Sunday, 5 May 2013

An Awesome 6th Birthday

My boy.  Jack did absolutely fabulously today.  It was the best birthday I can remember for one of the boys in a long time, maybe ever.  It was the first time for several things- first time Jack basically "created" his own guest list, and the first time we had a party away from home.  Best. thing. ever.  Instead of running around like a fool cleaning the house last night, I was wrapping gifts.  Instead of decorating all morning, I had a nice snuggle with the birthday boy and watched him unwrap gifts.  Awesome. 

As always, I tried to keep Jack's party pretty small.  New strategy this year and it did not work :).  We had his party on the Eastern Shore in Maryland, about 45 minutes from home, at a horse farm.  I let him invite the kids from class that he wanted to come, figuring maybe two or three of them would make the trip, then our family friends.  One kid RSVP'd no- we had close to 20 kids there today including siblings.  I was slightly worried for Jack, but we were outside the whole time and there really was no noise factor to overwhelm him.  And he had an easy exit if he needed a break.
This farm- it's incredible.  It is called Dominic's Farm in Queenstown, MD and it has several very special aspects to it. 

Dominic is the name of the owners' son.  He has autism and is grown.  He still comes home and mows the lawns every weekend.  As a result, the owner, who runs the parties, is incredibly sensitive to the needs of kids on the spectrum and adjusts things accordingly.  For instance, she had us come out a few weeks ago and spent about an hour taking us around, introducing Jack to the animals.  And he remembered every single name- has been talking about riding on Zach ever since (horse).  She keeps the "structure" very flexible.  And because it's such an open area, any type of behavioral issues from either boy are much less glaring.  Nathan ran around shaking a rope for a good 20 minutes and stimming, and I don't think anyone noticed.  Although to be honest, I really just didn't care as long as he was happy. 

This is Jack sitting beautifully listening to Miss Kathy talk about being careful around the animals.

Jack and Sean watching Angry birds while waiting to ride

Mommy's proudest moments today:
- Jack handled letting other kids ride the horse like a champ- no meltdowns at all. 
- Jack decided he did not want the birthday song and with the help of his OT made it very well known- he usually cries at the end of the song, all of the clapping really bothers him, and he recognized this and avoided it. 

Most special moment- I was walking to the fields with the boys, holding Nate's hand, and Jack was walking next to us.  One minute I looked down and Jack was holding Nate's other hand.  I cannot stress enough what a big deal this was.  This has never ever happened before, it was such a wonderful sign of affection and it still brings tears to my eyes.

I am proud of myself.  I realized as I sat down to write this today that I was more at ease with the boys and their behaviors today than I have ever been.  I did not offer one explanation for either of their actions.  Now, they were both very very good, but as I said, Nate was shaking rope and running laps for a good part of the party.  Jack's anxiety was very obvious at times and I am sure that some people wondered why he opted out of the birthday song.  I felt no need to explain.  I don't think I uttered the word autism all day, except when talking to the owner of the farm about treatment options before the party.  This is a huge first for ME. 

Hilary Clinton said it takes a village to raise a child.  That's one child, and I assume this child is not on the spectrum.  It takes a lot more than that to raise two children on the spectrum.  And damn, we have built one Hell of a village over the last several years!  I looked around today and behind the kids and parents from Jack's class saw some of the most caring supportive people I have ever known.  My mom and dad, my little sister, John's brother, some of my very best friends- Joann and Helen and their families, another special needs family we have connected with who understands our life like no one else ever could, a family from the boys' OT practice.  Preschool friends who Jack actually connected with back then- which was huge back then.  Jack's OT made the trip to see him- she has been working with him for three years now and has earned that gorgeous Jack smile-  not the regular cute smile, but the one reserved for people he really loves.  We missed Jack's mimi, one of his most favorite people, very very much.  She has been an invaluable support to our family during our "rebuilding" process, and Jack just LOVES her.  But we will see her tomorrow.  All of these people are here for the boys, here for our family, and their presence made Jack, and frankly me and John feel secure enough to really let our guard down and have a great time.  I know that Jack will never forget this experience- and all John and I could do for most of the party was grin at each other like idiots, because we knew we kicked some serious butt on the party front today and our little boy was thrilled.

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