I like to think that we are pretty easy with A’s mysterious non verbal persona, and also with his unwillingness to be drawn into macro decision making tasks. He is happy to weigh in on the micro stuff, like red shirt, yes. Car ride, let’s go. And he is a fan of acting immediately on a fleeting thought. Planning ahead through abstract thought is for his support staff, aka family.
Since he doesn’t answer consistently to yes/no questions, there’s no guarantee that he won’t say yes to something, and not shriek about it later. And if you present him with two or more options, he is most likely to cover his ears and shove you away because it’s all too much.
How not to feel that we are imposing life events on him then? And since he doesn’t react calmly to looking ahead, we pretty much let him discover things as they unfold–oh, look! Here we are at the beach, or at summer camp, or at a party. It takes some acting skills on our part, as we all strive to be like ducks–floating gracefully above the water’s surface, paddling furiously below.
You can imagine the disconnect each year when we try to plan his birthday celebrations. It’s a moment of pinning the tail on the donkey–we don’t know for sure if we will land any place he will approve of. I’ve almost pushed the button many times on a pool party, but the potential meltdown over limited pool time and the transition to a different spot to cut a cake he doesn’t want to eat stops me.
A, my sweets, here is what I have learned thus far about your birthday:
1. You’ve only really shown awareness of it being your special day in the last two years. Before that, all the parties only served to humor us.
2. You don’t like parties at home because there are people in your space. I’m sorry about that time when you ended up hiding in the bathroom and people had to give you your gifts in there. And about the time when you screamed in your bed because the other kids were too loud. And about the time when the kids were quiet for your sake, but you still had to go sit in the car to get away.
3. You don’t want parties at other venues to be longer than half an hour. Say hi, eat a slice of pizza, and bye bye. Don’t really know what to say about that… “You are invited to a really short birthday party for our son A. Please be on time because we might have left by the time you pull up 45 minutes later.”
4. You don’t really care about presents and cake. This one is the hardest for me to relate to. Presents! They are the only reason to dress up in scratchy clothes and say hello to grown ups.
5. I will always wonder if you noticed last year that there was no party. YOUR LOW TOLERANCE FOR SOCIAL INTERACTION IS RUBBING OFF ON US, YOU KNOW. We were so exhausted and overstimulated from your dad’s milestone birthday bash a month earlier that we just couldn’t pull it together to host another. You seemed pleased with the minimal fete we had, just the four of us, birthday dosa in front of your beaming face, or maybe that’s my wishful thinking at play.
6. Here’s the main thing I know–it’s too high stress to expect one seemingly random calendar date to embody all your hopes of a good time. You are the kind of guy who wants small bouts of fun consistently over a day, a week, some time frame that is more predictable.
So this is what we have planned for this year: a long drive on the interstate, a trip to Target, and lunch at Wegman’s. Please try not to screech if we surprise you with a candle stuck in an egg roll. We’re proud of you for growing up and we want to sing it out.
I’m going to believe that as you get older, some innate nosiness in you will prevail and you’ll start leading us towards some advance notice of what you want for your birthday. And some day, if your idea of the perfect high school graduation ceremony is a trip to the airport to watch planes land, we’re there.
We’re learning. And if the patience you show as we bumble along isn’t love, I don’t know what is. Love you back, little duck.