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Community COVID-19 Stories ➔ COVID-19 Story, Leslie Nicewander

Why the stay at home order just might have been the BEST thing for my kids’ birthdays....(super long but worth the read)

Like most everyone else, I was selfish about what I (and my family) couldn’t do under the quarantine rules; as in what forced My plans to be changed, specifically my children’s birthdays. They share the same birthday but are 14 years apart in age.
My teenage son is on the spectrum - isn’t very social, doesn’t have any close friends anymore. So a family only birthday isn’t so unwelcoming or unusual in recent years. In elementary school, birthdays were great for him, several (sometimes nearly all) his classmates came to his birthday parties. But these days, in high school - he doesn’t have any close friends (although I can think of about two that would come for a bday, but not on any given random day to just ‘hang’). The reality of the friends level really sank in as middle school was ending for him. This year being the first year of high school, I thought his birthday would be best celebrated with his cousin of the same age, as being sixteen and only celebrating with your parents is kind of lame (and for mom feels like a regression to being four again - i.e. what birthdays were before school friends). However, the circumstances now are forcing everyone to have birthdays at home with their parents. For once, his birthday “choice” (because I’m not sure it’s always a choice to avoid socialization or if it’s inevitable by circumstance of no one coming anymore) to celebrate with close family only doesn’t make him the weird, quirky, unwanted teenager that can’t seem to fit in. His greatest desire in life is to be a police officer. The department coming by our house on his day made this birthday very special for him - this could not and would not have happened if we were living our normal lives. The “new normal” allows my teenager with autism to now be normal too.

For my toddler, the day was pressure free and enjoyable. Being at home and not a scheduled party elsewhere means I didn’t have to worry if she missed her nap or if it was abnormally short. I didn’t have to worry about her behaviors and attitudes around other kids and judgmental parents. I got to enjoy her to the fullest today! We had cake at our convenience today (and it was early, before our afternoon nap) We opened presents on and off throughout the day, so she wasn’t bored or overwhelmed by it. We didn’t cram cake, activities, and gifts into a little two hour time slot while at a park where her only interest would be going down the slide and not being on display for all the attendees. I wasn’t distracted from her to play hostess to friends and family. In some ways we celebrated all day long, because we could take a break at any point we needed to. I was at home with umteen changes of clothes, so I could (and I did) put her in a party dress-ensemble that was purchased months ago but then changed her into a bday t-shirt that was fitting of the circumstances, and changed her again for cake so as not to ruin the special celebration clothes. She took her nap and wasn’t disturbed because we had somewhere to be. She got to play with her presents as soon as they were opened because we weren’t rushing through a stack of them so guests could see her open what they got. There were no induced tantrums today.
My teenager played several games of Uno with me while his sister napped. He got undivided attention doing an activity of his choosing (outside his Xbox), and he was not aversive to joining us in the backyard for bubbles and play. In fact he rather had fun with it. My teenage boy wasn’t forced to spend his birthday with a handful of other two year olds at a park that he is too big/old to play on; -- where he likely would have buried himself in his phone and just tolerated it - so that his sister could have a party, after all it’s her birthday too. My toddler wasn’t made to sit in her car seat for two hours to go to and from Grand Rapids so that her brother could have an age appropriate outing for his birthday too.

It really was a wonderful birthday today (technically yesterday at this point). It wasn’t the birthday that was originally planned, it was actually a BETTER one, Because of the quarantine.
April 19 2020
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Gift of Leslie Nicewander

Leslie Nicewander
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