It is Geordie’s 11th birthday today.
The past 11 years have been a tumultuous journey. There have been some absolute highlights, but there have also been some extremely tough times that were wearing on all of us.
As I sit watching him open his presents and joke around with his best mate (who was here last night for a sleepover), it suddenly dawns on me how far he has come.
As a baby, Geordie was difficult. He did not sleep for more than an hour at a time. He hated being left on the floor or in the bouncer and wanted to be carried everywhere. Loud noises, strong smells and new places sent him into meltdown.
At childcare he would scream when I put him down and tried to leave the room. He refused to lay down, let alone sleep, at rest time. He spent every chance he could over at the gate, just staring out, prompting numerous conversations with concerned carers about his ‘odd’ behaviour. (Incidentally, he also did this for years at After School Care, eventually telling me he was waiting for me.)
Then we got his diagnosis. The therapist told us Geordie was the youngest definite Asperger’s diagnosis she had ever seen. I’m still not 100% sure if that was a good thing.
Preschool and Kindergarten were tricky too. He did not like to go and there were many times he had to be literally dragged in and dumped. He was often alone on the playground, or followed along with the children who didn’t always do the right thing. We despaired of him making friends, rejoicing when he finally received his first-ever birthday invitation.
The past few years have had their ups and downs.
Now, Geordie is in Year 5. He still doesn’t like school, but he gives me a kiss and heads off every morning. The 5-minute walk gives him the downtime needed to prepare for the day ahead.
He still doesn’t sleep as much as a boy his age should. But once he is in his bed, or ours, he stays there.
He still doesn’t get invited to many birthday parties, or have a massive group of friends – but we know that the party invitations he receives now are genuine (not ‘the whole class’) and he has a small group of peers that he can work with at school. Most of all – Geordie and his best friend complement each other like you wouldn’t believe.
The ‘odd boy’ who wouldn’t talk to people and simply couldn’t manage new situations is no longer here.
In his place is a beautiful, quirky boy who is appreciated for his sense of humour, his empathy and his manners.
He can confidently order his own food in a restaurant and pay for his own purchases at the shops.
He shows concern, asking ‘Are you ok?’ if he sees someone get hurt.
He stays in class and participates in almost all activities at school, even when he finds them ‘boring’.
There will be many more learning curves and frustrations to come, but for now I am just kicking back, enjoying and appreciating the results of our journey so far.
Happy Birthday Spud. Thank you for making me smile every day.