Thursday, December 8, 2011

Happy Birthday, Lily!

Today we celebrate my baby's (they're really both still babies to me, but Lily will always be the baby of the babies, if you follow) sixth birthday.

The 'youmightbeanautismparentif' blogs are going around hot and heavy in the autism parent blogosphere, and while I don't particularly feel like participating, I'll add this little tidbit as it relates to Lily's sixth birthday:  You might be an autism parent if you have to practice "how old are you" questions before every birthday so she gets the answer right.

We practiced with Lily yesterday.  My wife, Leslie, made up a song.  Lily learns, or at least memorizes, very well to music or song.  This particular song was sung to the tune of "Are you Sleeping".  Some know it better as "Frere Jacque".

"How old are you,
How old are you?
I am six,
I am six,
Lily is a big girl
Lily is big girl,
six years old,
six years old."

Or something to that effect.  Yeah, I know it's not Shakespeare, but she'll have the song memorized today or tomorrow and be answering "How old are you, Lily?" hopefully with the answer "I am six."

This morning it was my turn to wake up the birthday girl.  That made me happy, because I remember last year she woke up by herself and my wife got her and brought her into bed with us to watch TV while we got ready and I was sleepy and forgot to say "Happy Birthday" to her until after my wife had said it, and that made me feel guilty and sad, like hers was the forgotten birthday. 

This morning I turned down the bed rail and sat on her bed.  She looked so pretty and peaceful, with her long lashes warding closed eyes.  I ran my fingers lightly through her hair and said, "Wake up, sleepy head, it's your birthday."  Then I softly sang "Happy Birthday" and pulled back the covers so i could scratch her back.

Her eyes softly fluttered open and I softly but excitedly told her she was six, a big girl.  She didn't reply, content to suffer the backscratch with heavy lids.

"Time to get up, birthday girl," I told her, and picked her up, laying her against my chest, her head resting against the crook of my neck.  I put her on the potty, congratulating her again on how big she was getting, and how proud we were of her.  I left the bathroom and went into the hall, listening for sounds of her relieving herself before returning to hold her hand and walk her down the steps.

The rest of the morning passed more or less as we might have expected.  We sang to her again at breakfast.  She said, with her adorable little speech impediment, "Wiwee is six!" when prompted after the song.

After her poptart (eaten pretty well when the carrot of "iPad" was dangled from it) she sat down on the couch to open presents and play with her iPad.  She has never "liked" opening presents, or even the presents themselves.  It's not that she dislikes them.  She just has very little use for them.  Again, I don't know what she knows or doesn't know about that cheerfully decorated box, and whether the sort of theoretical thought that has to go into the process escapes her.  She sees a wrapped box.  Does she know there's a present inside for her?  That she must unwrap it to see?  That it will be hers when she opens it?  We don't know. We tell her.  She doesn't seem interested.
Thanks, guys, but they're in the way of the iPad
Ironically, Lily, who has always loved ripping paper despite our thousands of pleas to "Be gentle with books, Lily", must almost be commanded to rip it when it adorns a box holding her birthday present.  Then she grudgingly rips only little bits before she losing interest and wandering off.  Eventually the suspense ends up killing her older sister, Emma, who volunteers to help Lily open presents, and we, seeing how little the process actually means to Lily, acquiesce.
*crash* There, that's better.
Leslie brought up the idea of not even wrapping Lily's presents this year, but I couldn't agree.  I guess I keep thinking as much as she loves to rip. . . it's a win-win.  But like many other things I have to learn to make my peace with the idea that she just doesn't care.  How much of the process is me projecting my love for opening packages on her?

She pushed the packages away from her and onto the floor, and after some coaxing and cajoling, we instead finished getting ourselves ready for work and school before returning to complete the process.

We sang "Happy Birthday" as a family.  At the end Lily said, "Cha cha cha", the fruits of her kindergarten learning thus far, to chuckled response.

Toys are hit or miss with Lily, but she'll be getting a Barbie Mermaid (she seems to love all things mer-folk) a military grade protective case for her (my) iPad, clothes, gloves, and shoes.  Sometimes the toys we buy her are partly to satisfy ourselves, partly to satisfy Emma, and partly in hope that the toy du jour will "take".  But honestly, Lily would be just as content playing with her old books and toys as anything new we might think to get her.

She was happy and cheerful.  She played nicely with the iPad.  We sang her song again.  My wife went to work.  Emma helped get Lily's coat on her as I gathered up their backpacks and snack bags (for Lily's kindergarten birthday party), violins and lunchboxes, and warmed the car.

We drove to daycare listening to "Rhythym of Love" by the Plain White T's, and "Breakeven" by the Script, songs she enjoys and with which she'll sing along.

When we reached daycare, I gave her my hand and helped her from the car.  "Come on out, birthday girl," I said!  "How old are you?"

"I'm three," she replied.

And I chuckled and corrected her and took her hand, perhaps a little sadly as I walked her to the door.  She has come so far in the three years since that answer would have been correct, but in many ways when I look back at old videos or read old journal entries, it seems as if she hasn't progressed at all.  It can be frustrating, and tiring, and yes, a little sad.

