For Nate’s first birthday, we had the Connecticut version of a traditional Hawaiian luau. A luau is the traditional thing to do for a child’s first birthday, as it is considered to be a major milestone in a person’s life. My boys wore real Hawaiian shirts…and we made do with fake lei, kalua pig cooked in a crock pot…
…and the “beach” themed cake from Costco.
Nate’s first birthday was pre-diagnosis; our pediatrician saw signs of autism at fifteen months and Nate was officially diagnosed at eighteen months, which was when he started Birth to Three therapy.
For Nate’s 2nd birthday, we went with a theme near and dear to our boy’s heart – Curious George!
And it was a hit with Nate!
Nate’s third birthday, though, was bittersweet because it meant he graduated from Birth to Three and would no longer be receiving therapy from this wonderful team of women!!!
Nate scored *two* birthday parties that year — one with his Birth to Three team….
…and a Winnie the Pooh themed party!
Last year, we decided to hold Nate’s party at the happiest place on earth – Disney World! Chad special ordered a cake, which was served at a character meal at Tusker House in Disney’s Animal Kingdom. When the lit the candles, Nate wasn’t sure what that thing was or what the heck was going on.
But when he realized the round thing was cake, all was right in the world.
Which brings me to this year. This year. The fifth year! With five being one of Nate’s most favorite numbers, we have to celebrate!!! Tomorrow, we’ll be going to a local bounce house venue so Nate and a few of his pals can bounce to their heart’s content! Nate’s not aware of the whole thing but his neurotypical friends are. This week, Nate’s classmate’s sisters have asked me no less than four times if we could reschedule Nate’s party for that day or tomorrow because they cannot wait any longer.
Chad and I have learned from birthdays past that there are a few issues for Nate at birthday parties. Nate has a hard time when everyone gathers and stares at him. Nate has a hard time when people sing Happy Birthday to him. And the sound of tearing paper freaks Nate out so unwrapping gifts was a really negative process. This Christmas, Nate got over his fear of tearing paper. (Now he likes to tear lots of paper, throw in it in the air, and chase it….constantly.) But the rest is a bit tricky to manage. So what’s a parent to do? Rehearse, of course!
Last night, Chad and I surprised Nate with a cupcake. We explained to Nate that we were practicing for his party on Saturday. We would put one candle in the cake, Daddy would set it on fire, we would sing a song, and Nate would blow it out. We’re particularly excited about this ritual this year as, over the past weekend, Nate successfully made a wish (blew a dandilion) all on his own! Until now, he hasn’t had the gross/fine motor coordination to pucker his lips and blow.
Chad put one candle in the cupcake and set it on fire. That’s when Nate started shaking his head “no” repeatedly. We quietly sang Happy Birthday to Nate and, while he was still shaking his head “no,” we asked him to blow out the candle. We demonstrated a bit, accidentally blew out the candle, relit the candle, and asked him to blow again. Nate made a few “pfffft” attempts. With no success (and still shaking his head no), Chad and I extinguished the candle and let Nate have at his favorite treat.
All things considered, Chad and I thought the rehearsal went great. Sure, Nate was freaked by the fire but he got over it quickly, right? Yeah. We did great! We’ll try again tomorrow.
And then the other shoe dropped.
See, a few weeks ago, we thought it would be fun to have our Easter meal at a teppan yaki restaurant (or, as the mainlanders call it, hibachi)–you know, the kind of place where a chef who does tricks while he cooks his food in front of you. The chef started the show off with a bang of a trick, created just for Nate, namely drawing a happy face in oil and setting it on fire. It let out a fireball of a flame, which freaked Nate’s freak to an unrecoverable state. He never sat back down at the table; ultimately, Chad went to the car with Nate to watch Curious George while I waited to have our food wrapped for the most expensive take out meal ever.
Apparently, the flame of the candle brought back the memory of the fireball of teppan yaki, which explains why Nate kept staring at the flame and shaking his head no. Twenty minutes after the rehearsal, Nate burst into inconsolable tears. He does this sometimes; it feels like it’s triggered by the memory of something and he can’t regain control of his emotions. He just kept sobbing the ugly cry that Oprah fires people over. Ultimately, Chad had to stop cooking dinner and we all had to sit together as a family so Nate could calm down. He wound up falling asleep sitting up next to Chad.
While in the theatre we say that a bad dress rehearsal will make for a great opening, I’m not so sure that’s the case here. Based on last night’s events, Chad and I have decided to nix the lighting of the candle. We’ll just stick it in the cake. (It’s a giant 5, which will make Nate happy.) We’re going to ask our guests to sing Happy Birthday very quietly. And then we’re getting a mouthful of frosting into Nate’s hands as fast as possible. To be honest, blowing out a candle is a bit overrated. Who wants the birthday boy’s spit all over the cake?
It’s the last weekend to make a gift to Nate’s 5th Birthday Wish!!! We’re asking Nate’s greatest fans to purchase a $5 Amazon.com gift card in honor of Nate’s five years, which we’ll give to Ms. Susie and Ms. Mollie on Tuesday, May 20, Nate’s Birthday!!! Details on how to participate may be found here. And we say thanks in advance for helping to make our boy’s birthday so sweet!!!