Ben is 6! Like every year, the actual day is full of mixed emotions. While we are joyful that we are celebrating six years since Ben joined us, on the day I am also mindful that this time six years ago Ben was being resuscitated then being transferred on his own in an ambulance to a different hospital, and that our lives changed forever.
But it gets easier every year, as the memories are less immediate, there is more to celebrate and Ben is more engaged in birthdays.
As is now our annual tradition, James made a video to summarise Ben’s year. I won’t post it, partly for reasons of privacy but also because of self-indulgence; while most parents will happily watch a ten minute video of their own child, no-one I know really wants to watch a long video of someone else’s child, even if that child is the subject of a semi regular blog they read. It’s surely the modern equivalent of being made to sit through someone else’s holiday photos.
So, here’s the executive summary. It is unashamedly positive. Let’s ignore the tiresome stuff for now.
In Ben’s sixth year he:
- Enjoyed ice-skating and went round the rink quite a lot faster than grandpa;
- Went down a zipwire, swung from a sports hall ceiling and went kayaking at the Calvert Trust;
- Did a lot of triking;
- Was a lovely older brother to Max, letting him wear his lycra suit and clamber all over him;
- Moved house (again – his fourth since he was born);
- Got a new wheelchair-accessible car (which is great but unfortunately turns out to be one of the cheating VW emission scandal cars…);
- Got his own eyegaze computer to use at home and used it to tell us knock knock jokes;
- Went to the House of Commons and met an MP;
- Lost four baby teeth, swallowing at least one;
- Did a lot of trampolining;
- Went to a summer playscheme for the first time and made a biscuit the size of his head;
- Went on holiday to the Cotswolds and Cornwall. Next year places beginning with D. Suggestions welcome;
- Had brain surgery and dealt with it amazingly;
- And last but not least, left one wonderful school and started at another, settling in quickly.
Ben had a lovely birthday. Over the years we have learnt what works and what doesn’t. We are less concerned these days about what a typical six year old birthday party would be like and just do what we think he will enjoy – small family celebrations, lots of presents and balloons, ice-cream cake which he can at least taste if not eat.
If I do say so myself, we have done particularly well with Ben’s presents this year. It’s tricky to think of things he will really like beyond yet more books, but he is really enjoying a puppet theatre where we put on shows for him with hand puppets, a lightbox that we can spell words on, and a teddy bear that will play Daddy’s voice (from Kuwait this week) or anyone else who records their voice via an app. So satisfying when all of the thought I have put into presents he will like pays off.
The coming year will involve more change for Ben, not least with a new sister and another house move. His somewhat relentless life will continue with the usual levels of complexity and endless appointments, but he has continued to prove that he can take it. It feels like he (and we) are more resilient and happier than ever. We will inevitably have some blips. I am certain the arrival of a third child will throw us all off course, he’ll get the usual winter bugs and we will face unexpected challenges. But, but… if I had been able to see how well we are all doing six years on from the awful day of his birth, maybe I wouldn’t have been quite so sad.