Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Party boy















The other night Ben told me he wanted a birthday party (his birthday is Monday) and he wanted friends to come (two index fingers interlocking then trading places).

Given Ben's lack of friends, I was stumped.

"Well, I'm not sure who I would invite?" I said, trying to mentally manufacture some friends. "You're going to be going out with Sallyanne (worker) and Matt on Sunday. Let me think about it."

I turned to D'Arcy -- out of Ben's sight line -- and signed the word 'sad,' fingers drawing down my face like tears.

Ben hasn't made solid connections at his new school and he doesn't have contact with friends he had in elementary school. He does enjoy a couple of kids who are younger than him who sometimes go on group outings with his workers. In particular, there was a boy who petitioned to have him come on the recent Niagara Falls trip.

So I called Marjorie and asked if she thought this boy might be interested.

The next day, Ben was dropped off after school at Holland Bloorview for an orthotics appointment. He shares a cab to school with another boy he met when he was at Davisville/Metro School for the Deaf.

As I opened the door, Ben burst out, signing 'party,' (two letter V hands pointing down swaying back and forth like dancers). He then turned back and gestured at the boy, indicating he wanted him to come to the party.

I was speechless.

My son was going to show me who he wanted at his party. He was going to take matters into his own hands.

"You want Liam to come to your party?"

Vigorous nod.

I showed Liam the 'party' sign.

"What do you think about that, Liam? Do you think you might like to come to Ben's party?"

"Yes."

My chest hurt, but in a good way.

Ben is isolated at school because he has anxiety that manifests itself in compulsive skin picking and nose-blowing. I mentioned his wish for his party and I received this e-mail from a teacher last night.

"Today I asked a few of Ben's friends if they would like to attend Ben's birthday party. A few of the boys said yes! They asked for an invitation. Could you send an invitation to school with Ben tomorrow?...Today after discussing Ben's birthday party together with his friends, Ben came up and hugged me and a couple of others!"

The teacher wrote that when she mentioned the party, "Ben became alive!! He was so happy! Ben mentioned that you are serving pizza and cake! All got excited!"

We hadn't talked about the pizza and cake but I guess Ben felt they were solid standbys.

I then had a call from Marjorie to say that she had spoken to the boy who went to Niagara Falls with Ben and he was very excited about attending his party. And we thought about a couple of other boys who might be interested.

Today I was talking to a colleague about how we get so hung up on what constitutes a 'friend' -- particularly during childhood and the teen years. How is it that I can have friends who are significantly older or younger than me, but when it comes to children and teens we follow an unspoken edict that they must be 'the same age.'

It got me thinking that friends can come in many shapes and sizes, and friendship can be made richer by differences and diversity.

11 comments:

Aw man, yay for Ben and his party planning ways! Pizza and cake is pretty much the best party food ever. I hope everyone has a good time!

Oh, yes. Yes. Yes.

Big smiles from here -- I know how much this all means!

i'm so happy for you and ben that his party unfolding in this wonderful way! i'm also in party mood as livia turns 6 on saturday and we'll have a bunch of girls over tomorrow after kindergarten... she's also very excited.

This is so beautiful Louise, it's made me cry. I am so happy that Ben is having a party with his friends. It also reminds me that what makes a friend for me, is different to what makes a friend for Tabitha, and I have to accomodate that.

I love this post, so beautiful!

It's great to hear that Ben be celebrating his birthday with his friends. Have fun Ben! Our experience with high school has been that once kids reach Grade 9 they often celebrate by going out with friends to the movies, a concert or out to a restaurant, rather than have a home birthday party. In high school, home birthday parties seem to fall to the wayside because the kids don't necessarily want to have mom or dad around with their friends. When they get into their senior years in high school, many kids want to go clubbing to celebrate a friend's birthday, often to an all-age clubs and then they post photos on Facebook to show how much fun they had. Drinking is also common these days if they can get away with it.

I like the way Ben has of figuring out who he wants to come to his birthday party!
Great thinking Ben & Happy Birthday!!! :)

This post had me smiling ear to ear! Pizza, cake, and friends! Sounds wonderful. Can't wait to hear more about Ben's big party :).

I feel bad that your son is isolated at school because of his compulsions. Maybe the board language pathologist or occupational therapist can be brought in to teach him replacement behaviors that are more socially acceptable and less likely to isolate him. These services are supposed to be available to high school students.

I am so happy that while you were initially sad, you were so able to open up and ask the question, okay, who? And Ben provided so many of the answers. So much growing up!!!!

Awww.....this had me tearing up and smiling all at once. We do pizza & cake parties, too. :)