But today is about celebrating those things that HAVE changed:

Her vocabulary continues to grow,
She sits down in school and pays attention to the teacher,
She asks appropriately for many things,
She sometimes feeds herself with a spoon,
She can pull her pants down to potty and pull them back up when she's done,
She will ask to go potty at school,
She tolerates taking turns,
She allows musical choices other than her own,
She allows TV programs other than her own.

And also celebrating what I hope never does:

She is genuinely happy.

“When I was 5 years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down ‘happy’. They told me I didn’t understand the assignment, and I told them they didn’t understand life.” 

― John Lennon

I saw that quote on a blog page just today, and thought it was a great quote, and very appropriate given the post I just wrote.  If nothing else we want Lily to be happy.  And she is.

And as frustrating and tiring and sad as things sometimes can get, they are more often rewarding, enriching, endearing, broadening, loving and yes, happy.

Happy Birthday, Lily.  Happy birthday, big girl.  You are six!


  1. Ah, what a wonderful post! Please with Lily a very Happy 6th Birthday. :)

  2. This is why I love reading your blog. Your sweetness and huge love for your family is so evident.

    Lily is the big six! Happy Birthday, Lily! Perfect song by your wife too!!

  3. Dang it, Jim, you got me all weepy. Thank you for the post and happy birthday to Lily.

    Sometimes, I ask Ben how old he is and he says, "Green."

  4. @Jenn, thank you! i will!

    @trm, she's a bard, isn't she??

    @jon, I'm sorry, that made me laugh. Lily is kicking ass on her colors, although every time we get in my car. . . my silver car, to go to daycare, she calls it "orange car".

  5. Our two Lily's open presents the same way..... And like you, I always wonder why someone who tears/rips/shreds every other item of paper (and now clothing!) in the house has to be guided in how to rip the paper off a present. Irony....

    Happy Birthday to your sweet girl! And tell Leslie we expect a birthday rap next year.... complete with video and baggy pants.

  6. Awww, what a good birthday. It's always hard to come to grips with what we want for them on their b-day and what they want and what they really need. I'm glad you all had such a good day.

  7. @Kyla - thank you
    @ACTB - they're SO alike. Baggy pants huh? It'll have to be long after the christmas cookies have been run off. . . i don't think anything will be baggy by the end of this year.
    @Lizbeth - so far so good. The day is young. Party with the family on Saturday, then an actual Big Girl Birthday party for her sometime next year (cause it's too chaotic to figure out right now).

  8. Your Lily sounds just perfect to me. Really, who could ask for anything more than a happy child?

  9. Happy Birthday Lily!! What a sweet way to wake up, to such a loving family. Maybe she just didn't want to be bothered with the chore of opening the presents...something better left to the minions to do!

  10. This is a beautiful post. Happy birthday to your Lily! I totally agree with you about the happy thing. That is really all I want for my kids.

    Jack used to not really be into opening presents either. Although part of it was that he/we would open the gift and then he would have to put it down and not play with it so he could open something else that he would also have to wait to play with. It must have seemed terribly strange. Now he has the hang of it and seems to like it.

    Enjoy the rest of your day with your happy six year old!

  11. @handflapper - :)

    @Flannery - don't tell Emma she's a minion. . . she might not be onboard.

    @Stimey - Thanks! Well, maybe we'll keep trying this present unwrapping thing. Her birthday is just a warmup to the giant Christmas present deluge. . . LOTS of paper rippin' to do there!

  12. Happy happy birthday to Lily!!! *sniffle* (not a sarcastic sniffle, an honest-to-god-i-just-cried-a-little-cause-this-was-so-beautiful-sniffle)

    Lily's so lucky to have parents like you. :-) (And an awesome sister, too!)

    G doesn't really get unwrapping presents either, yet, but we'll see how it goes. I suspect he'll start to get anxious and greedy long before we're ready for him to do so. ;-)

  13. Aww, thank you.

    Anxious and greedy can feel okay. Like when you give a gift and you know your kiddo is just going to light up and flood with excitement and go tearin' ass around the house with a new present. That can feel pretty darn good.

  14. What a beautiful post. Truly touching.
    Happy Birthday to Lily!

  15. Jim - you are just such a special and amazing dad. Really and truly. I love reading your snark, but your tender moments are worthy of a BOX of tissues (I only need one, but Little Miss loves to wad them up and hoard them.... You know)

    Happy birthday to your baby girl. I hope the rest of the day is restful and filled with special family time!

  16. Happy Birthday Lily! I hope that six is a wonderful year!

  17. What a lovely post. Happy 6th Birthday Lily!

  18. The importance of "happy" cannot be overstated. That's a huge gift right there.

    Nothing warms the cockles of my heart more than seeing a little girl wearing a hockey jersey. Even if you are a Penguins fan. Good job, dad.

    Happy birthday, Lily!!

