Yesterday was Corrigan’s 6th birthday and boy did he enjoy his day! What a change from years past, when birthdays didn’t register in any fashion to his little brain and the stimulus would often cause meltdowns. He knew it was his birthday the moment that he woke, which absolutely surprised us. We had been talking about his birthday in order to help him understand the concept for days, like we must do for everything, and Mark told him at bedtime the night before that in the morning he would be six years old, but neither of us expected him to remember. But alas he did, and we were thrilled!
He enjoyed mini-cupcakes with his classmates during the school day and I prepared a little party for him while he was gone. I made him a large poster for the front of the house after seeing how much he loved the one that I made for Connor earlier in the week, cheering him on at the State Track Finals, so I made sure that Corrigan had his own sign (and balloons!) when he got off of the bus. He saw them the moment the bus pulled up in front of the house and he was out of that tin can like his butt was on fire!
Forget using the handrails and forget my backpack mom. There’s bawoons!!!!
Corrigan is still so easy to please, loving balloons, bubbles and birthday accoutrements just as much at age 6 (!) as he did when he was much smaller. I had thought about a “theme” because each of Connor’s birthdays had a theme, or character, on the party supplies but Corrigan loves rainbows and colors more than Jake the Pirate or Monsters Inc. so I stuck to what he liked most.
His favorite part of anyone’s birthday is the singing, but being sung to is the highlight of his life now. A far cry from the earlier birthdays when hearing a group sing Happy Birthday was too much for him to bear and he would become inconsolable. We sang it several times, and we taught him the “you look like a monkey and you live in a zoo” version earlier in the day so we were obliged to sing that version as well. He just sat there, proud as a peacock, grinning and laughing, while we all sang. Have you ever sang a song and you could hear the smile in your voice? I smile-sang all day long.
He was not interested in his birthday cake much this year, but he did wake this morning asking about it. The taller candles made him nervous, so he wouldn’t get close to blow them out, lesson learned on that front. Sometimes new things, like considerably taller candles than usual, are enough to send him into his shell, but he pushed through and coped by just ignoring his cake mostly. Which is totally fine, I am proud of him for choosing that way to handle his anxiety, rather than freaking out or sobbing.
He was gifted many nice things, including a Corrigan-sized swimming pool that I’m sure I won’t be able to keep him out of this summer. Which is another testament to his progress, a few years ago the thought of a body of water near my house would make me panic, he was so untrustworthy around such things but not anymore. And it doesn’t hurt that the pool is only 30 inches deep, rather than something over his head.
He did a great job opening presents without assistance and without getting quickly frustrated when the wrapping paper didn’t come off smoothly. We really noticed how hard he worked at containing his emotions this year and we are so proud of him.
You know me, I had to compile photos from each birthday to share and I am struck by the lack of “light” in his eyes when he was younger compared to the last two years.
We really lost our little boy to his brain injury those first few years and feared we would never see that “light” in his eyes. He was so withdrawn, anxious and unconnected from those that loved him so much, for so so so long. I cannot even convey to you the absolute gratefulness in my heart for the emergence of Corrigan’s essence. That “spark” that makes him who he is, that allows him to laugh, to enjoy and to feel things more as you and I do, instead of pulling inward, confused and fearful of the world around him. Time, patience and the dedication of his teachers and therapists have pulled Corrigan out from his shell, slowly but surely, and I believe that you can see it in photos like this one… (click to view larger)
I can tell you that, four years ago, I never thought these kind of interactions would ever occur. He was not affectionate nor did he care for it to be heaped upon himself. Eye contact was near zero, though I could fake the appearance of it by waiting patiently and capturing it on camera. What I see in the above photo is amazing. Astounding, really. I see a little boy who saw his Grandma and was thrilled. Recognition. I see how excited he was that she was approaching him. No anxiety. I see the way that he is looking at her. Prolonged eye contact. I see that he knows what to do and wants to do it, and it is a natural response, not in any way coached. Love. Affection. I see that the moment she touched him his hands relaxed. Safety. I see so much in five little frames, I see a world of possibilities. I see progress. I see that spark. I know it was Corrigan’s birthday but seeing these photos with Grandma is such a gift to me. Clearly, her love is a gift to him. He is such a lucky boy to have so many people that care for him so much.
You can look back on all of his birthdays by searching “birthday” in the search box on the right side of the blog, he really has changed so much! I did want to share my post that I wrote for his first birthday HERE. I invite you to read it and look at the photos. I rarely go back and read my earlier posts, they are too fraught with fear and I am not far away from those same emotions really, all of these years later, so I avoid them to keep myself stronger but my boy is amazing. So brave. So strong. Such a survivor.
We love you, Corrigan! May year six be the jumping off point to which you soar in all that you endeavor. We are so proud of how far you’ve come and cannot wait to see just how much you change in the next twelve months! Happy Birthday, sweet boy!