In our family, we stress celebrating for other people. It’s all part of an evil plan to help build – brick by brick – the ability to place oneself in another’s shoes.
Because, of course, it’s difficult for our AS kids to do this.
They’re wired differently, and this is one of the areas in which they need our help. And so, in my opinion, it’s doubly important to take any opportunity to work on it.
I have friends who complain that their AS kids ignore their birthdays, or do nothing for them for Christmas. But giving is not an inborn thing. One doesn’t have the instinct to give; on the contrary, the instinct is to say “MINE!”
And that’s normal.
I believe that one should not just accept this behavior; one should actively try to teach generosity and the joys of giving. Yes, I know, this sounds like a Christmas article. But giving and compassion happen all year round. Or should, anyway.
On birthdays, for example.
Little kids get very excited about birthdays. For a day, they get to be important, and who doesn’t like gifts? But how many adults really get worked up about their birthdays? Or make a big deal out of cake, ice cream, gifts, and the whole shebang?
And yet, they feel obscurely bereft when nobody does anything on that birthday, like one of my friends mentioned above. Are people just supposed to know by osmosis that it’s birthday time, and magically read that person’s mind to know what kind of celebration and what sort of gift they want?
That’s not really fair. And it doesn’t teach our kids anything, except to continue to ignore another person’s special day.
Early on, I got aggressive about these things. If I stop to think about it, I’ll get embarrassed (like I’m feeling right now), but I honestly feel that teaching our kids to celebrate events for others is important. It helps them to learn how to give, and how to feel good for another’s happy day.
For instance, my son knows that today is my birthday. My husband also knows this. I usually give them plenty of warning, and knowledge of what I’d like to get, although usually it involves a family outing or some such. Even my dad knew that today was my birthday, which blew me away (he’s not known for keeping track of such things).
Sure, it can feel weird announcing these things and saying, “you know, son, I love flowers. I’ve got a collection of fuzzy flowers that you helped me start… it might be time for another one to join the bouquet (hint, hint).” And, because our kids are not so great at interpreting hints, I’ll even say the “hint, hint” out loud, or wait and see if he picks up on the hint himself. If he doesn’t, I’ll be even plainer.
Gosh, I sound demanding.
But that little flower collection leaves my son bursting with pride. He loves giving them to me, and he loves pulling them down from their place just to admire from time to time. He’s so proud to be giving his Mom a present on her birthday. Or Christmas. Or whenever.
So I don’t think we should be so shy about making our wants known. I think, with our AS kids and AS husbands (or just the thick-headed ones), that we should be plain-spoken. That we should decide in our own minds that they are loving and kind and would want to know these things.
I won’t be making a cake for myself, however. That’s a little extreme, and I’ve already made muffins for another child who shares the same birthday.
We will, however, swing by somewhere and pick one up on our way home from dinner. Chocolate, of course. There will be no candles, but there will be singing (I’ve already endured a few choruses of Happy Birthday from my beaming son). And I also know it’ll be gone by tomorrow… and that my boys (and I) will enjoy every last crumb of it.