After a lot of feedback from friends I decided to go ahead and buy the ball and hammer toy from Target for Oliver's birthday. And, although it was not the ideal scenario, I took the kids with me on Friday morning to pick it up. I planned to wrap it later and I knew that he would enjoy opening the gift and playing with it even if it wouldn't be a surprise. Well, as it turns out, I was the one in for a surprise. When we rounded the isle into the toy section at Target, Oliver -- who had been riding on the outside of the cart -- hoped down and began perusing the toys. I was busy looking for the toy I intended to buy while keeping Sammy from jumping out of the cart. Oliver then chose a box from the shelf, looked at the pictures for a minute or two, then held it up to me and said: "I want this. I WANT this!" And just like that it was in the cart and we were headed for the cash register without another thought about the ball and hammer toy.
There are a couple of things about the scenario that I just described that make it pretty amazing to me. Consider that 6 weeks ago Oliver wasn't speaking. Also, he has never been the kind of kid that has shown much interest in toys. A few months ago a trip down the toy isle would likely have found him riding in the cart more interested in the lights on the ceiling than in the toys. The toy that I set out to buy cost $15.00, the one I put into the cart, $30; but the real value was priceless to me.
Oliver really seemed to enjoy all of his birthday activities. A few neighbors and friends stopped by throughout the day to sing Happy Birthday, each time eliciting a huge smile from him. He watched me put iceing on his cake and was so beside himself with joy that he was literally jumping up and down. Later, as the family gathered around him when he blew out the candles it really seemed to me that there was no difference between him and any other four year old. And for the first time in his life, Oliver was excited about unwrapping his gifts, did not require assistance, and was actually interested in what was inside.
I always approach any day of tradition or celebration with a bit of trepidation. The things that make those days special for some people tend to throw Oliver a bit off-kilter and so I have to work very hard at negotiating my own expectations. But I don't think I could have wished for or gotten a better day or more reasons to celebrate.
Oh, except for one goldfish that must have swam back to Elmo's house while the children slept. But that is a whole other post.