Max is turning nine tomorrow, which is hard to believe. In some ways, it feels like the years have zoomed by. In some ways, it feels like I have been through several lifetimes.
I haven't been dwelling on Max's birth day itself and what happened afterward because I have moved past the trauma. Well, mostly I have. But I no longer get sad around this time of year, like I used to when he was very young.
What I couldn't understand back in Max's first years was that no matter what challenges the future held, I had a beautiful child who was genuinely and truly happy. Max smiled at me in his third month, and he has been grinning abundantly ever since.
He wasn't the least bit depressed about what had happened to him. Max just knew to be happy, to try his best to do things, to enjoy life and all the chocolate pudding and ice-cream it had to offer.
Just like Max, I had a big learning curve ahead of me. Because I wasn't thinking about the blessing of Max's happiness. No, I was thinking about gross-motor skills and fine-motor skills and oral-motor skills and all of the stuff that challenged him. Mostly, I worried.
Sometimes, at birthday parties, I'd look at other children happily running around or eating their cake, doing their typical-kid things. And I'd look at Max, happily doing his own thing, and I could only see what he wasn't doing.
I didn't appreciate his joy. There was a time when I'd go to Max's class at school with birthday treats and I'd get all choked up when the teacher, aides and I sang "Happy Birthday To You." I couldn't accept that Max was in a school for kids with special needs. I wasn't feeling the happy in the birthday.
As Max got older, though, the sadness receded. I thought less about Max's challenges and focused more on his progress and what he was able to do. I learned to stop projecting my ideas of bliss onto him. I grew to understood that, no matter what, this child had a good life.
His birthdays became a truly happy occasion for all of us.
Today, I went to Max's school with ice-cream cups that had Cars 2 stickers on top. Max was utterly and totally out of his head with happiness. Me, I couldn't stop beaming. We both went around and gave the other kids high-fives and discussed chocolate vs. vanilla ice-cream and generally had a great time.
Max has never been the least bit bliss-challenged. All of his birthdays have been happy.
And for that, on the eve of his ninth birthday, I am very grateful.