Emma’s birthday is today, but her birthday party was this past Sunday at an enormous gymnasium here in New York City. She asked that we invite some 18 children, many of whom could not attend, but eleven children did, including Em and her older brother, Nic. Seven of those children were on the spectrum.
When the children began arriving, Emma seemed uninterested and barely acknowledged them. I told myself she was overwhelmed, that just because she asked for all of these things, perhaps once it became reality, she wasn’t sure what to do. I tried to talk myself into a more accepting frame of mind, but if I’m being honest, I had expectations. Expectations that, I realize now, were completely over and beyond what could realistically happen. This isn’t unusual for me and it is something I am trying to become more aware of.
There is a great deal of talk about preparing one’s child for these sorts of events, going over the list of children who will be coming, talking to Emma about what will most likely happen, the various activities they will do, how she will need to wait her turn, how they will do a great many different things, how we will then have food and cupcakes and birthday cake at home later. But there isn’t a great deal of talk about preparing oneself. Frankly, this is where I need to do the most work. I was utterly unprepared for Emma’s unenthusiastic response to all the other children. I was unprepared for her to not only not pay attention to them, but to stand in front of a mirror toward the end of the party and make faces at herself while singing and dancing. When anyone else tried to join her she would turn her back on them or move away. The truth is, I was unprepared for exactly what happened and found myself feeling disappointed. When I step away from all of this and put my emotions aside, after all this was not my party, it was hers, I think Emma had fun. I think she was happy. I think if she could tell us, she would have said her party was exactly what she wanted.
Happy Birthday Dear Emma!
Emma waiting for her turn to jump into the foam pit
In the foam pit
For more on Emma’s journey through a childhood of autism, go to: Emma’s Hope Book
Happy Happy Birthday dear Emma! Expectations around birthday parties…..I know them well. However, I think I tend towards the other end of the expectation spectrum…..anxiety about Emma melting down, anxiety over her having a tantrum and having to leave her own party, anxiety over if things are overstimulating, anxiety, anxiety , anxiety……prepared for the worst. So I am proud of you for being hopeful. I am inspired yet again, and although perhaps you felt somewhat disappointed, or let down because of those expectations or hopes, you were still positive! You hold onto hope and that is good! I hope you are able to feel ok about it all. I know how hard birthdays and celebrations can be, but it looks like you made it a very special event!
Ahhh, thank you so much Kelly. What a kind message. We took cupcakes to Emma’s school today, she was so excited and all the children were great, sang Happy Birthday to her and told her to make a wish as she blew out her candle. Later she said to me, “I’m ten!”
Happy 10th Birthday Emma. I hope you had fun. Ariane- Liam just likes having other kids around. He does interact with them a lot but he still considers them his friends and is happy to play alongside of them. He loves parties too.
Thank you so much Liz
Happy birthday to Emma. I wish her all the best, good health, love, joy. My son was born on January 17th, 2002 and he is on a spectrum, too. Our party went all well, with one minor incident. However, Jane (it is pronounced YAH-NEH, it is common Slavic name) was distanced, as always. He says that he had a great time, but I never know for sure, because he uses words in most curious fashion: sometimes with opposite meaning, sometimes completely unrelated to the topic at hand.
Maja from Skopje, Macedonia
It’s good to hear from you. Yes, Emma does that too. Words, word tenses, everything can become scrambled, but sometimes there’s a weird sense to it all. Such as when we taught her the word “men” and showed her two male dolls. Then I pulled out a third male doll and put him with the other two, she pointed to the group of men and said, “mens.” It made sense. The word men she thought indicated two men, however when there were more than two they must be “mens.”
Happy Birthday to your Jane.