I’m sure you’ve heard of it by now but if not, there’s a Facebok fan page out there called Happy Birthday Colin that a mother created for her son to prove to him that there are caring people in the world. To best explain it is to use her own words from it’s title status:
I am Colin’s mom, I created this page for my amazing, wonderful, challenging son who is about to turn 11 on March 9th. Because of Colin’s disabilities, social skills are not easy for him, and he often acts out in school, and the other kids don’t like him. So when I asked him if he wanted a party for his birthday, he said there wasn’t a point because he has no friends. He eats lunch alone in the office everyday because no one will let him sit with them, and rather than force someone to be unhappy with his presence, he sits alone in the office. So I thought, if I could create a page where people could send him positive thoughts and encouraging words, that would be better than any birthday party. Please join me in making my very original son feel special on his day.
It’s a nice gesture, a well intentioned thought. And the response has been incredible. Their fan page just hit over 2,000,000 likes as of the time of this writing, which is more than most Hollywood celebrities get. They also get a lot of mail delivered to their local post office, again, more than most Hollywood celebrities. Naturally, this will be rather short lived as he’s not a Hollywood celebrity and his birthday is just one day and basically, his 15 minutes are finite.
However, as it circulated through out the social media world and the news media, many people took up arms and went on the attack against this well intentioned thought. The idea that a mother would make her son a celebrity based on the fact that he has no friends is going to leave a mark on his soul that can never be erased. The fan page might be removed one day and his 15 minutes will be up at some point but those news stories will live on and the history of what she did and what was said will live on forever. And he’ll have to live with that.
Those people refuse to ‘like’ his page. They have no problem though with blogging and writing about how terrible the mom is. They have no problem with predicting a very dark and grim future for Colin.
I have a few questions though. What sort of rosey, magical rainbow paradise are you picturing this kid is going to live in when he’s older if only this fan page didn’t exist? Do you honestly think the bullies will just go away as he gets older? Do you honestly think that he’ll just one day start making all kinds of friends for no real reason other than him being older?
Don’t get me wrong, yes I think people will find this page or it’s story in the future and yes, some will likely even laugh at him for it or maybe even use it against him in some way. But do you honestly think people that would do be so mean really even need it? Do you honestly think that a bully, wanting to hurt someone for no other reason than for the enjoyment it brings them to make someone suffer, would take the time to surf the web and drum up decades old info to use on someone?
Let me put it another way, if this mom hadn’t done this, do you honestly think that a bully would think to himself “well, I didn’t find anything about him on Facebook, I guess I just won’t bother him.”?
No, a bully is a bully and they’ll make something up if they don’t have the ammo they need. A person that would laugh at someone else because of something embarrassing his mother did to him as a kid is a person that is going to laugh at you for no good reason at all. A potential boss that decides on whether or not to hire you based on stuff from your childhood? Not worth working for. Anyone that would judge you because you had a rough childhood or worse, because you had a mom that did something so incredible for you even if it was embarrassing? Those people aren’t worth knowing.
You are not the ghost of Christmas future anymore than I am. However, there are a few things that I do know.
1. Parents embarrass us. It’s just the way it is. It’s like it’s their job. They hug and kiss their kids in public, they wear old outdated clothes, they don’t understand the latest slang or music and they go over the top to show their love sometimes. It’s what parents do. No, not usually to the tune of 2,000,000 Facebook fans but honestly, to a kid, does it feel less embarrassing when your mom shows people a picture of you in your underwear or naked in the tub?
2. Bullies don’t disappear just because your parents shelter you from them. This mom could stay out of this kid’s life completely but he’ll still have no friends. He will still get bullied. She could be the most perfect parent on the planet and do everything right and he’ll still have no friends. The bullies will still be there. During his birthday, as he gets older and later in life… whether she makes a Facebook fan page or not, the bullies will be there.
Listen, the phrase “it gets better” is true but it’s not because our parents hide us better or because the bullies or bad people go away, it’s because we grow up. We begin to understand that those bad people have no power over us and that it only ever felt like it did because we allowed them to have that power. It does get better but not because of anything anyone else does, it’s because we just won’t take it anymore. We get stronger.
Telling this mom that she did something terrible by doing this? That makes you the bully. Telling this kid that the bullying doesn’t stop and that he’ll have no friends in the future? That makes me the bully.
But whether his mom embarrasses him, or whether you rip into her for it or whether I tell him the future is still pretty sucky… none of that matters. It’s on Colin. Just like it was on you, me and everyone else. We need to be the ones that love our parents for embarrassing us like they did because of just how much they loved us. And we’re lucky to have that. We need to be the ones to stand up and say that those bullies are wrong and worthless and have no power over us. We need to be the ones to say that it’s going to get better because we say so. Not anyone else.
You can judge this mom all you want but don’t do it from your pedestal of mystical foresight as if your best guesses of what the future will bring are some cold hard facts when you know full well that you hate it when other people do that to you as they dissect your every parental decision. Don’t be a hypocrite. Don’t be the person you hate when this stuff happens to you.
Finally, consider this.
What if your message hit home, not just with this mom but with every parent every where and collectively we all stopped doing every single “well intentioned” thing we could do for our children for fear of what a bully might say later in life.
Did you win?
Or did the bullies?