I didn’t set out to spend $1000 on my son’s birthday. It just happened.
Giovanni, eight, struggles to make friends at school and I am devastated for him. Knowing that my little boy sits on a seat on his own, eating his lunch, wanting to play but not knowing how to reach out or how to navigate play with others is heartbreaking.
Sometimes he is asked to play and tries to but the end the result is always the same. He removes himself from play and chooses to be on his own. He’ll often make use of the school “passive play area” where children play with equipment next to each other, but not together.
Giovanni has told me he wants friends. He tries to play but it doesn’t come easily to him.
Giovanni is mildly autistic — enough to make everything a little more challenging for him. We have started Occupational Therapy in an effort to help him navigate the world around him with a little less less anxiety. We’re only two weeks into the school year and he’s doing so well. I’m so proud of him.
And yet I know that all he wants is to be the same as all the other kids at school who burst out of their classrooms and gather in little groups, playing and laughing and having fun. They eat as fast as they can before dashing off to play handball or tip.
Giovanni eats slowly, trying to look busy because the thought of playing is so overwhelming to him.
When Giovanni was in Kindergarten and then Year One, I made sure to invite all the boys in his class to his birthday parties. Still he remained friendless at school and worse still, hardly received any birthday invitations in return.
This year, I’ve decided to do something a little different. We’ll have it at home where he is most comfortable. He’s been moved to a different class this year so this will be a perfect opportunity to get to know some of his new classmates.
I’ve invited the children sitting on his table only and extended the invitation to their siblings. My idea is to have less kids so Giovanni will have the opportunity to get to know them better. I’ve also invited family friends and all of his cousins so he is surrounded by many familiar faces.
Giovanni loves animals and is much easier with them than he is with people. Whenever we go anywhere with a petting zoo, he chooses to spend all of his time there, ignoring the foods and the rides and the children playing around him.
I have hired one and they will set it up in our big backyard. He will watch them set it up and maybe even help them. If he likes he can spend the full two hours with them. Whatever makes him happy. As his friends come into the petting zoo, he’ll interact with them.
The animals will serve as a perfect icebreaker.
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The petting zoo company had two choices — a small petting zoo with ducklings and chickens and such, or a fancy one with goats and piglets and calves. I ordered the fancy petting zoo, picturing Giovanni’s beaming smile as he hugs them and feeds them to his heart’s content.
Giovanni has major food issues that he is in treatment for. He eats only a handful of foods. Feeding him has always been difficult. Even when we do receive the occasional invitation to other children’s parties, Giovanni will often not eat a thing because they haven’t used the bread he likes or there are different sprinkles on the fairy bread.
At his party, he’ll get all the foods he liked. That means pretzels, plain crackers, fairy bread on wholemeal bread with chocolate sprinkles, cheese pizza with just a little sauce and a chocolate gelato ice-cream cake. The lolly bags will contain banana lollies, Milky Ways, lollipops and Smarties.
It was too expensive to order all of his party supplies featuring Minecraft insignia, so I have only ordered Minecraft cupcake icing.
It will be Giovanni’s most perfect and happiest day.
It was only last night while discussing the party with my husband that I realised what I’d spent:
Kindifarm (the one with the good animals) $539.00
Pure Gelato birthday cake plus additional tubs for the kids who don’t like chocolate ice-cream $117.00
10 Dominos cheese pizzas with less sauce and more cheese, delivered $101.50
Food, party supplies, lolly bags, drinks, ice $292.00
I could cancel it all. I could come to my senses and realise that this is an insane amount of money to spend on my son’s birthday party and just take him to the beach instead. I could do a cheaper party with less people and no animals in sight and save all that money. It took us so long to save it and it’s meant to be our “rainy day” money.
Or, I could go ahead with it all, heart in hand, and hope against all hopes that Giovanni has a fabulous day, makes friends and experiences countless moments of pure joy.
If he gets one new friend out of it, if he enjoys school just a little more, if his anxious mind is filled with happy memories for a few days, if he just has one moment of feeling like he belongs in this world he is struggling to understand, then it will all be worth it.
Or just one extra invitation to another birthday party this year…
My husband and I pondered this but with a shared look knew we’d go ahead with it.
Anything for our little boy.