I am a party girl. I have always loved going to parties, planning parties, and receiving invitations. When I became a mom I thought it would be exciting and fun, but in a different way – to go to kids' birthday parties with my baby.
Then, the one-year-old parties began. Many of my friends had babies born the same month as Matthew, so we were going to a lot of parties around the time Matthew turned one.
Many noticeable developmental milestones are happening as babies turn one. Most one year olds are almost walking (some even walk independently by age one), they respond to their name and may even have a few tricks to impress others (“show me your head”, “where’s your nose?” etc).
Matthew’s One Year Old Piture.
We used this on his party invitation!
It was at Matthew's first birthday party when I began to feel differently about parties. We were sitting in a circle in our family room with our music teacher as the party entertainment. There they were. All the one year olds – my friends’ children - standing, clapping, some even walking - while Matthew tried to roll on the ground. It was a rough reminder, on my guy's special day, just how behind his peers he actually was. Sure, we have been together with these peers all throughout his first year. But somehow, being in a room full of peers in my own home helped me to fully realize the huge discrepancy in development. This is so NOT fun. I had to smile on the outside, but felt so sad inside. Why was my baby not able to sit, stand or clap? Would he ever be able to do these things? Why are these things so easy for other kids to master?
(Here we are at the party. That is me in the yellowish shirt, and M is laying on his back in the middle of the circle, looking at the music teacher who is wearing a black shirt and jeans. Many of my NY friends and their adorable kids are in this pic).
In kindergarten, Matthew was invited to a classmate's birthday party. We pulled up to the house, and there were no other cars there - it did not look like a party. I double-checked the invitation, and yes, I had the right house, the right day and the right time. So, we started walking up the driveway and I saw a mom of one of Matthew's classmates walking out of the house. She warmly greeted us and said, "The boys are inside, have fun at the party, Matthew!" Feeling confused about why she was leaving, I asked, "Where are you going?" She answered "oh, to do a few errands, the party isn't over till 2 o'clock". My heart sank, "This is a drop off?" It never occurred to me that people actually drop their children off at parties - since that was not a possibility for me to do.
We went in to the party and I explained to the parents that I would be staying. The birthday child's parents were welcoming and kind. I had a lump in my throat the size of a tennis ball. So, THIS is what 5 and 6 year old boys can do? They play together, interact, they are forming actual friendships. The kids played games that Matthew had no interest in and couldn't keep up with. The kids stared at him as he flapped during moments of excitement (he loves singing the Happy Birthday song and watching people blow out candles, so there was a lot of flapping going on there), and I noticed when no one wanted to sit next to him. For me, it was heartbreaking on so many levels. I could not wait for it to be over.
We were the first to leave. I was emotionally drained from putting on a happy face for the past 2 hours. Once I got Matthew safely buckled into his seat and the car started, I felt the hot tears streaming down my cheeks. I took a few deep breaths and I heard from the backseat "That was fun, Mommy!" WHAT? Matthew had fun at the party? This is all that should matter, right?
I am learning from Matthew everyday. His positive attitude is contagious. Last Sunday we were at a birthday party, and although he didn’t really participate like his peers did, he found his way to feel happy and enjoy himself. He wanted to serve the kids their cake slices (like a waiter). He genuinely loved bringing each child a slice of cake. We had to leave the party early (parties are too long for him), but we all left happy.
All of this reminds me of a small plaque I have in my home. I first came upon these “rules” when I was pregnant with Matthew. Go figure!!