When I collected Joshua from school yesterday, I bumped into the Headteacher who asked if he had had a good birthday, asked how could my son have grown to be 18 years old – I questioned I asked myself all day! – and if I had had ‘a moment’ at all? She knows, as most people who know me know, that I am an emotional person and that it does not take much for me to cry. I replied that I had experienced several moments all day. I have always found Joshua’s birthday emotional : we celebrate Joshua reaching another milestone and the 18th birthday has to be one of the biggest so far; it is always bittersweet, full of memories of 5 March 2001 and being my Dad’s birthday too, I always think more about Joshua’s Grandpa than on other days. But I thought that I would share with you. the ‘moments’ that I had during the course of yesterday, when the emotion for me spilled over into happy tears:
- I was totally moved by all of the wonderful, kind messages and photographs that were posted on Facebook, wishing Joshua a happy day. He was inundated with kindness from a wide range of family, friends and acquaintances- including some lovely words from our Great Ormond Street families.. I wanted to post some baby photographs of Joshua but of course 2001 was before digital technology and easy sharing from the mobile phone. But I was delighted to find our birth announcement cards that his Grandad had lovingly made with photographs from his earliest days and so I snapped and posted that. To see that tiny baby and our young, scared but hopeful faces on the day we brought our new baby home, made me well up.
- My first tears were shed when I opened an email from his keyworker from Respite who had taken the time to send birthday wishes from her holiday, which took me aback. But I wept when I read ” He truly is an amazing young man who is an absolute pleasure to spend time with”
- I cried again when I saw him after school and I felt the love that was shown towards him and realised what a huge impression he had made there and of course started to speculate on the day next Summer when he has to leave this environment ,where he feels comfortable enough to lie on the floor, and absorb the love and attention that was thrown his way as staff walked passed him on their way home
- My husband and I took Joshua to Donald’s, his own choice of birthday tea without a doubt. He was drowsy on the way there and looked as though a seizure might be on the horizon too. But as we drove up to the fast food restaurant, he leapt into life and began to shout ” Donalds” and he made it clear that this time, he was not taking no for an answer. We took his birthday balloons with us, to make the experience special and Joshua chose his table and slid into position. He sat beautifully while I placed the order, just smiling and waving at me in the queue, but perfectly content. I chose table service and the girl who brought his food commented that it must be his birthday and Joshua gave her his best “thank you”. He tucked into the chicken and chips with gusto, not waiting for his Dad to arrive later, and you would have thought that it was a Michelin-starred meal, the appreciation that he showed for both the food and the setting. It is the simple things that made Joshua’s day special.
- We did not begin opening cards and presents until after 8pm, as he needed a nap when he got home – it is exhausting being an adult. I was really moved by so many photograph cards showing happy, smiling Joshua, by kind messages of congratulations and good wishes for his future and of generosity of gifts. I know how difficult Joshua is to buy for, so family and friends have been really creative in trying to make his 18th birthday so special. I cried when I opened Joshua’s card from his Granny, as it enclosed a Garden Centre voucher, which is something that Grandpa would have approved of. She suggested that we buy and plant him a tree for his 18th birthday, to mark this day, which is just the best idea.
- Finally I cried as I tucked Joshua in bed, at his usual 9pm – no late night or first pint in the pub for him! I kissed him good night and told him how proud I was of him and how lucky he was and this deep voice came out of the darkness, saying “Thank you”. So I gave him another kiss and left him to sleep.
So you see, there were plenty of ‘moments’, but none of them sad or resentful, all of them were motivated by love and gratitude.