Friday, February 8, 2013

Birthday Expectations...and a Smile

Lilli's Muppet cake. I decided Kermit would be easier to draw with icing, even though Beaker is awesome. 

Lilli's birthday went almost exactly as I predicted in my last post.

I asked my husband to read my post when he woke up that morning on Lilli's birthday. After he read it, he said, "That's a good reminder, we need to keep that in mind today in case any of those things happen."

That night after everyone left, he said, "Well, you predicted it!"  But somehow those parts of the day did not send us spinning into depression, because we had mentally prepared ourselves for the possibilities. That helps. If we don't mentally prepare ourselves, sometimes we get down because we have expectations for how we think things should go. I think this is a skill that parents of children with special needs, especially those with behavior and sensory issues, should practice. It's not being negative, just realistic.

We took Lilli to a bouncy house place with her cousins after lunch. That was the highlight of her birthday. It baffles me how a child that gets overwhelmed opening gifts in her own living room could love a loud, crazy-with-kids-running-around-jumping-and-screaming-with-laughter-kind-of-place like a bouncy house place. I don't really get it. But the good thing was, she said she wanted to go there for her birthday, and she had a blast.

Later when we opened gifts at home, Lilli started to cry. I just don't even know why. We were helping her pull all of these beautiful, sparkly shirts and skirts out of gift bags while she sat in her daddy's lap on the living room floor, and she looked so unhappy. I will not post those sad gift-opening pictures. She looked like she just wanted to get up and leave. She started to cry and it was heartbreaking and puzzling. We stopped opening gifts and let her go play in her room. My brother in law said, "It's OK, really, we don't have to make her open her presents now." I was grateful that he was understanding, even though none of us really did understand. When I put her birthday pictures in her scrapbook, I will have to leave the gift-opening ones out.

A birthday smile through the netting at the bouncy house place. 

So Lilli had a slow, birthday-present-opening "week." We helped her open a present here or there over the next few days. She did not really open them herself. Gift-opening is a challenging fine-motor skill and sensory experience for kids like Lilli. For many of them, she did not even look when we pulled the present out of the gift bag. She did not act the least bit interested in most. She did not want her cake. But that's OK. I really think she enjoyed most of her special day and likes her presents. She loves the musical Elmo toy we got her, she loved the bouncy house place, and she loves wearing all of her new sparkly birthday clothes and hair accessories. We decorated her room with her new things, and put her new jewelry into her new jewelry box. I know that Lilli enjoys things in a different way than most kids do.

Lilli's birthday did not go the way Chloe's went, or really, any other kid's birthday party that I've ever been to. Usually a birthday child wants all the attention, gifts, and cake they can get. But we knew it would be different with Lilli. It was good that we were realistic and had that mindset in the beginning of the day, so that we would not be upset later. If we set unrealistic expectations for ourselves and for our children, we will end up being disappointed. Even on a birthday. It is a dangerous place to go, comparing our children with other children. When we look at our children that have special needs and think about all the things they cannot do, we feel hopeless. We must focus on small things. Little accomplishments. Happy moments. Slow progress is still progress.

And a smile on a birthday, is a smile on a birthday.

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