Ryan's diagnosis came just after his third birthday; we started the evaluation process the month before he turned three. We had two parties for his third birthday - a small family gathering at our apartment and a raucous kiddie party at the ball pit. Neither party was without incident. He did ok at the kid party; he had some trouble transitioning from play time to lunch time, and he dragged me through all those damn tunnels, and he had a small fit about the presence of those chocolate cookie crunchy things in the ice cream cake, but overall he had a decent time. The family party was the bigger disaster: Ryan was overwhelmed by having his four grandparents and aunt and uncle in the house at the same time, so he spent the afternoon hiding in his room, shrieking. At the time, I knew nothing about PDD or sensory integration disorder. I thought Ryan was just being difficult. Not knowing any better way to deal with my child's peculiarities, I pushed him to act like I thought a kid should act at his birthday party: playing with Grandma, chasing his friends around, smearing icing all over his face. Then I got mad that my efforts only made things worse.
This year, Ryan's birthday party was fantastic. Again, we held the kiddie party at the ball pit - it's his favorite place in the world, so I never even considered having it elsewhere. Ryan ran through all the tunnels and ladders and slides independently, once or twice even interacting with his friends. (OK, I went into the dodgeball pit once, because he looked at me angelically and said "Come on in, Mommy!" I couldn't resist him.) His transitions were perfect, he kept his pants dry, he showered Grandma and Grandpa with hugs and kisses. My friends all commented on how well he did. And he and the other kids had a terrific time.
This year, Ryan's birthday coincides with Yom Kippur, so it seems appropriate for me to atone for the sinful way I have tried to push him to be someone he is not. A year ago, I would get frustrated with him for being (in my eyes) withdrawn, stubborn, odd. I would feel embarrassed by his behavior at the playground. Over the last year, I have come much closer to truly accepting Ryan the way he is. I still try to give him tools to help him live in my world, but I also work on developing the skills I need to interact with him in his world: compassion, empathy, patience. I'm learning to see the world as he sees it. I'm learning not to dismiss things that make little sense to me but are obviously important to him. I have much further to go, but I'm trying my best, and I hope God will give me another year to work on this.
The difference from last year's party to this year's was night and day. I'd like to think the therapy has played a major role. I'd also like to think my change in perspective has affected things. My expectations have shifted, and I'm learning how to prepare my son for our adventures. This has been the hardest year of my life, but I could not be more proud of Ryan. Happy birthday, Baby!