  19. AW, Happy birthday, Lily! I'd probably dump the gifts for iPad time, too ; )

  20. Happy Birthday Lily!! (Even though I'm a little late...)

    Jim, you are truly an enigma - snark on the outside but just a sweet, sentimental dad on the inside. I feel so lucky to read your posts!

    Everything you say about the birthday celebration is something I've experienced too. I love the Are You Sleeping to the age - Tootles still has no idea how old he is - it's 50-50 whether he will say "Four" (he's actually 5) or ignore whoever is asking completely - Look - Lily is a lady - she's just doing what comes naturally to us - she's six so she's cutting it in half... You know, like if I said I was 14.5 since clearly, I'm just 29... ;)

    The present opening was the same around here til just recently - now he rips through every present whether it's his or not - so there's something to be grateful for - Lily's not tearing open Emma's presents- yet!!

    Hope she had a great day at school and a nice big bit of "chocolate bread"!

  21. Happy Birthday Lily!!
    What a beautiful post. Birthdays are tough for us too. And Norrin gets "how old are you?" and "how are you?" mixed up. But I'm totally stealing your song and singing it to him in January. :)

    And I love that John Lennon quote - it's so very true.

  22. @Mama - thank you. I abbreviate your handle to mama, because it seems rude to abbreviate to "chunky" btw.

    @M2LM - Thank you. I'm just excited that my fellow man has lowered the bar to the point where the little I do seems exemplary.

    @Chloe and Indy - I'll pass your wishes along to her. :)

    @Alison - Thank you!

    @Grace - whatya mean even IF. GO PENS!

    @SG - I'll pass along the message! :)

    @Jen - Yeah, you guys are on the same page.

    @Karen - Not too late. . . family birthday party (grandparents etc) is Saturday, then we're going to invite a couple classmates to a regular ol' big girl birthday party in January some time! Also, I'm a little muddy on your "lady math". . . if i'm to believe your comment, you're actually 58. That seems not correct.

  23. @AW - The first paragraph of this blog was an explanation of how i was taking a break from the blog i was writing you in order to write it. . . but I deleted it.

    *must write guest blog!*

  24. awwww Happy Birthday Lily... December babies are the bestest (my birthday is tomorrow).. ;)

  25. I loved this post. That is all. No, wait, Happy Birthday, Lily!

  26. Shame on me being late.. Happy belated birthday Lily!!!! <3

    What a really sweet entry Jim. Really sweet. And you're so right.. i just reach for happiness. Without happiness, nothing else is going to matter.

    I hope she had a wonderful day :)

  27. Happy Birthday, Lily! The fact that she's happy really is the most important thing of all.

  28. Happy to pimp your blog anytime, because it's filled with honesty, love & humor ;) Mom of a little guy on the A-team, work with kids 0-3 with various delays. Your words help us keep it real at my office. You say what I think, and after reading posts like this the girls in the office have an 'ah ha!' moment. Thanks for sharing your family!

  29. Wonderful accomplishments to highlight!! Those are very worthy and can help grow to so much more.
    Day by day, hour by hour. Smile and breathe.

    Happy birthday to your Lily! (My Lily turned 11 on the 7th :-> )

  30. Happy birthday Lily!! those are some HUGE accomplishments. It's so great to keep perspective and look at that list from time to time- between beers.

  31. Dang! I hate it when I don't get to read my blogs every day. I missed this! Happy Birthday, Lily! Stay happy!

  32. This is a beautiful post.
    It's so great when we can appreciate the little perfect moments.
    It can be frustrating and sad, but at the same time a little wonderful. You have such a great outlook.
    And a Very happy birthday to your little girl <3

  33. Happy, happy birthday to your little Lily!

    And, so right there with you. We just turned 4 and 5 and the drilling for their new ages started a couple of weeks ago and will likely continue until they are nearly 5 and 6! :)

  34. @jaime - happy belated birthday!

    @carrie - thanks, carrie!

    @rhonda - yeah, you really should have my family's birthdates on your calendar. Shameful. thank you.

    @jacqui - she had a happy celebration with family on Saturday too.

    @marlowe - Thank you for pimping, and the compliments! Where do you work? (like, what state, i'm not going to stalk you, I promise)

    @ann - smile and breathe. . . you mean. . . at the same time?? Babysteps, ann. For now I'll work on the breathing.

    @dani - celebrate the little things!

    @njamb - it can get a "tad" overwhelming when you have a gigantic blogroll.

    @brittany - thank you!

    @kelly - she got "six" a few times this weekend. Just gotta keep working!

  35. Happy - that is life in a nutshell. John lennon's mother knew what she was talking about. Lily is getting it, it is the rest of us who are interested in the presents and pleasing others who probably aren't getting it. It seems like it turned out to be a nice day.
    Ms. Aweeze

  36. Happy birthday little Lily.
    What a beautiful loving post.

  37. Yup it was. Although Patty got slapped across the face by Lily when she was going in for a goodbye kiss. Patty was a trooper though. It was all in love!

  38. Thank you for your comment. I want to address you by name, but I don't know how to make my letters do that. I'm going with . . . Borgerour. That's as close as I can get.

  39. Happy Birthday Lily. Love the John Lennon quote.