In my family, celebrating birthdays is always a big deal, no matter the age. I think we all know of the birthday traditions: opening presents, making a wish, blowing out candles on the birthday cake. But how many of you parents of kids with a disability have good intentions, but the parties just go bad?
This year my son turned 16. I decided to do what he loves best: go to a hotel. I planned ahead and went to speak to the hotel manager prior to the birthday. I asked if there was any chance we could have his birthday cake and open presents in the eating area of the lobby because it had more space. Luckily for me, they were happy to help.
Jac has been into pirates the past few months, so we all wore pirate hats to make him feel like we were in his world. Jac opened presents, blew out all 16 candles, and sat down to eat his cake. Then we went to the indoor swimming pool. He swam and laughed his head off while playing with his cousins and big brother. We finished up by going to the hotel room, ordering pizza (his favorite dinner), and watching movies on his portable DVD player until he finally went to sleep.
It wasn't until later the next day that my oldest son made the comment that this was the best birthday ever for Jac. There were no meltdowns. He was happy. He blew out his candles and for just those several hours, it was as if we weren't living around a disability. Dare I say it? We were like a normal pirate family! It takes work and preparation but it can happen.
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During the COVID-19 pandemic, we asked parents of children with disabilities and special health care needs to share their tips and stories about caring for their children during difficult times.