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Why Attending a Kids' Party Isn't Child's Play as a Mother With Asperger's

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Yesterday I accompanied my 6-year-old to a friend’s birthday party at a local play center.  It’s a simple enough excursion for many people, but when you have Asperger’s syndrome it’s a completely different scenario.

When I woke up, my first thought was that I had to attend that party with him and how I would prefer not going to it. But doing these things for my children is something I absolutely have to do. And seeing my son so excited about going, there was no way I was backing out of it.

The party was starting at 12 noon, which put my routine totally out of sync. I would have to eat earlier or later than my normal time, which puts immediate stress into my day. As I wanted to present the “polished” me, I made a real effort with what I was wearing (a dress, heels and makeup), dressing for the part despite not feeling comfortable.

In the car, I rehearsed what I would say. As I’m not one of the mums at the school gate who dresses up for the occasion, I knew it was inevitable that my efforts at looking like “a cool mum” would not go unmentioned. I’ve come unstuck with this before so this time I was determined to say “thank you — so do you” instead of looking awkward and feeling embarrassed.

As we approached the door, I took a big breath in and plastered a smile on my face. “Hi, we’re here for the party.” We were directed to a private room at the end of the corridor and again I breathed deeply. Walking into a room which is already filled with people is hard for me, so I focused hard on my son instead, and led him into the room to deliver his birthday wishes and present to his young friend.

The room was busy and I knew all eyes were on me, but I couldn’t look up. Instead, I got my son settled and told him I would wait outside for him in the cafe area. Another mum came up and said hello. I duly delivered my lines and was glad I had prepared. I wish my performance could have extended to walking into that room, looking all around and saying “Hi everyone,” but I was pleased that I outwardly appeared calm, cheerful and in control.

I took a seat outside the room but had to move immediately as there were several arcade type machines and rides nearby pumping out loud tunes and flashing lights — too much assault on the senses. I relocated to a quieter area, and while doing so I saw some of the other mums gathered around a table. I smiled and nodded, but honestly did not want to join them. Two hours of social chit chat was not enticing.

Instead, I passed the time reading and enjoyed glancing up to see the kids having so much fun. I exchanged a few words with people as they were passing — it’s so much easier when it’s just one on one.

At the end of the party my son and I said our thank yous to the parents — and they were absolutely genuine. He had had a great time and I was grateful he had been invited. The relief that it had all gone well was overwhelming, and driving back home the tension was gone. I got changed out of my outfit and wiped off all the make-up, then slept for almost two hours, completely drained by the experience.

Do I wish it was different? Do I wish I felt comfortable and at ease at such a happy event?  Of course I do. I am completely aware that I appear at best aloof, but it’s the best I can do.  And I’d do anything for my boys.

Originally published: June 12, 2018
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