There’s always been a reason. He wasn’t related enough. There was no one to invite. He couldn’t handle group settings. Every year, I grin and bear it (and cry of course) and then tell myself, “maybe next year…”
James is getting closer to making friends, but put him in a room with more than one kid and it’s too much for him.
So I resigned myself to another year of no party, but then something unexpected happened.
My husband decided he wanted a party. He called the parents of a classmate of James who also has autism and has a birthday around the same time and asked if they’d like to have a bowling party for just the two boys and our families.
They agreed and he proceeded to plan the day, asking them about diet restrictions, calling the bowling alley about rates, food, etc., ordering a cake…
It was surreal. He’s a great father but for the past 8 years I’ve been the one coordinating therapies, finding schools, hosting team meetings and playdates while he looks on and says, “So is the therapist with the red hair the OT or speech?”
Now he was a man on a mission, calling the family regularly and updating them on his planning. One night he held up the contract, “I’m filling it out now and sending it back.” (So you do know how to scan a document and send a pdf… I knew it!)
While watching him in action, I was nervous and would make comments about keeping it more low key, “It’s just the two families; why do we need a contract?” And he’d say, “Because this is how I’m doing it.” (Subtext: stay out of it.)
So I braced myself for the day, keeping my fingers crossed that James could keep it together and this time not so much for James but for my husband who really wanted this.
The morning of our party, James woke up so excited about his “big day” and started practicing bowling on the wii.
I was still holding my breath when we arrived at the bowling alley and met the family. Then I saw their faces. They were beaming and their son was as excited as James. Again, my husband just took over - checked us in and handled everything.
The kids had a ball. They laughed and bowled and ate and the adults did the same thing.
When the cake came out, we all sang Happy Birthday and when we finished singing James put his arm around the boy and they blew out the candles together. I held in my tears of joy. I could see the other mom did too. I’ve waited ten years for this moment.
When we got home, my husband said, “So I did good, didn’t I?”
“You did amazing. I was afraid to get excited.”
“I could tell you were. “
“I needed that.”
“I know. We all did. I know you do everything and I do nothing and now I want accolades and you’re thinking, ‘But I do this every day,’ but you can still bring it on.”
And I did – and still am. It’s been almost a week and I’m still floating through the day. If my job wants to fire me, if anyone wants to drop bad news on me, now would be a great time because I’m feeling no pain. I’m still living in my magic moment.