Almanac: A mindful, whispered birthday for our youngest son

Our youngest son is nervous about birthdays, particularly his own. Bright, crinkling, ripping paper, and the unknown surprise within. Loved ones loudly singing happy birthday in unison. Iced cakes with smoky candles. Being the centre of everyone’s attention. For a child with sensory autism, even happy events can be a little too much.

For the first few years of trying to understand our two autistic sons, I tried hard to gently introduce traditional birthday elements. Eventually, I paired everything back and asked myself: what is a birthday?

The cake with the candles is a sweet treat that commemorates the years. So my son and I bake cupcakes together. We whisper “you are eight today” softly in his ear and hold him close.

Then there are parties. They show that people care and want to celebrate with you. So we invite his grandparents over, who are very understanding and know to be gentle with him.

Then we take our son to the top of a hill for his “party.” The breeze up here is so exhilarating that all sound is cancelled out. It acts like white noise. Our son removes his hands from his ears and relaxes.

Then there are birthday presents. We know we want to give our children the gift of our time over a huge pile of toys. We also try and keep our house as minimal as possible, to make it a comfortable and safe place for our younger sons and baby daughter. It is a birthday though, and we do want to give something he might really want, something very special.

At the top of the hill, one of his favourite places because of the gales and the height, we give him his present. It is not wrapped in bright paper. It is enclosed in a small, dark, waterproof toggle bag.

Inside is a tiny pocket kite.

Although our youngest son has never flown a kite before, he knows straight away what it is and a giant smile is brightening his whole face. I have picked a kite that has only one string, so that it will be easy for him to learn to fly it. It has no frame, so will float about with the slightest breeze, but will never crash heavily to the ground. It has a very long tail, as one thing our son really does love is to run around with streamers and ribbons.

Whilst he and my husband practise flying the kite, our other children run around shouting encouragement. If it falls to the ground, they speed over to launch it back into the air within seconds.

Our son is usually non-verbal but he is calling “Kite! Kite!” and we reply “Yes! Your birthday kite!”

Whilst our eldest son takes the birthday boy for a spot of rock climbing, our third son tries out the kite too…

… and of course, our 18 month old daughter is equally keen.

We christen the kite “the rainbow flier” after a plane we built out of cardboard boxes when our eldest boys were toddlers. Our second son had named it, after the use of every crayon they owned to decorate it, and they kept it for a long time until it fell apart.

I now know that I want every family birthday to be as mindful and unique as this one. The traditional trappings are only there as a set-piece to help make the day special – and maybe they should be more of a starting point than all-encompassing.

Our son is back playing with his kite as the sun sets. His best birthday yet.

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61 Comments Add yours

  1. ellie894 says:

    ๐Ÿค—๐Ÿ’–

    Liked by 1 person

      1. ellie894 says:

        Your sharing is always a pleasure to read x

        Like

  2. Sharon says:

    That’s so lovely, thanks for sharing

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Sharon x

      Like

  3. Ellen Hawley says:

    Would that every child had parents who really paid such attention to who she or he is, and responded.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you very much Ellen … I think itโ€™s just (for me at least) about breaking through that barrier of whatโ€™s expected. Iโ€™m getting gradually better at it!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. fakeflamenco says:

    That is the essence of birthday well done! Poetic and lovely.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you very much! It means a lot that you think so x

      Liked by 1 person

      1. fakeflamenco says:

        Each person is unique and enjoys a different celebration. Your child is very lucky you are observant enough to know what a good one is for them.

        Liked by 2 people

        1. Thank you very much x He is a beautiful, if very complicated, little fellow ๐Ÿ™‚

          Liked by 1 person

  5. restlessjo says:

    I’m whispering happy birthday to your son. Coming here always puts a warm smile on my face. You have such a beautiful way with your family ๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Jo x I guess what I am trying to show is that life is quite complicated with autism – but there is so much joy too. Usually when we have to work around something, it works out far better anyway ๐Ÿ™‚

      Like

      1. restlessjo says:

        Having your attitude must make life so much better for all of you ๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ™‚

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Happy, happy! A perfect celebration for your son.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Laurie x He did have a lovely day ๐ŸŽˆ

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Irene says:

    Lovely post and what a happy birthday for your son!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you very much Irene! xxx

      Like

  8. calmkate says:

    How absolutely delightful, such a special birthday to remember! Most thoughtful …

    Nice to meet you ๐Ÿ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Kate ๐Ÿ™‚ x

      Liked by 1 person

      1. calmkate says:

        most welcome!

        Liked by 1 person

  9. Anne says:

    Happy Birthday, little guy. And always a good breeze around to relax in.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! I am trying to think up an inventive way of sharing all of these wonders birthday wishes with him x

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Anne says:

        All in its own good time.

