickers now, but it will cost you in trust.
Trust. I think that’s why this hurts so much. We trusted you. I say ‘we’ because my experience with Jack is that only a certain type of kid is brave enough to be his friend. I feel safe letting Jack hang out with those kids. It’s usually someone who is smart enough not to be irritated by Jack’s incessant need to be right. It’s usually someone who understands how valuable Jack’s unwavering loyalty is. It’s usually someone who appreciates his sense of humor. But it is always someone who is brave. Because we know Jack is one of the little weirdos. Jack knows too. And his friends know. Everyone knows. That’s not really the point.
The point is what you do with that knowledge. Jack carries on. He stays, for the most part, pretty happy. So I’m hoping he doesn’t turn into one of those sad, sad statistics. But the teenage years are crazy, so I’m scared. The people who don’t want to deal with his weirdness, well, they turn away. Some people are kind. Some people aren’t.
You had a chance here, a choice. It was – to you – maybe a small thing on a day you were bored. You had this little thought on how to dig on someone. You followed through. In that moment, you chose being unkind over kind. You chose not to stand up for the little guy. You chose to kick him instead.
My hope is that maybe you realize that your little dig can have big consequences, to him and to you. And maybe next time you’ll think twice -- or not do it at all.
Oh. And you can go fuck yourself.