Last weekend we had the pleasure of helping BJ’s best buddy celebrate his 21st birthday. Aside from the shock that it is only months until BJ is also turning 21, it was a day of reflection for me. BJ and his buddy have grown up together. We met at a conductive education program through the Cerebral Palsy Alliance when BJ was under 2 years old.
We participated in the program 2 days a week for a couple of years so we shared the highs and lows that come with therapy. The boys then went to the same school, high school and now attend the same day program. They have literally grown up together and travelled through many stages side-by-side. Consequently they have had many people in common in their lives. Many of those special people were at the party on the weekend. This made the party nearly as exciting for BJ as it was for his friend who was actually the one celebrating the birthday. It was in fact, so exciting that BJ didn’t eat for the whole party, despite some of his favourite foods being on offer. What I took away from the party was that it has, and continues to take a village to raise our boys.
How lovely that so many of the people involved in their lives, were so invested, that they were keen to help BJ’s buddy celebrate his birthday. I think it says a lot about them.
THE TEACHERS (SADLY NOT ALL THE GOOD ONES WERE PRESENT)
On more than one occasion throughout BJ’s schooling I’ve been frustrated, left in tears and in need of allies. Thankfully there have been some wonderful teachers along the way who backed me up and most importantly, went into bat for BJ. The school years are a big part of life and having teachers who continued with our goals and looked to support BJ was a great relief. In between the good ones we had a few duds that don’t deserve space on this website. I feel sorry that they chose a job working with children with additional needs. It isn’t a job you can be half-hearted about. The kids, parents and the truly dedicated staff don’t deserve it.
As usual, we’ll focus on the good eggs.
AFTER SCHOOL CARERS
When BJ was in primary school I was concerned that he didn’t have much social interaction with peers. I was keen for him to have the opportunity to socialise but it was not easy to entrust him to different people. When I learnt that the lady pictured below was working at the after school program, I felt sure that BJ would have a good time and would be included as much as possible. I was right and a strong family bond has continued. We are now lucky to call her our friend.
And proving the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, when BJ’s lovely after school carer left, her son took over doing just as good a job. Not only did he look after BJ, he provided a real mateship, the rough and tumble games BJ craved and he and I shared many an insightful conversation. I appreciated his thoughts, ideas and friendship. Once again, our friendship has continued beyond school.
We’ve had amazing therapists throughout BJ’s life. I’ve written before about the amazing Kristy (pictured below with her own children). When BJ arrived at high school she was keen to get him in a power wheelchair. BJ was a tricky customer and really had to see what was in it for him. Kristy appealed to BJ’s wicked sense of humour by piling up boxes as a target. On the front of those boxes she put pictures of the teachers at his school. BJ’s aim was to drive the power wheelchair into the boxes therefore knocking his teachers over. That was the incentive he needed. Kristy understood him and knew how to make the effort worthwhile and her patience was unwavering.
DAY SERVICE STAFF
The boys have just started their 3rd year at their day program. The friendships there are new compared to many of the ones I mentioned previously but strong bonds have been formed. BJ was thrilled to see staff from his day program at the party. Although he sees many of them 5 days a week he was delighted.
I have a photo of BJ’s buddy surrounded by the day program workers and he looks delighted too.
Friendships and relationships can be born from the most unusual of circumstances. We value them all. We see that each person has contributed something to BJ’s life and our family’s life as a whole. How lucky we all are to have them. Aside from this conclusion at the end of the party, I realised the pressure is on! BJ had such a good time at his mate’s party I wonder what we can do to make his 21st special. We certainly know a whole list of names to add to any guest list.
Do you have a village of people in your life? I’d love to hear about any similar experiences.