In our life, everything isn’t magic, unicorns and cupcakes. We just do our best to make sure our kids are enjoying themselves and hope the rest will come from there. Maggie turned 8 this past weekend and that brought a lot of excitement and a lot of nerves.
When you have a non verbal kid, being able to deliver on what they want becomes much more difficult because seemingly you can only make guesses at what they really want. Since we’re only presenting a field of limited options, we can never be sure if what we are offering is perfect, or good enough. I work in a world in which perfection is impossible and you’re aiming for good enough. But, when it comes to Maggie’s birthday, good enough just isn’t…good enough. We talked to her about her birthday a bunch in the weeks leading up to the big day, but she’s been struggling on her computer of late, her breathing and seizures a near constant infringement on her communication. So, it’d been difficult to identify exactly what she wanted.
We know she’s into Harry Potter. Or at least, we know she was. She loved when we read the first two books to her. But, as the third book is when they start getting scary, we’ve held off for over a year on jumping into it. She hasn’t seemed as into this book as the first two, but it’s unclear whether that’s because it’s scary, because of the breathing issues she’s been having, or because she’s just over it. As a guy who read them in college, I find it hard to believe that at 8, she’s already more intellectually advanced than I was at 20, but knowing myself at 20, it is definitely possible. Regardless, we decided to take a chance and plan a birthday at Harry Potter World at Universal Studios. It sounds like a big trip to most people, but we live three blocks away. But, with Maggie, it was still going to be a big trip. We had tried going once before, but her sensory system got overloaded and we had to turn back around. That was almost 3 years ago. One of my closest friends from college had been meaning to come visit with his 10 year old son for awhile, so we had a built in party. We toyed with inviting a bunch of people to Harry Potter world to celebrate, but at over $100/person for a ticket, we thought better of it. Plus, keeping it small and manageable seemed like the prudent idea.
She rode rollercoasters, walked through Hogwarts castle and drank butter beer. She chose fudge flies from Honeyduke’s and french fries as part of her Great Feast. She cast magic spells throughout the park, completely amazing her little brother. At Olivander’s wand shop, the wand that selected her was for protection and healing. Jenny cried.
It was perfect. But, without candles or a cake, or all her other friends, it wasn’t a birthday party. We knew that going in, but we also knew that Harry Potter would be exhausting. So the next evening, we threw her a party that wouldn’t require too much energy on her part, but something she would still enjoy – a unicorn themed movie party. Popcorn in boxes, a mattress on the floor and a dozen kids ranging from 3-10, sitting, transfixed on a tv. Plus pizza and cupcakes she had picked out at the bakery earlier that morning.
I got nervous about the unicorn theme almost as soon as it had been decided. Maggie isn’t a girly girl and there’s nothing more girly girlish than unicorns. So the morning of the party, when she woke up, I nervously asked her if she was still into Unicorns, or if, now that she was 8, she had outgrown them. She answered with an aggressive yes, making sure I noticed she was looking right at me. “Phew,” I thought, as I walked her downstairs where unicorn horn party hats, unicorn streamers, and unicorn lollipops adorned our living room.
Maggie turned 8 this weekend and I feel fortunate that, of all the days this year, we were able to make sure this one was actually filled with magic, unicorns and cupcakes.