Can I start by saying that for many years I hated birthday parties?
I hated throwing Tyson a party.
But I hated going to birthday parties even more.
Birthday parties have been like seeing the world, our world, through a microscopic – an up close and detailed comparison of neurotypical children doing neurotypical things and my child, who was neurodiverse and not capable and/or interested in doing any of those neurotypical things.
And don’t get me started on the food.
It was a reminder of all the things that Tyson could not do.
And it wasn’t just the activities or the food.
I remember taking Tyson to one child’s party in particular. She and Tyson were days apart in chronological age but years apart in every other sense.
I watched the little girl have fun with her friends, blow out her candles and excitedly open her presents, all while my child could barely manage to stay in the room.
The noise, the people, the expectations, were all too overwhelming for Tyson.
As I watched this little girl and her friends, I was so incredibly sad for what we did not have – a child that was laughing, eating cake, hyped up on sugar. A child that was present in the moment.
In the beginning, birthday parties were like having to mourn the diagnosis all over again.
It literally would take the good out of me for a couple of days following.
So for the sake of my sanity, I decided we would skip parties for a while.
And when Tyson turned five, I decided not to have a birthday party for him.
I felt like a terrible mom, as I had always had a party for Lincoln but I just didn’t have the emotional strength to do it.
You see, in my head, five was the big year, a milestone year.
It was the year that if Tyson was ever going to speak, he would need to speak by five.
Back when Tyson was diagnosed, I remember his doctor telling me that most autistic kids who speak would do so by the age of five.
Those words have never left me.
And in the early years, I really believed that Tyson would speak by five.
So when five crept up and Tyson was not speaking, it was a pretty hard reality to accept.
So in protest of five and all that five represented, I decided we would not have a party.
It’s hard for me to revisit that place because I have a different mindset now.
I have accepted what nonverbal autism means for Tyson and our family.
But for some reason 10 also seems like a milestone year.
I can’t put it in words but somehow turning 10 seems different than 9 or 8.
Double digits seems so much older to me.
No longer considered a little boy but the big ten.
But this year we are having a party.
A celebration of Tyson.
If I am being completely truthful, I am a little nervous about a big party.
For the past couple of years, we have had small parties with close friends, so there has been no pressure.
We have been sheltered in our neurodiverse world with parents just like us who understand and accept.
I’m a little worried that Tyson might get overwhelmed.
We have gone to a few parties recently but Tyson hasn’t stayed for the entire event.
Can we leave our own party early!?!
Either way, this sweet boy wanted a party this year with his classmates so we are having the party.
He is excited.
Many things have changed in the last 5 years, while other things have stayed the same.
He still won’t eat the pizza or blow out the candles on his cake.
He will probably get tired of the kids and adults and need a little break.
I’m sure everything won’t go perfectly but I know that this time I’m brave enough to try because this is what he wants.
Happy birthday to you sweet boy. I can’t wait to see what ten brings because the last ten years have been nothing but amazing 💜