As expected the big birthday was filled with a variety of emotion. My own emotion began the day prior as I was flooded with sadness. A rare time for me when I am keenly aware of the challenges. More often than not, I am positive, hopeful, and extremely grateful. However, I am human and on this day I was filled with sadness and I cried and I cried.
The morning of the girl’s birthday I woke in the middle of the dark hours and reflected on her birth, her first few days and who I was at that time. Certainly not knowing the path that I was about to embark on, I was young and eager to know my new girl. Next, I quietly placed her bag of birthday goodies on the table and remembered the birthdays of past; uncontrollable crying at age 3 when people sang, the guests that never arrived for age 8 and 9, the lack of gracious social skills, the stress, her response to stress.
I reminded myself to not have an expectation.
She came up to open her gifts and in her gruffest voice, said “mother don’t” when I reached for my camera. To talk about her or show excitement over her day would be too much, so instead I watched quietly as she pulled out the gifts one by one. Glancing at them quickly and returning them to the bag, she showed minimal emotion. I remind myself that these moments are hard.
In that moment, I was sick of being it hard.
She stuffed the loot back into the gift bag and walked off. That was it. She takes the bag and retreats to her dungeon of comfort. Before she escaped too far, I tell her that I would love to help her with her new iPod. The door slammed. And I crumbled.
Something. I just wanted something. A smile. An “ooh”, or a “this is awesome, thanks!”. A sign that she is happy. Something. I needed something. In that moment I didn’t care what social disability she had, I needed something other than rejection and negativity. I needed to see something in her that she was comfortable being happy.
I became overwhelmed with emotion that has long been bottled up and I cried again. I cried hard. I cried for what is, and I cried for what isn’t. When the tears were over and the exhaustion of it all subsided, I told her (via text) that being rude is not part of her disability. I told her that her behaviors hurt my feelings. I told her that it is not okay to treat others that way.
A short time later, I received a text picture of a drawing that she completed with the fashion designer templates that I had given her in the gift bag. The caption, “I’m sorry picture for you”.
The day went on and the surprise party was a success. Initially scared and unsure, she took a few minutes in a booth by herself to assess the situation and then became comforted into seeing familiar people who care about her. Watching from afar, I saw that when nobody is looking she is happy. My heart ached for the disconnect of showing emotion that exists. Any emotion.
Exhausted from the social demands of the events of the day, she gathered her gifts and was gone for the night to the safety of her room. I sat thinking about her and her day and wondering what she was thinking.
Another birthday on the books. Maybe someday she will be able to look back at this day, or any day really, and be able to know with happiness how much I love her.