Yes, I do them on the side. Call me. Therapy ain't cheap.
But, as previously blogged, I was nervous about how Caleb would do. All I could think about was the times we had gone to friends' houses, or family gatherings, and how anxious he had been. I was convinced he would not do well at all, so I came prepared - probably more prepared than if I'd done the party at our house. I had the iPad, loaded with his favorite videos and all sorts of letter games. I let him bring in his foam letter "R" that he'd sneaked into the car with him, crafty little thing that he is. I lectured myself: "Self, this is good for him. He's never going to learn how to deal with social situations unless he's exposed to them." I had his therapists on speed dial. I had emergency chocolate stashed in my purse. I was READY.
I was a MORON who worried for nothing.
We walked in and he was instantly fascinated by everything in the place. He wandered from place to place, investigating toys on display, cabinets, anything he could get to. "Well," I told Self, "No one's really here yet. I don't know that he knows what's going on."
So people started arriving. The first few were people he didn't know, and I held my breath. "Hey Caleb!" the first mom said brightly. What did my baby do? Smile and make eye contact and say "Hi!" (Okay, it was more like "hoy", but hey.) The eye contact was brief, and he was soon busily getting into other things, but I was stunned. NO anxiety whatsoever. Not even as more people arrived. He smiled at just about everybody who walked in, and even mugged and showed off for a few family members. When the party started, he sat on his dad's lap and played with the iPad briefly, but mainly wanted to get down and wander around - just like every other 2-year old I know. Between busily taking pictures with my cell phone, having forgotten my point and shoot (guess party experiences can't be THAT different from year to year), I watched Caleb. My chest tightened when at one point, the instructor had the kids put their arms in the air and wave them - AND CALEB FOLLOWED SUIT. It required a little prompting from his dad, but he did it, and he got into it. He was watching the other kids, which is monumental. Now, he did whine a bit since he was hungry and the party ate into his nap time, but he was typical-two-year-old whiny, not autistic tantrum-y. When he was ready to go, he let us know. "Bye. Bye. Bye," he chirped. This in itself is amazing - he was letting us know, loud and clear, what he wanted. I was so, so proud of him. The few times he needed a little extra attention, my phenomenal husband took care of it so I could concentrate on Cade.
As I settled the bill with the owner of the place, Caleb wandered in the office, still telling everyone "bye." The woman made the comment that he was a little chatterbox and compared him to her young grand-daughter, who was not interested in talking at all. I let her know that Caleb was autistic, and had not spoken a word up until about 4 months ago, and how proud we were of all the progress he had made. The look of surprise on her face was priceless. When she asked if he would give her a high five, I told her yes, and she asked him for one. My baby ran over this complete stranger and gave her a huge slap on the hand. I know this sounds like a little thing, but this child could not follow a single command just a few months ago, so this small gesture was the icing on the cake.
So, in conclusion, I think God is laughing at my panic. Every time I get myself good and worked up, something wonderful happens. My kid was great at this party, my big boy had a blast (and came home with reasonably parent-tolerant toys) and my teenager tolerated it admirably.
And I didn't have to clean.