Saturday was the first classmate birthday party JT has been invited to.
It was at the little girl's house, they had a playground, trampoline and a bouncy castle set up in the backyard.
When we arrived, we got out of the car and were looking into the open backyard. All the kids were in the bouncy castle and immediately I heard screams of, "JT's here!!!" "It's JT!!!"
Then we were rushed by all the kids that were there, saying hi to JT and talking to him. The sweetest little girl ever (that JT LOVES) grabbed his hand and they all took him back to the bouncy castle where they played. My heart just about exploded right there.
JT completely blended in for the first hour and fifteen minutes. The only 'iffy' things he did involved running up to the parents/aunts of the birthday girl and saying, "Hey there!" and then not responding to their questions. Nothing crazy odd, and certainly nothing bad.
Then he wouldn't drink the punch or lemonade. He walked up and simply asked, "Can I have some water, please?" The aunts of the party girl were not happy. Rather than water, they offered him soda. I told them he just really liked water, and even offered to get it myself. They didn't want anyone else in the house, though, so one huffed in and brought it back, making it apparent she was unhappy he wouldn't just take a sugary drink instead. They even asked if I wouldn't allow the drink, and that's why he had to have water. I tried explaining he just likes water, but they were annoyed.
Next up was the cake. They wanted a pic of all the kids next to the birthday girl, and I mistakenly put JT next to the balloons. They were blowing and hitting him all over, and he was upset. I tried moving him, but at that point he was just done. He wouldn't stand up, despite some pleading on my part... and some yelling on the host's part ("JT! GET UP!"... yes, seriously). Finally he popped up with a smile so, so briefly, but one of them caught it. Thank you, Jesus.
He ate his cake fine, behaved really well. Had to get him some more water, strike 2 with the aunts. They weren't hiding their annoyance well at all at this point, despite my repeated apologies for my son wanting to drink water.
We stayed a little longer, JT played awesome with the kids. They adore him. They include him. He is their friend.
He ran up and said his, "Hey there!" to the aunts. I saw the look. The "What is wrong with that kid" look. My heart broke and I could feel a fire light up inside me at the same time. Not. Okay.
I heard the little girl's mom say she was going to open presents, so I approached her and told her we were leaving. I told her that I was terribly sorry she couldn't get a picture of JT, that he has autism and sometimes holding it together is really hard for him. That we had such a great time, and thank you for inviting us.
I saw it register across her face. When I said 'autism' it came together. None of these people had any idea. They sent out invites and didn't know JT was any different from any of the other kids. And he passed for normal, albeit quirky, until (and after) picture time.
Those ladies thought my kid was a brat. And then it made sense.
She was so sweet, thanked me for bringing him.
I saw her lean over to her sisters as we walked away. She told them.
"BYE, JT!!!" I heard them yell. Yep, they felt bad, too.
Even though the party was exhausting for me, JT had no idea. He had the best.time.ever. He played with every single kid there - bounced, slid and ate cake. He giggled and laughed. He helped his friends up when they fell. He proudly introduced me to all of them. He said goodbye when we left.
And I will call that a HUGE success.
Here's a picture of JT and the little girl he loves so and all their friends. Possibly one of the happiest moments of my life.