First, and most importantly, Maria turned six and had a big crazy party for her class. And her grandparents got her a Joy costume, so now she thinks she's Joy.
She has been seen all over the greater Hampton Roads area in this thing. We draw the line at letting her wear it to school. But, obviously, she can do an obstacle course in it:
She had a party for her classmates (mostly) at Rebounderz. It seemed like a good idea at the time. The positives were many: it was something Kurt could tolerate (although he did not make it all the way through), pizza and a party hostess were included (our hostess was named Brittany and I don't think we tipped her enough), and the kids were going to have fun. But on the other hand, it precluded us from inviting any of her friends with significant physical disabilities and sensory issues.
Also, I wrote on the invite to not worry about presents, so about half the group brought presents, and I felt like she should open them, which meant the half that didn't bring presents got to watch her open presents from the half that DID bring them. Long story short, I can see now why people don't bother writing that on invitations. The whole thing was CHAOS. I'm not even sure who brought what. (Whoever gave her the Barbies, thank you! She loves them!)
She resisted the birthday hat. The birthday hat is one of those things that the kids are like, Why do you make us wear this dumb hat?? But in twenty years when they're wistfully recalling their childhood, they'll get all misty eyed thinking about that birthday hat. Just wait. They'll be fighting over who gets it when I'm dead.
So, Maria was in a special needs dance class and a Special Olympics gymnastics class this year. At the beginning of the year, she was struggling with attention and social skills to the point that there was just no other option. She struggles a lot less, but watching her in any big group with neurotypical peers will leave you humming "One of These Things Is Not Like The Others" before too long. It's like she just can't. She can't just stand there in one space and do things along with a group. And before you tell me how great it is that she's so unique, let me stop you. I know her uniqueness is awesome. But all of us, at some point in our lives, in this society we've built, have to suck it up and do things in a group. Your functional adulthood pretty much depends on it. I know she's only six, and she's got a lot of time to figure it out, but it obviously does not come naturally is all I'm saying. This may always be a fight for her.
She's at the point now where we're not a hundred percent sure what to do. Physically, she's capable. At her IEP meeting this month, the consensus was that academically, she's ahead in some areas and behind in others, which makers her sort of average. But socially, she still really, really struggles.
There seem to be two categories for kids. There's the "special needs" category of extracurricular activities, the kind of thing she's been doing, where the activities are totally inclusive to all manner of physical and cognitive disability. And then there's everything else, which, with rare exceptions, seems pointedly non-inclusive. They don't want to have to tolerate a kid who can't get with the program. So, she could be the Weird Kid in a situation like that, or she could be in a class of diverse kids with disabilities who will let her be herself, costume and all. That's not a tough choice.
Anyway, she can do this:
I had a pretty kick ass birthday myself. My co-workers carpet bombed my office with decorations...
(...I apparently have a reputation for blasting oldies from Pandora), my bosses bought me a cake (and later, sushi), Jeff got a pedicure with me and took me out for Thai food, and everyone in general has been super nice to me. And I'm starting to feel less as if it's a bummer to keep getting older and more like I'm pretty damned lucky to get another year when lots of people didn't. Is that ridiculous?