Ronan’s birthday is today. He’s twelve.
Happy birthday, Ronan.
Each year around this time, I expect to turn off some of my emotions. Each year I fail to do that. Birthdays should be happy occasions. But my soon-to-be 12-year old is oblivious as to what a birthday means. Yes, he’s aware of the excitement that some of today will bring, but he won’t know to be excited until his siblings start talking about cake. Whenever they talk about cake, Ronan’s ears perk up. He loves cake so much that it was one of the first words Ronan wrote independently.
Beyond the cake, beyond the eating something yummy, the other parts of the birthday celebration—the presents, the party, the turning a year old—don’t interest Ronan.
For many, birthdays are a big deal. They celebrate being a year older. A year wiser. A year closer to independence.
Not when you’re a prone to wandering and a diaper wearing, unable to speak for himself, dress himself, bathe himself or feed himself 12-year old.
While I expect that he might be more verbal, more typical or slightly more aware each December 21st, I see that Ronan is not. My other children, including my youngest, have zoomed quickly past Ronan’s current development. They continue to accomplish skill after skill after skill. They do that while I wait and hope and pray that Ronan will one day accomplish what they can do so easily. I don’t ever put pressure on Ronan about those delays or about catching up. But I don’t do myself any favors by dwelling on them, especially dwelling on them on today.
The expectations I had for Ronan when he was a baby are far different than the reality that he’s living now. The expectations I had may be different, but they will never get in the way of the support I give Ronan. That’s why I will to keep my emotions in check today. I will do that because today is Ronan’s birthday. It’s his birthday, and it is time to celebrate. It is time to be happy. It is time to make a wish and to believe that it will come true.
Our family has given Ronan twelve years of love, of opportunity, of happiness and of hope. We’ve promise to keep showering him with endless amounts of love, to provide as many opportunities of happiness for him, and to be as hopeful and helpful for him as we can. We promise to do that now, and for the next twelve years, and for as many years afterwards as we can.
As I reflect on the last twelve years, and as I anticipate the next twelve, if there is anything I need to remember today, I will let it be this:
He is here. He is alive. And he is beautiful.
Ronan, our first-born son, whose birth was greatly anticipated, whose entire family welcomed him with open arms, whose parents continue to be inspired by him, whose siblings watch over him without hesitation, whose life is full of worth and of purpose, is turning twelve today. Happy birthday, Ronan. Happiest of birthdays to you.
Cathy Jameson is a Contributing Editor for Age of Autism.