This past weekend, my Dad, Step-Mom, Half-Sister and Half-Brother made their annual trip to the Cities. The kids and I had a wonderful time visiting with them, as we always do, but (hoping no offense is taken) the time spent with them was not the highlight of my weekend.
For me, the highlight was taking my son to his first-ever birthday party.
With his autism, Ethan struggles with social skills at times and, therefore, has difficulty making friends and maintaining those relationships once they begin. This is why he was so very excited to receive an invitation for the first time to attend a buddy’s birthday party and, even though our family was in town to visit, I knew it was absolutely a necessity he attend.
I’m so very glad we took the time because I now have a memory of my son that will always be engrained in my brain…a very happy memory.
The birthday party took place at Skyzone and was a “boys only” party with five boys celebrating with the child of honor. For those of you who don’t know, Skyzone is an indoor trampoline park, so you can only imagine the craziness that can occur there. There is one area where there is a constant game of dodgeball happening and at special times they set up basketball hoops.
Short aside: I MUST go there sometime to play some hoops, even though I know every muscle in my body will be sore afterwards.
I was the only parent who stayed for the party other than the birthday boy’s family. I did so because with the length of the party, it wouldn’t make much sense for me to drive back to visit with my family because as soon as I got there, I would have to turn around to go retrieve Ethan. I also stayed for the simplistic fact Ethan asked me to do so.
There are TV screens at the front desk with the rules when on the trampolines and Ethan, as always, was very interested in knowing what he was and wasn’t allowed to do. In fact, he was the one who noticed the screens playing the videos of the rules and pointed it out to me.
Once all the boys gathered and parents said their goodbyes, they were off. It was wonderful to watch as Ethan interacted with each of the boys in a positive way, even extending his hand for a handshake to a boy he had not met before.
When they first made their way to the trampolines, each boy scattered from the group, testing out their trampoline legs. Eventually, they all made their way back to each other and had a blast. They did some “free-jumping,” they played some dodgeball and they also took turns jumping into a foam pit, which Ethan was able to show off a little bit. Since we have an indoor pool at our apartment, Ethan can dive and do flips into the water and he was able to do that same flip off the trampoline into the foam pit.
Throughout the entire party, the smiles on his face were priceless to me. They were smiles of pure joy, ones that only come out when you don’t have a care in the world and are just living in the moment. When I realized that, I took the time for myself to forget the outside world and the stresses in my own life…and just be. I reminded myself to be here now—enjoy this moment and this breath—because now is the only time that matters.
I found myself getting misty-eyed a few times during the party, watching what I knew to be growth in my child. He has made major progress since his diagnosis, but sometimes it is difficult to see since I’m so close to him. It is only when something momentous such as this happens to remind we are on the right track to helping Ethan live the life he wants in the future.
There may still be hard work to do and obstacles to overcome, but the reassurance things are progressing well is enough for now. After all, my son is happy and healthy…and that is good enough for me.
Have you ever experienced a time like this with your children, where you almost had an out-of-body experience, realizing they’re growing up/doing well? Please share your stories below!