December 9 – Party Prompt: Party. What social gathering rocked your socks off in 2010? Describe the people, music, food, drink, clothes, shenanigans.
The party of the year was the Sweet 16 party for my girl. Planning a party for someone with Autism, or at least my someone, can be an interesting experience. The idea of a social gathering–even one that includes cake and presents–can be a challenge for us.
The last big party we had been when she turned 3. I can recall the screaming as the attendees sang “happy birthday” while she sat plopped in front of a giant M&M cake. With my camera in hand I wondered what was so horrible that would cause her to scream. (pre-diagnosis). When I look at the photos of that summer day I am saddened that I was so clueless and she was so miserable.
The next year was low-key to not repeat the terror that was previously experienced. After that I tried again but the rule was that we weren’t going to sing. The following two years of parties were complete disasters where all the planning resulted in nobody attending. I was left with a lot of cake to eat and a very broken heart.
From that time on, we celebrated birthdays with family and a special day just for us. No longer did I attempt to invite peers from school and there just isn’t anyone that she would call a ‘friend’ to invite.
And then this birthday–the sweet 16–rolled around and I was ready to try again. She wanted black balloons and a black cake. She wasn’t celebrating being 50 for goodness sakes, but I suppose it was her own attempt to be “cool” and anti-girlie. I was able to talk her into black and pink decorations that were splattered with glitter and ‘sweet 16’. She even wore a black and pink tank top to match.
As the invitations were sealed I said a hopeful affirmation that someone would RSVP and actually come. We invited 6. As the time on the clock neared the start of the party, I sensed my own anxiety as I wondered if the doorbell would actually ring. I quickly saw in her the shift—the mask that I see when the bus comes each day, the mask of determination to perform, to attempt and to make it through.
One friend came that day to the party. While I stood back and watched the two of them interact I realized the blessing in having just one show up. Anymore and the social demands may have been too much. As soon as the time that was written on the invitation for the party to end neared she was gone, back in the safety of her room, away from the hustle of the party.
There was still a lot of cake left over but this time my heart wasn’t broken. My girl had a sweet 16 party complete with glitter, cake and a guest.