Party like a Penguin: the Ups and Downs of turning 12

My son’s birthday was an emotional journey.

C bowling

My son turned 12 years old recently. I wish it was all happiness and rainbows, rather than a week of ups and downs; highs and lows; and tears and laughter. Mostly, it was an emotional journey that broke and restored my faith in human compassion.

To begin the celebrations, we scheduled our annual bowling party. C invited about six kids in his class that he feels are his friends. The invitations requested parents to rsvp by a certain date. We waited, and waited, and…waited. Nobody called. Worried by this seemingly frosty reception, I warned my son that it didn’t look like any of his friends could attend. However, this happened in previous years and usually a few kids just show up. Not knowing what to do, we proceeded as planned.

Unfortunately, it was ice cold at the bowling alley. Nobody showed up. Thankfully, his sister was there with one of her friends, but it just wasn’t the same. Heartbroken, my son cried that none of his friends came to his party. A devastating set back to an Autistic child trying to develop peer-appropriate social skills. We tried to cheer him up and he had some fun bowling anyway.

The next day at school my husband explained to his EA that C might be emotional that day and the reason why. What happened next was truly a testament to human compassion. Thoughtfully, his wonderful EA talked to his wonderful teacher. Later that week, C was delighted with pictures of penguins and homemade cards from all of his classmates. The classroom was decorated for a surprise birthday party for my son.

Of course, on his actual birthday we held our family party. Keeping with the penguin theme, his sister made an Antarctica table centerpiece. I found a penguin pet balloon, ordered custom-made penguin plates and cups, and sprinkled the house with cotton balls. Ironically, the last of our winter snow had just melted weeks prior to his big day. Still, when in Antarctica, party like a penguin. We topped off the party with a penguin ice cream cake.

In the end, a very emotional day turned into an affirmation in the good in human nature. Remember, no matter how difficult life with Autism or any special needs may seem, there is always hope for the future. Keep waddling on!



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