Monday, January 10, 2011

A Happy Birthday Party!

This is a big week for us - we have two birthdays this week! SuperKid turns 10 tomorrow!! And I turn a number bigger than 10 on Wednesday. The festivities began early this week, with a family party in honor of SuperKid yesterday.

SuperKid got a lot of gifts, including a terrific LEGO set that has kept him busy during his free time today and some zhu zhu pet accessories that kept Mr. Wonderful busy yesterday as he figured out how to connect all the parts to each other! :-) Other nice gifts were enjoyed and appreciated as well!

SuperKid's party was really special this year. It was the kind of party I used to dream about, but hardly dared to hope for. When SuperKid was younger, his birthdays were sad days at our house. SK had no idea there was anything special about those days. He didn't care about balloons, or parties or even presents.  We had a few parties with other children during which he sat quietly holding a block while everyone else ran around and played and laughed. The presents would sit in a pile in front of him while he stimmed on the wrapping paper and bows, but he had no desire to see what was inside of them. When we did open a gift for him, he would not acknowledge it with a smile or attempt to play with it. It was heart-breaking to want him to feel happy and excited - but to see him withdraw from all of it. I wanted to celebrate him and his life, and I felt resentful and sad that our attempted celebrations merely magnified the challenges and disabilities our little boy (and our family) was living with.

I still vividly remember the day SuperKid turned 5. Mr. Wonderful and I were actually in Boston at an RDI workshop, hoping that this would help us with SK's remediation. We were so sad and conflicted to not be with SK on his birthday, but knew that it was more important in the long run that we go to the conference. Both sets of grandparents babysat while we were gone and when I asked them what they had done to celebrate SK's birthday, they admitted they did not know what to do - so they did nothing. Didn't make him a cake, didn't give him a gift, didn't blow up a balloon. Mind you, these are very loving grandparents, so you can only imagine how confused and frustrated they must have been to have chosen to ignore his birthday. I cried harder that night than I ever had - and back then I used to have some pretty big cries on a pretty frequent basis. We did have a party for SK when we got home, but SK fell asleep shortly after everyone arrived. He awoke at the end of the party but did not want to blow out his candles, eat any cake or open any gifts, so we did it all without him. It was the worst day of my life to date. I could see no way out., and things seemed to be getting worse.

Luckily, every birthday since then has gotten better and better. By his sixth birthday, SK could speak in two-and three-word sentences, which was so heartening! I remember him being excited about the family walking into the house with presents, and I remember him eagerly wanting to open them and play with his new toys! We invited some children from his class to a party and he played and jumped and ran with them! It was a miracle. And it still is.

We used to pray the day would come when SK would ask us for a toy. A real toy - not a stick to hold or a piece of paper on which he could write hippopotamus (yes, at age 2) over and over and over and over . . .  This year, his Christmas list had about 15 items on it. Did we roll our eyes at our son's greed and lecture him about being grateful? Of course - a little bit. God is good!

We used to pray for a day when our son would speak. As Mr. Wonderful now tells people, "Now we pray for a day when he'll actually shut up." True? Well, not really - but it's a gut reaction we sometimes have to check. Our son can talk! And I no longer count words or use M&Ms as incentives! God gives hope!

We used to have a list of things we prayed that our son would one day be able to do and experience, and on his birthdays we would wish for them as the candles on his cake flickered. Do we still wish on his candles? Heck yeah! Our son still faces challenges and issues that impact his life on a day-to-day basis. But when we wake up tomorrow, it will be because SK will come into our room yelling, "Mommy, Daddy, wake up! It's my birthday!" When we asked SK how he wanted to spend his special day this year, he thoughtfully put together an agenda that includes visiting the museum, playing (of course!), opening presents and then eating dinner at his favorite sit-down restaurant. Those are all things that used to be on our lists. God answers prayers!

I'm not sure who is more excited about his 10th birthday tomorrow - SuperKid or me! But I am sure that we're both going to enjoy it!! :-)

Please give your child a hug in honor of SK's birthday today. Thank God for the things your child can do, and be thankful that you get to experience your child's accomplishments every day. Please do not take anything for granted.

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