When Layna was a few months old she learned to clap her hands. Another mom who had baby girl around the same age that was in our friend group was really not ok with that. Eliza was not clapping her hands yet, but here was a sweet little disabled girl outperforming a neural typical child. Sigh. Needless to say, the cute mom was super nice and never expressed these concerns overtly and we were always good friends and it was never a thing. However, that was a glimpse into how complicated life for a disabled person can be. Every victory comes with comparisons, every set back brings lots of…pity…I hate that emotion. I hate when I feel it for others and I especially hate when other people feel it for me. Neil and I and our sweet baby girl got it a lot back then. It’s still here sometimes, we have just learned to ignore it. Mostly.
However, something else she learned to do early on was smile. A big, squishy thing that makes her eyes disappear. And can we just pause for the dimples? Now that she has reached the sophisticated age of 12, the true smile proves more elusive than it was when she was 3. It vies with disdain and impatience and knowing better than everyone how things ought to be. But man, when it wins (and brings along belly laugh, especially) it’s all worth it.
I’ve probably mentioned how hard it was on me that for a long time she didn’t have opinions and preferences. It’s all good now, she is a girl who knows her mind! But I still find myself really wanting to maximize anything that is uniquely her. Luckily her birthday party theme was that and more. Layna Loves (with a capital L) the Disney Descendants franchise. All of us know the lyrics to every song and I’m pretty sure Garyn would include a few on a “guilty pleasures playlist”. Plus it meant I got to do a graffiti cake with edible spray paint!
It’s also been hard on me that for a long time Layna didn’t have her own friends that she didn’t share with her siblings. She can’t really share Naomi’s friends anymore. There is still some overlap with Corra’s friends but even that is fading. Our homeschool group has been perfect. She had friends to invite and they made her day delightful. In fact, one girl turned 12 in January and also had a Descendants themed party…her mom gave us the banner and it was awesome.
Before we got to the party though, Naomi had her own birthday surprises. She had everyone on tech crew wish Layna a happy birthday and she recorded it on a spare iPhone. Naomi also learned the chords to the birthday song on the ukulele and recorded herself singing and playing. Layna loved it all.
For the party, we did fancy popcorn with the color schemes of the two main characters to give as favors. We had a tea party-esque lunch with a help-yourself rainbow fruit tray. We visited all the animals, played with balloons, painted with watercolors, and played “Pin the Crown on Mal.” All activities picked and planned by the birthday girl. The next day we had the traditional Sunday Birthday Dinner and she got her presents from mom and dad. 12 is the year for heels and makeup…oh, she’s ready. There have been many makeup tutorials from her older sister, and let’s just say it’s a work in progress.
I love this travel-sized lady. I’m truly, and completely good with hanging out with her for the rest of forever. She’s got a stubborn streak a mile wide, but patience and a willingness to figure things out that provides balance. Never ceasing to crack us up (her new favorite adjective is superb but it has to be said like a buxom old lady with a drinking problem), we feel honored to get to experience her smile and love every day.