How many children's Birthday parties have you skipped?
It's not that you're anti-social, it's just that you know what to expect:
Isolation of your child
The looks from the other parents.
Potential 'exit' meltdowns. Hell, potential 'all the time' meltdowns.
If you've been through this, then you realize that the socialization is usually not worth the stress, for you or your child. I mean, why put anyone through it if it's just going to be a nightmare?
I get it. I totally understand. And yet...
We were invited to a B-Day party this weekend and, although we are new to the neighborhood, my daughter and I decided to go.
The scene: Bouncy House, loud music, screaming kids, flat pizza, chocolate cupcakes. My daughter hates flat pizza and chocolate. This should be interesting.
We walked in and was greeted by the Dad, a 3rd grade teacher with kind eyes. My daughter, totally distracted by the sounds in the bouncy room, didn't notice him at first, but focused hard to put the present in the bin, take off her shoes, and bolt out into the fray. I thanked the Dad and hustled off after her.
She walked into the center of the bouncy room and immediately covered her ears, the sounds a little overwhelming. She squeaked loudly and ran to the closest bouncer, a 'rock climber with a slide'. She took a couple of steps up the wall and slid back down.
"Daddy. I need a help."
"You can do it, Honey. I believe in you!"
She scrunched up her nose at me and tried again, me cheering her on. The Mom saw me and walked over to help cheer. My daughter looked back, halfway up, and smiled her beatific smile. Then she continued on with more confidence, making it all the way to the top. Her 'payoff' slide was on her stomach and followed by an immediate re-climb of the wall.
That's my girl...
I spoke with the Mom for a bit. Her son, the B-Day boy, was also a redhead and very excited to have another ginger in his class. There was no indication of difference, challenges, or autism.
Later, as my daughter was making her 5th trip up the wall, a couple of girls her age ran up to her and asked if she wanted to join them in the Hurricane Booth, a closed, windy room with 78MPH winds. She looked at them, right in the eyes, and said "YEAH!" and ran off with them.
As the hurricane began, I could see my daughter start to get a little anxious. Without missing a beat, one of the girls started rubbing my daughter's back, concern in her eyes. My daughter calmed down and allowed herself to enjoy the wind, her friend acting as her grounding point.
The party continued for a while and then moved into the pizza room. The final challenge.
My daughter sat down at the table, the pizza was already on the plate, and immediately said "Yuck! I hate this pizza!" Hehe...so direct.
I had planned for this as we ate right before we left, but weren't allowed outside food (big fine for this...ugh). So I talked to her for a bit about waiting for her friends to finish. She drank her water and sat calmly, listening to the surrounding conversations.
Before we left, several parents had requested that we have playdates as my daughter is loved in her class. They knew she had autism, they just didn't see it as a deterrent, just another facet of her. I left with a list of phone numbers and a spring in my step. My daughter left with a smile.
Later that night, I showed my wife the video of the girl rubbing my daughter's back in the Hurricane Room. We cried for a while and held each other.
"I'm so happy for her..." my wife said through tears. "I'm just so happy for her."