Friday, May 7, 2010

a party

Martin's birthday is next week. Because we will be out of town then, we're having a birthday party on Saturday. Let me say a bit about Martin's past birthdays in order to make sense of the one we're about to celebrate.

When Martin turned three, he could not tell us his age. He did not know what a birthday was. We knew that he was a little behind in verbal development, but had no idea of the extent of his problems. If I think back on it, I had never even heard of autism on Martin's third birthday.

Martin was diagnosed about three months later.

On Martin's fourth birthday, as I have written about in an earlier blogpost, he read a book and he was wearing a diaper. He still didn't know what a birthday was. We had some strawberry pie and helped Martin blow out some candles. We didn't even try to have presents.

That fall, Martin went to preschool with the help of an aide. There, he learned about birthdays. His teacher had a delightful routine for birthday celebrations. It involved the child walking around a sun in the middle of a circle, representing every year that they had been alive. Martin got to do this ritual at the end of the school year. That same evening, we had four boys from the class over for cake and ice cream. Martin blew out candles and opened presents. He really knew what was going on and he loved it.

On Saturday, we'll have some classmates and neighbors over for cake and ice cream. Then we're going over to the college to bowl at the antiquated lanes. Martin has been looking forward to his birthday for several weeks. And because it has been such a long journey for him to understand this very basic, social celebration, I feel compelled to make a big deal out of it. I want to give him a big celebration since it took him so long (and required of him so much hard work) to understand this rite of passage. So I'm going to make a Kermit the Frog cake. And my husband is buying balloons.

I never would have thought I'd be a mom who throws a big party. I feel a little like the father in the prodigal son story. It's not that my son was off frittering away money or sleeping in a pig trough. But I do feel like my son has been lost, lost in his own world, lost in a confusing social universe, lost in his own language, and lost within his own family. Now that he's finding his way, I just want to celebrate.


  1. Happy birthday, Martin! You are special.

  2. All the best in making the day an awesome celebration. Please post pictures of the cake.

  3. You all deserve a party! This has been a gigantic year for Martin and for your family. Have a wonderful weekend. :)

  4. Happy Birthday Martin!!

  5. Aw, happy b-day Martin! Our child may end up having a b-day close to his!