It was my birthday, this past Sunday, or so I thought. Unfortunately for me, Alex and I have birthdays that are only six days apart. This means the first two weeks of June are spent talking about Alex’s birthday, mine gets lost in the excitement of Alex’s planning. Part of being Alex’s mom, I guess.
My dream for my birthday was a warm, sunny, day including hiking, tennis and swimming. I envisioned a backpack filled with water and snacks for the hike, which would double as lunch. This would be followed by some tennis with the family, swimming and a barbecue at home. I hoped for lots of presents and a very small cake.
Alex’s vision for my birthday was drastically different. I know this because she shared it the moment she woke up. I was a bit surprised by this as I figured she had forgotten about me in her own birthday planning. But, once again my smart, almost 17 year daughter with down syndrome manipulated me. Turns out Alex’s dream for my birthday was a dream of an ideal Alex day.
For MY birthday Alex wanted to go out to breakfast, go swimming, eat lunch out, and shop for Alex birthday present (a laptop). She did not want to go hiking, or play tennis. Alex wanted me to take her to see Karate Kid, and then out for dinner, followed by a big cake (with lots and lots of candles). Somehow the idea that Mom is losing her job has not affected Alex's desire to eat out.
I do not believe Alex is selfish by any means; she is gracious, kind and considerate. However, as far as her birthday, it is something she has control over, a day in her year where she is the center of attention. Alex can create her ideal day and we will implement it. She becomes almost obsessed by this, and I let her. It is a day she can shine, and call her own, and my birthday desires can get lost in this obsession. It does not bother me one single bit.
This self planning skill is one Tom and Courtney use almost every day of their lives. Alex does not have this ability to control her surroundings to go where she wants or hang out with friends. She depends on us, and does not have the freedom of movement her siblings have. This is one of the downsides of having a child with special needs, and it bothers Alex. She wants to be able to do things just like her brother and sister; but she cannot for many, many reasons. I include safety issues, slower processing skills, and immaturity as the top reasons. We work on this, and I know Alex will master these skills, just slower than her siblings.
What actually happened on June 13th was a wet and rainy day. Unfortunately, this weather snafu brought me back to my lack of job reality; I worked for two hours on my computer reworking my resume, applying for jobs (about the 800th) and catching up on correspondence.
We did not go out for breakfast, but I did take Alex shopping at Wal-Mart, the only place within 90 miles where we can get clothes. I listened to Alex’s laptop birthday wish the entire time; unbeknownst to her the computer is already purchased and hidden in my closet. We did not go out for lunch.
Then, as it was still raining, we went to the matinee with Courtney, not the Karate Kid, but the A-Team. We did not get slushes or candy which is the common request from Alex at the movies. We did get popcorn; my favorite movie food, and as it was my birthday, we got butter on top. We arrived home to find dinner prepared by John, no b-que because of the rain, but sushi, as requested.
I received gift certificates to my favorite store from Courtney and John, and a cute tee-shirt from Tommy. Alex did find time to write me a nice card. The small carrot cake was my favorite with only eight candles. The two digits in my birthday equal eight; I can be almost any age I like, perhaps 26 would be a good place to start.
I had a great birthday, and despite the bad weather I enjoyed my day. It was a bit of a compromise from my dream day, but that’s just part of life. Alex was happy we shopped and saw a movie. I was happy to spend the day with my family. As Alex went to bed she reminded me her birthday was only six days away, as if I could forget!
Alex, I promise you, on Saturday, June 19th when you turn 17, we will do whatever your heart desires.