It’s not uncommon in a family like ours with school aged kids, to find ourselves at a fellow classmates or neighbors birthday party. It actually happens more weekends than not. Most of the time it’s a familiar scene of dropping Clara or Gabe off at a party, unless the family happens to be super familiar of our family dynamic. In those instances, we would then manage all the birthday sensory excitement together – OTOD, until you’d had enough and then we would retreat to the comforts of home.
Kid’s birthday parties can be a tricky thing for autism families. Especially now a day where Pinterest has created the monster of making these parties even bigger and better than before! Bigger and better doesn’t usually scream “sensory friendly” in most cases. On one hand we want our children to feel accepted and treated like one of the group, enjoying party fun and cake with friends, but on the other, there’s the reality that we are riding a delicate balance of being overwhelmed and unpredictable, causing your sensory system causing more stress than fun. A catch-22 and we simple don’t know until we’re in the thick of it.
Our friends are amazing. Let me repeat that, seriously, really amazing. They always make us feel included in their children’s parties or play dates. While their inclusion of us comes from love, I’d be lying if I didn’t say sometimes it’s a heavy reminder that our life is just… well, different. We’re not entirely in the sweet spot of being able to socialize while the kids splash in the pool unless it’s a baby pool. While their children maybe accustom to you and your mannerisms, others that have also been invited may be meeting you for the first time, and it often involves a lot of staring, or the thing I dread more - whispering. Unless your conspiring about a present you’re buying me, then it’s truly unkind to whisper in front of others. Just my opinion.
Most often these parties consist of peers from school. You, my dear only having a total of four kids in your class, and each has their own complex sensory likes and dislikes, which makes pulling off a successful party challenging. We don’t see a lot of invites come rolling through your backpack these days. With the additional hurdles of limited receptive language and recognizing social cues appropriately “making” friends can be equally as hard (but not impossible either darling.)
Flash to our day to day life where we trade playdates for therapy.
It’s here you recently made a friend. On your own. Without my nudging or even knowing the mom first. Now don’t get me wrong, you have quite a few great friends, but this was unique in it happened on its own. In fact, I only knew your friend’s mom through some weekly, five-minute, light conversations in the therapy waiting room. Your friendship was unique in that it wasn’t made by long girlie gossip conversations between the two of you, or being in the same class. Nope, you see each other every week at Occupational Therapy, where she helps you in mastering turn taking and peer to peer play at the end of your therapy session. She loves nothing more than to show you how to do things like a big sister BFF would, and you in turn respond very well to her teachings with giggles and excitement (at least most of the time, she’ll be the first to tell me if you’ve been naughty or are in a bad mood- hey not every day can be sunshine and roses right?!).
Her name is Lily, but everybody calls her Lil and I promise you she could be the mayor of any town she pleases one day. She can command a room full of people and everyone loves her. I mean EVERYONE! She has a passion for recycling and reminds me often you cannot recycle pizza boxes (because of the grease!) - truly spreading valuable knowledge! Kuddos to Lil for making the world a better place! Total side note: You and Lil are set to play Miracle League baseball together this season (different teams) and all the players needed a nickname for when you’re called up to bat. Lil’s is “Lil The Recycler” – very appropriate for her clear love of recycling. When she asked me what yours was and I said “Addie” she looked at me like “Seriously that’s all you could come up with?!” It was hilarious – I promised her we’d get a better nickname next year Ad.
Anyway, Lil was turning 11 and having a floorball birthday party that YOU were invited to! Even though it was your name on Lil’s very long invite list (this girls got some friends), her mom mentioned that our whole family was more than welcomed to attend, so that was our plan.
The day had finally come and in our One Team, One Dream way, we arrived fashionably late. OK maybe just late – nothing terribly fashionable about it J . You walked in, present in hand, to a floorball game in already in full swing! With all the excitement, you instantly began to jump and stim! You were visibly happy and ready to play, in your Addie way of playing.
The actual floorball stick concept proved to be a little more complex than you could handle, but being the master at making any ball a basketball, you were the next Lebron James with the wiffle ball, bouncing away at it like it was a basketball. Any way you slice it – you were playing!
You happily bounced your ball while kids zoomed past you up and down the court. Not a single one of Lil’s friends asked you to move because you were in the way or looked at you differently. You ran back and forth with the masses and even cheated a few times, but nobody got upset. Everyone was there to have fun, oh and rinse out their Gatorade bottles before properly recycling them – hey recycling is important!
After the games were through (and bottles rinsed) we all made our way back to the party room for pizza and cake. You managed quite well but needed to take a few little breather walks with dad, before inevitably calling it day back at the car.
Addie, words cannot express just how very proud I am of this beautiful friendship you and Lil have created together and how well you did at her super fun birthday party. Predictably unpredictable and it went very well. I can’t wait to see more of this friendship blossom through Miracle League this baseball season!
Great Job Ad!
I love you.