The birthday party
I was so excited when my son received an invitation to his new friends birthday party. Having a child with autism, ADHD, and Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) birthday parties can be a double edge sword. Firstly, there’s the question of is he going to to be invited to any parties and secondly, do I stay for the party to assist him when he needs help?
The day arrived and I had done all the preparations with my son with a social story, drawing out a schedule, and keeping my visuals handy in case plans had changed. He was quite excited and I needed to drive around the block a couple of times till he can process his feelings.
We arrived at the birthday boys house and was met at the door by the parents. I explained I would stay for 30 minutes until my son felt comfortable then I would quietly leave. I knew I’d be the only parent there as by the age of 6 or 7 it’s a drop off and pick up event.
I haven’t been able to do that with my son in a neurotypical setting there’s a lot of variables to consider. Is the birthday fun going to be too overstimulating for him, will he understand that he can’t open the presents, and lastly will he understand when it’s time to leave.
I sat quietly on the couch making small talk with the parents and surveyed the yard where a nerf gun war was taking place. I had to firmly and directly tell my son the rules as he wasn’t interested in leaving the well stocked toy room. He eventually made it outside and joined in the fun that the other guests were having.
I didn’t want to be that type of parent helicoptering around my son son so I made myself as inconspicuous as possible. With the play getting more intense I could see my sons eyes glaze over and I knew it was time to switch to another activity. That didn’t work out so well so I joined in with playing a football game and hoping my son would want to play as well.
The distraction worked and we were happily tossing the ball back and forth when it was time to come in to have snacks and open presents. My son wasn’t interested in eating but I had begged him to have some carrots as it will fill his sensory seeking need once the game was cut short.
All the kids gathered around and off my son disappeared to a bedroom to have some quiet time. I followed behind him to let him know I was there to help him and the kids were watching the gift opening. He had no interest in me being there or seeing the presents. He asked me to leave and said “I’m fine Mom I got this.”
As I prepared to leave I gave the parents my contact info in case I was needed earlier before pickup. My sons words of I’m fine echoed in my ears as I drove away. I prayed he would be as I wasn’t even close to being okay with leaving him behind.
I spent some time with my older son and then it was time to pick up his brother. I had made sure that I gave him 10 minutes to prepare himself to leave as I followed him to get his shoes and goodie bag. I set the timer on my phone and stood at the door as he got ready to go. As I turned to thank the family for having him at the party he bolted!
Luckily it was within the house and I could get to him quickly. I knew he was having a hard time with transitioning from leaving the party so I remained calm. He professed how he didn’t want to go and I told him all the reasons why we had to leave. I was doing my best to allow him time to process and reached for his hand only to be shot in the throat with a nerf gun.
I was taken aback and started coughing as I unprepared for that impact to my vocal chords. Much to my dismay this whole scene of me chasing him to get the gun and get him out the door was witnessed by all the guests in attendance. I’ve come to a point where I’ve been judged for my parenting that I only care about my child not others opinions.
In that moment I wanted to save my son from any future scenes of chaos and I have pulled him along and carried him out the door. I learned from this experience as it was the only thing I could do in order to help my son. Now I make sure we have a game plan in place and keep the party time to no more than 2 hours.
If things go south as my son reacts to transitioning I have my phone as timer, a little white board so I can draw out the plan ahead of time, and another activity to do as soon as we leave. As I reflect back I know now I was caught up with my son fitting in with his classmates and be like all the other typical kids.
Neurodiversity allows for thinking outside the box and my son is all about doing that in his own way with his stellar imagination. I realized that my need for him to be comfortable at the party spoke volumes about my fear of the unknown.
Now I meet my son where he’s at and time has proven to be the best teacher as well as steadfast love. If I focus on the things he can’t do like stay at a birthday party without me, then how will I celebrate the successes he has that he’s achieved in his own.
I’m happy to say there’s been other birthday parties and he’s felt comfortable enough to ask me to stay or ask to leave if it’s too sensory overwhelming for him. He’s grown and changed so much since that first birthday party and I know no matter what obstacle he faces he’ll be fine, and he’s got this.
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7 thoughts on “The birthday party”
“I’ve got this, Mom” is something I’ve heard from my son, too. And — whew — sometimes I really am not sure he does, but, like you, I’m trying to support him so that he is at least more likely to do so.
It’s so hard to find that balance between helicoptering and allowing distastes to happen. It’s helpful to see how another family does it!
Thanks and love,
Full Spectrum Mama
Oh Mama it’s so tough because I have to let go to let him learn and live his experiences. When I hear my son say those four words- I’ve got this Mom I take a deep breath and put on my brave face and fake it till I make it. His passionate nature just won’t be hushed. Hugs to you. ?❤️
Oh, yes, I can relate to being judged as a parent while trying to find that balance between hovering mom and operation meltdown! It took a lot of time to get to that place that you talk about — just doing what’s best no matter what anyone says (or thinks). Thanks for sharing your experience!
It’s a tough situation to be as all I wanted is the best experience possible for my son. It’s a learning curve for me after all the parent participation birthday parties. Thank you so much for your kindness in reading and commenting on my blog. ?
Yes it’s like being between a rock and a hard place and all you want is to protect your super kid. I’m happy to say we attended a birthday party and everything went well. ?
It is astounding to me how judgemental we all can be! Although my kids are neurotypical (as far as I know at this moment in time) I’ve definitely been in situations where I was judged for my parenting. We’re all doing the best we can, and you are doing an amazing job!
It is astounding Rachel, and it’s sad that us parents have to be on guard for that judgement. I rant less and empathize more because like you said we are all doing the best we can. ?❤️