By now you've probably heard about Odin, the 13-year-old Canadian boy whose birthday celebration went viral, with outpourings of support coming from all corners of the world.
Of course social media is remarkably powerful and nothing short of spectacular when it comes together as it did for Odin. Yet the sad undertow of his story keeps drawing me back and prevents me from riding high on the crest of a Facebook wave.
As a mom with a young child, much younger than Odin, I can relate. My son also has high functioning autism (formerly known as Asperger's) and in the circles I move in, I see Odins every day. Kids left on the sidelines, bullied and friendless. On forums, there are daily calls to wish Odins a happy birthday or send a friendly message of support. Most of these Odins you will never hear of. Most of them will never see their name in tweets, or receive so much as a text from a famous actor or sports star.
But even that Odin will be forgotten once the initial rush dissipates. So I can only hope his 14th birthday will be very different from his 13th -- not punctuated by the greetings of total strangers, but rather graced by a couple of quiet, meaningful wishes.
Ideally, I can only hope my son will join some club or group whose members shares his interests. There he will make one, maybe two, friends who will get to know him and like him for who he is, Asperger's and all. One or two true friends, as opposed to legions of well-meaning strangers.
And as parents, maybe that should be the goal. Maybe for kids like Odin -- for kids like mine -- inviting the whole class or some dozen kids is only setting up our kids for disappointment and humiliation when no one shows up.
I don't blame Odin's mom or any other parent who reaches out. After all, having an Odin is equal parts heart-wrenching and utterly amazing. All you want is for others to see everything about yours that is cool and likable. All you want is for the world to see your child through your lens. But sadly, the world isn't ready to wear your glasses. It's not ready to see him as you do... not yet, anyway.
For now, for my son's next birthday, I'm going small. You won't hear about it or read about it anywhere.
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