I start this blog a week or so after my son Scout turns nine years old. (btw, ‘Scout’ is not his real name, but you know how it is. Changing the names to protect the innocent and all that…!) Nine years old, in the home stretch of 3rd grade in a ‘typical’ 3rd grade classroom. It’s only been about four years since his diagnosis but of course it feels like I’ve known all my life. As his mother I DID know even before his doctor, who kept telling me to ‘wait and see’ before worrying. (Me, wait before worrying?! He doesn’t know me very well, does he..??) But I really don’t want to go into that whole diagnosis saga at this time, I’m sure at some point it will reveal itself to you. Right now I’m still basking in the glow of a successful 9 year old birthday party.
For me, birthday parties are tough with Scout. I never know quite what to do. Do I go all out and invite everyone in his class? Take everyone to Chuck E Cheese (shiver!) or the bowling alley or be REALLY cool and do the Mall of America theme park? This of course is what parties are ‘supposed’ to be, and it promotes many good teachable moments for Scout to navigate his way through the twisty turny roads of social interaction. Also as a mother who wants her child to be liked this is the logical thing to do, with the hopes that each and every one of these children will invite HIM to THEIR future birthday party.
Or do we keep it quiet and simple, just doing something with immediate family or maybe one other friend? The problem with that has always been, what friend? Scout has had a few play dates here and there with certain kids but only recently has started to make any special connections with any one—and I still wonder how connected he really is.
So I asked him what he would like to do this year. He was having a hard time deciding and joking around I casually mentioned, “well, we could go to Stillwater and do some antiquing…” Ulterior motives my friends, this is true…but honestly perusing antique stores for vintage toy cars is one of my son’s favorite past times. Much to my daughter’s dismay his eyes lit up and he said, “Yeah! That’s what I want to do!” Easy peasy! I didn’t have to deal with the germy yuckiness of Chuck E Cheese, or having to make the painstaking decision of who is really a close enough friend to invite to a party. But then Scout says he really does want friends over. This of course, is a triumph. Scout loves to play alone, he always has. But he has also loved having other kids around. The problem is that I’ve noticed for Scout having a friend around is often just a good audience for him to show a good book to or share his coin collection. He is getting better at really trying to be interested in what THEY want to do as well, but it’s definitely a challenge for him.
I think somehow deep down Scout knows that birthdays mean parties, and parties mean friends. So the solution was to spend the day in Stillwater and then have friends over for cake and ice cream and just some good old-fashioned playtime. Perfect. The group of friends were kids that I daresay he is actually making connections with. One he’s had a couple of sleepovers with. One child isn’t even one that he sees every day, but a friend from karate. One he says he plays with every recess and has actually earned the ‘best friend’ title. Whether or not Scout really knows what this means, I don’t know…but I’ll take it.
The kids had a great time, other than the fact that one child almost had an eye poked out. (it really can happen!) I sat listening to the giggling and knowing my son was right in the thick of it filled me with a joy that no parent of a ‘typical’ child could quite understand. It would be nice if Scout got invited to more play dates and asked to more birthday parties, but right now we’ll just concentrate on making those connections with the few kids in his life that he’s actually mentioned more than once.
Ahh, done for another year. I’ll try not to worry about next year’s birthday party…yet…