Today you turned Big Boy Six and what a special birthday it was - and how very different from all of the other birthdays that have gone before!
Of course you got up at 5:05am, as I should have expected, you were excited to start your day. Perhaps Mummy and Daddy weren't *quite* so keen to get up at that time of day on a Saturday, but ever your devoted servants and all that... But we kept you upstairs until we were all ready, Mummy had been well supplied with coffee and we'd even been able to poke some life into your teenage brother (sorry George, I know 7am on a weekend hurts!)
But finally, I drew you over to me, did my best to make eye contact (always a difficult thing for you but that's ok) and I started to sing and sign, "Happy Birthday to you, happy birthday to you..." You cocked your head a few times, trying to listen and work out the unfamiliar words and then a light dawned in your eyes as you said excitedly, "Presents? Adam, presents?" Nice to know you've got your priorities right, just as any birthday boy would!
Well, after that, there was no holding you back as you played your "searching" game with Daddy and combed the house for presents. Finally, Daddy let you open the lounge door to find at least thirty balloons (Daddy and I were a bit light-headed after blowing all those up last night!) and precisely Six Presents - just the way you like it.
It was such a joy to watch you fall on those presents and rip them open with squeals of excitement. I couldn't help thinking of just how far we've come from the days when presents were scary and something to be avoided. Once you'd had a play with your new Thomas the Tank Engine set, composed a symphony on your keyboard and firmly discarded the clothes and books (boring), it was time to get into the car.
As always, we left at just the right time to fit with your Saturday morning routine, but this time your weekly trip to Little Rascals Soft Play included a party with four other children - nearly half of your class from school managed to come. At first, you were very worried and uncertain to see your classmates out of context so you did what all birthday boys should and ignored them for a while...but then J arrived. Oh how you love J! He's your very best friend in all the world and your face just *lit up* when he arrived. From that point onwards, you two were the central sun around which all of the other children orbited as you flew down the slides, played football (in your own unique way) and clambered across anyone else who got in your way. It was the first time ever that your Daddy and I could just sit and watch you play, completely surplus to requirement and delighted to be so.
Eventually, remembering that it was your birthday, you and J helped yourselves to the presents from the other little girls' birthday party and couldn't *quite* understand why they weren't your presents but we wrestled them out of your clutching fists and returned them, slightly red-faced to the shocked parents in the other party who hadn't been *quite* prepared for two six-year-old autistic boys to crash their party...and steal their presents. Ah well, welcome to our world!
But finally, having run yourselves absolutely ragged - and with the tomato red face to prove it, both of you were tired out so came the challenge of separating you from your gang at which point the respective meltdowns began. Thankfully though, all sets of parents are well versed in the a) Negotiate and Cajole b) Try Again c) Finally, Scoop the screeching, thrashing small person up into parental arms and run....
Finally wrestling you into your carseat and offering all the usual rewards to help you calm down, we were off home for a long, long afternoon nap to rest and recover. Maybe tomorrow we might give you time to listen to all of your special messages on the answering machine - one of your very favourite things - "You have six new messages. Message one...." It always brings a smile to your face whether it's the first or 41st time you've pressed the button.
Beautiful Boy, I hope you enjoyed your sixth birthday, I know I did - and that is definitely an achievement. Thankfully, despite all of the challenges that still face us, those days in intensive care finally seem a long way behind us and so our experience of your birthday just doesn't take us to the same place it used to. Now, we can just celebrate the unique and beautiful gift that is you. I love you baby boy, you might be a very big, strong six year old...but you'll always be my baby. Happy birthday sweetheart...