Watching Daniel Bloom

Birthdays and sunshine and flowers in bloom

Posted on: June 1, 2011

Today, I just feel compelled to write about what a beautiful, bright, sunny day it is.  After what has felt like the longest, darkest winter ever, it finally feels like the sun is shining again – both literally and figuratively.

Two weeks ago, Daniel turned three. We had a quiet celebration with a couple close friends and their kids – a far cry from the 25 kids we invited to Charlotte’s third birthday a couple years ago, complete with over-the-top cake in a fancy rented indoor playground.

I didn’t talk about his birthday much – I didn’t even acknowledge it on Facebook, never mind writing about it here – and the truth is that it was a difficult milestone for me to face. For so long, I’ve heard the stories about the family members, friends, and friends of friends that “didn’t talk until they were three”. It seemed like everyone had a story that reinforced this, and every time I heard one of these stories it was like a little ray of light giving me permission to hope, even for just a moment, that maybe Daniel, too, would just start magically talking when he turned three.

So when his third birthday arrived, it was a bittersweet milestone. Not only did he not magically wake up speaking in sentences, but when I arrived at his school with an elaborate construction-themed cupcake-cake for snack time, he proceeded to scream, over and over, “No,No,No!!!!” as the class sang Happy Birthday, and then firmly refused to eat. That cake – with all its goopy frosting and bright yellow “diggers”, that I so carefully chose in the hopes that it would somehow, magically lead to a “normal” third birthday celebration with his friends – well, it didn’t make a bit of a difference. In fact, it did more harm than good.

As hard and upsetting as that was, the school “celebration” firmly reinforced my decision to have a small, quiet, simple party at home for his “real birthday party”. It also caused me to lower my expectations dramatically around how much he would actually enjoy that day. So when Sunday arrived, and the doorbell rang, it was such a great surprise to see him run to the door and greet his guests with a great big smile and a loud, “Hi!”, followed by a couple of excited laps around the living room. The next two hours were  great – Daniel had a fantastic time with his sister and the other four kids, and the whole “party” was just perfect. He even greeted his cake and the singing of Happy Birthday with appropriate excitement and some good attempts to blow out the candle.

For the past two weeks since that day, Daniel has been making great progress – so much so, that I almost feel like he somehow knows that he turned three, and he’s decided that “it’s time”. I swear that not a day has passed that he hasn’t shown me a new skill (or at least a new word). His mood has improved, and his willingness to accept changes in our routine is getting better and better.

That’s not to say that we haven’t had our bad moments (including some full-on doozy’s like the time when my mother was visiting and Daniel wouldn’t stop screaming or acknowledge anyone but me) – we certainly have. But the tough moments are shorter and less frequent, the happy times last longer, and I’m seeing that perfect little grin of his far more often. He’s even learned how to answer the question “What is your name?” with a smile and a confident, “Daniel!”.

It feels like just as the sun has finally arrived, and just as the flowers are finally starting to bloom, maybe, just maybe, my Daniel is too.

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