Bud had an appointment this week with the medical team he sees for medication management. We started seeing them about a year ago, in the midst of a very difficult time for Bud, and those early visits were incredibly stressful - wild displays of dysregulation filled with heart-pounding public tantrums and meltdowns in the waiting room, the hallway, the office.
Flash forward one year and the scene is very different. This time, Bud stood patiently next to me as I waited to check in at the counter. The two receptionists greeted us and Bud responded with a cheerful "Happy holidays!" They asked how he was and he said he was doing great. They asked what Santa would bring him this year, and he said he'd just like to be surprised. Then he took out his Dragon Tales toys and sat down to wait for me to finish up.
"Wow!" one receptionist said to me, softly enough that Bud couldn't hear. "He never talks to us!"
"I know," I said, beaming. "He's really doing great."
"He's like a different child from the one who started coming here," she answered.
Bud stayed conversational throughout the visit, answering all of the doctor's questions: school was good, he said. Ms. Brett was his best friend there. Kelly was his best kid friend. Sometimes he still got worried going to school, but just a little worried. He was looking forward to Christmas.
The doctor asked about our Christmas tree, and I told her that Bud hung all of the ornaments on it.
"Do you have a favorite ornament?" she asked him.
"Yes!" Bud asked enthusiastically.
"Which one is your favorite?" she asked.
"The heart!" he chirped, his eyes gleaming. I mentally scanned our tree, trying to remember the heart-shaped ornament he was talking about. Our tree has a wild assortment of ornaments - from cut-glass kangaroos to macaroni angels - but I couldn't think of a single heart.
"Which one is the heart?" I asked him, puzzled.
He turned to me and smiled, "The heart for Mom! With my picture on it!"
And then it clicked.
"Bud, did you make me a heart ornament at school?"
"YES!" he squealed.
"Oh, wow!" I gushed. "Is it a surprise?"
"YES!" he shrieked. "It's a SURPRISE!"
And yesterday, in Bud's backpack, I found a present wrapped in tissue paper. Bud told me that I shouldn't wait for Christmas, but should open it on the spot.
It was heart-shaped ornament, hand-colored, with a picture of Bud in the middle. We rearranged ornaments to hang it right in the center of the tree, and the delight of gift-giving set Bud off in a flurry of preparations for a family Christmas of his own making.
Before bed last night, Bud crept around the house gathering up toys and trinkets. He filled up stockings for Nana, Papa, and me - as well as for himself. This morning, I was awoken by his face in mine: "Mama, I need scissors."
"For what, Bud?" I asked, groggily.
"For the wrapping paper. In the playroom."
"What are you wrapping, hon?"
"A present for Nana."
When he had everything ready, he woke us all up and one by one we each opened our Bud-filled stockings and marvelled at the treasures inside. Bud got a teddy bear. I got a Fisher Price camera. Nana got a race car. Papa got a set of chattering teeth. By the time we finished opening our presents, Bud was bursting with excitement and pride for orchestrating such a magical morning.
I think I've already gotten everything I want for Christmas.