So we are less than a week away from her 11th birthday however my daughter has, in the usual manner, been in full planning mode for several weeks already!
Any ‘special occasion’ is met with weeks, if not months, of planning and organising to the finest detail which can not only be stressful for me but my daughter too! As sad as it sounds, if only these ‘special occasions’ didn’t exist it would certainly make our lives much easier! Even the pressure of writing a card for someone else or wrapping a present often results in cards being torn up (if a mistake is made or indeed if it’s not totally perfect in her eyes) and presents wrapped and re-wrapped or occasionally thrown, again if this is anything less than perfect. Over time we have steered away from ‘wrapping’ and opt for gift bags instead, anything we can do to reduce stress levels, we do it! That’s not to take away the million other anxiety and stress provoking issues.
Birthdays, are no less stressful then any ‘special event’ and are always tricky times for us both. Whilst my daughter makes herself busy with making everything from a list of people who she could possibly invite (or who might come), to making lots of weird and wonderful creations whilst I am left with a mixture of emotions!
So many things to consider
Who to invite when you have no true friends? Who can we invite to ‘make up the numbers’? How can I keep a lid on the obsessions that rapidly spiral out of control? How can I minimise the financial implications when planning a lavish full on party for only a handful of potential guests? So here we are, only having just got over Christmas, Easter, my birthday and Mother’s day, all in the space of four short months, it’s now time for her birthday!
The tense and upsetting moment when at one point there was only one respondee that had confirmed their attendance. To have to see your daughter in such distress with yet another confirmation that her friendships were limited to say the least. To then over hear her plea with her aunt (who we only see occasionally) in a hopeful tone, that she ‘really hopes her cousins can make it as only one person is coming so far’, is nothing short of heart breaking!
Heart breaking reality
Why is this life of autism, PDA and additional mental health conditions so cruel? No parent likes to see their child with no friends. I remember this being one of my biggest concerns, as it is for most parents, as each of my children started school, wondering and hoping that they make friends. But when it is a reality, where it’s clear there are no friends, this is totally heart breaking. It was hard enough with the realisation, several years ago, that my daughter had stopped being invited to parties, but it is harder still when people stopped coming to hers!
So here we were, planning a lavish ‘Prom’ party for what now could be potentially three people.
A ‘Prom’ party was the theme of choice, despite this being well over the top for an 11th birthday, this was what my daughter wanted and how could I deny her this? It was a very rare opportunity for her to feel ‘beautiful’ and not the usual ‘fat and ugly’ person she is perceives herself as!
The ‘Prom’ theme, quickly started to get out of control, from the big dress, to the red carpet to the hours and hours spent making chandeliers! I had to draw the line though at the ground floor ceilings being decorated in voile and fairy lights! I also had to pick my moments very carefully if I was going to be able to rein this in without damaging this fairy tale party she has in her head.
It sounds wrong when you have to invite people to make up the numbers, however this sadly is our reality. I don’t want my friends to feel obliged to come but I am also very grateful when they do! My nearest and dearest don’t only do this for me, they do it because they care and love my daughter, they do it to make her day special despite it being against the odds!
People have parties for their birthday right?
Initially with one person coming, this threw my daughter into a very low mood and I had to try and lift this somehow. I suggested to my daughter that we cancel the party and use the money we would have spent to go out and have a nice day together and she could spend the money on whatever she wanted. However this was not an option in her mind, it’s her birthday and people have parties right? Not least also because she had ordered her beautiful Prom dress and she ‘wouldn’t have the opportunity to wear this otherwise’.
So back to Plan A: I made sure that her cousins were definitely going to come and enlisted the support of our family and my friends. We now even have a ‘security guard’ in the form of my adopted nephew to add a bit of glam to it! Even if us adults need to dig out our own ball gowns, this is something we will have to do!
I also chased, the other two people that had been invited, for a response and fortunately it was a ‘yes’….numbers have now increased from one to five! Yay! Plus the adults, we are going to be okay!
The escalating cost
So back to the decorations! Having failed to make chandeliers that were deemed ‘good enough’ in my daughter’s mind, I then had to steer her away from numerous other DIY ideas. She is SO creative and her imagination runs wild, however, rarely does it come to fruition and I have to silently count the cost of everything that is now in the bin! So yet more money having to be spent on buying decorations, something I tried to encourage her to do, without success, from the beginning.
Presents are another challenge! My daughter knows not to expect presents, however she still worries about who MIGHT get her something? What to choose? Decisions of what to request? The pressure of this is also anxiety provoking and we spend many weeks changing our minds! However, her gift from me is now given early. The build up to unwrapping presents and waiting, not knowing what’s going to happen, who will get what, will she receive what she has requested, will any cards ‘make her cry’? (something she strangely likes to happen! It’s not a good card without tears!) etc is just all too much! So I decided approximately 3/4 years ago that I would take this out of the equation, regarding my gift, so she has already had her present. Phew, one less to worry about!
Anyway, party day is nearly here and everything crossed she has a wonderful time and I can then breathe a sigh of relief for another year!