        Like

      2. Anne says:

        He’s the same age as out youngest, incidentally. ๐Ÿ™‚

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Awwr ๐Ÿ™‚ Even though we have had our daughter since, he is still thought of as โ€œthe youngestโ€ because he is our littlest son ๐Ÿ™‚

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Anne says:

            I can see how that would work. ๐Ÿ™‚ Enjoy your weekend!

            Liked by 1 person

  10. You understand your children so well. What a blessing for all of you! I know there are times when you feel as if you don’t or can’t do anything right, but what you write here let’s me know that you do overall and that’s what counts. I would love that sort of birthday as well, although I don’t mind a good party with good friends and good food and drink. But being outdoors is one of the best gifts ever.

    janet

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That is so true – and often things look like they are going wrong and it all works out for the better x Iโ€™m very glad if my writing is giving an optimistic vibe ๐Ÿ˜€ I canโ€™t write without mentioning the autism, as it permeates everything we plan and do … but at the same time it brings such joy in lifeโ€™s small triumphs โ™ฅ๏ธ

      Liked by 1 person

  11. What a beautiful story. I teared up reading about his excitement and saying kite. Thank you for sharing your world.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you very much – weโ€™ve all been so moved by the reaction to the post x I love reading your blog too x

      Liked by 1 person

  12. What a lovely boy and .I am sure he had a birthday that he will remember as flying high and with the kite. I noticed everyone was wrapped up, but dad in shorts!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ha yes! When not at work, my husband wears shorts all year round. He doesnโ€™t seem to feel the cold – probably because heโ€™s Scottish ๐Ÿ™‚

      Like

  13. Jo says:

    Okay, my eyes leaked a tad reading this. I love how you listen to and are able to interpret his needs. That’s love.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much Jo x Iโ€™m always a lot more nervous writing about our children as opposed to landscapes – I really appreciate all the support x Iโ€™m trying to figure away of conveying all of these messages to my son ๐Ÿ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

  14. Such sensitive adaptation and a present that demonstrates your knowledge of your son

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Derrick ๐Ÿ™‚ Iโ€™m a lot more at ease going with my instinct now, than worrying about what would be normal ๐ŸŒฟ Weโ€™re hoping to take the kite flying again very soon ๐Ÿช

      Liked by 1 person

  15. What a treat to read this Mrs TP, and that you gave such a thoughtful present… It is a memory within my own childhood of my dad buying a kite while on holiday in Skegness when I was a young child, and then bringing it home for me and my siblings to fly it in the hills of our village in the Derbyshire Peak..
    Its something I know your children will remember for a long time…
    Happy Belated Birthday to your Son… I love your Mindfulness my friend ๐Ÿ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I hope the memory does stay with him – what a lovely thought that he might remember it as you do your first kite ๐Ÿช Thank you for the lovely comment x

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Your welcome ๐Ÿค—

        Liked by 1 person

  16. shazza says:

    Aw Happy Birthday to your boy. I remember my sister and I flying kites as children. Fun times. X

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you very much Shazza ๐Ÿ˜ƒ I love how everyone is remembering their childhood kites – gives me great hope my little one will remember too x

      Like

  17. This bought a lump to my throat.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much x Weโ€™ve been ever so touched by the messages here about our sonโ€™s story x

      Like

  18. ashok says:

    What a beautiful post and such a beautiful family. God be with you all. Kite flying is such fun ๐ŸŽ‚๐ŸŽ‰๐ŸŒน

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you very much Ashok ๐Ÿ™‚ Namaste x

      Liked by 1 person

      1. ashok says:

        My pleasure ๐Ÿ˜‡ Namasate ๐Ÿ˜Š๐Ÿ™

        Liked by 1 person

  19. This is lovely, such a thoughtful and personal birthday for your son but something the whole family enjoyed and participated in. X

    Like

  20. Nancy says:

    This brought such joy to my heart! Not only he enjoyed but also the whole family enjoyed with him! Happy Birthday to him…………๐Ÿ˜Š

    Like

  21. Frog says:

    Lovely ! Wind, light, love, quiet tenderness. Well done.

    Like

  22. I have an autistic granddaughter with severe learning disabilities.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I hope she is doing really well and enjoying life x

      Like

  23. Beautiful. This inspires me to try to go more gently with my highly sensitive son…rather than responding intensely which overstimulates him. Wonderful youโ€™re welcoming his differences with such grace. Bless you and your family!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Anna x I know exactly what you mean – our autistic sons seem to even pick up on a tense atmosphere around them, itโ€™s all about keeping everything calm x Love to you and yours too x

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you so much. Keep doing your gentle approach! ๐Ÿ™‚

        Liked by 1 person

  24. Kellie says:

    What a beautiful post, the whispered message is so lovely โค๏ธ

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you very much for the lovely response Kellie, really appreciated ๐ŸŒฟ

      Liked by 1 person

  25. Thank you for giving your son a day on which his desires were heard over societal expectations. It made me cry a little. Hugh

    Like

  26. What a delightful short story about your children and celebrating special events.
    I do hope your son had an enjoyable birthday.

    Like

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