Ahh the holidays. I love the holidays, but it’s become a completely bittersweet time of year for us now that we are a special needs family. When you have children, naturally you reminisce about your holiday experiences as a child and eagerly anticipate doing those very things with your own kids. Except what happens when the time comes to recreate those things and your child doesn’t respond in the way that you had hoped? What if it’s not even close? Are you supposed to scrap the holidays all together, ignore the hustle and bustle around you and burry your head in the sand from October through January? Cancel Christmas? Well, as much as I could use that kind of break, (can’t we all hibernate like bears in the winter?!) that’s just not realistic.
Take our situation for example. Any time we bring a gift to our son to open and try to demonstrate or hand-over-hand open the wrapping or pull the tissue paper out of the bag, he looses it. I mean full on Wedding Crashers stage 10 clinger melt down. The next step is taking said gift and trying to teach him how to use it. Repeat stage 10 clinger melt down. Then repeat the entire process with the 8 other toys or gifts that we got him. Sitting on the big guys lap or indulging in sweets- no thank you he says. My kid hates all things holiday. He’s essentially the Grinch. Pretty much the cutest, most loving, sweet, his-heart-grew-three-sizes kind of Grinch, but still a Grinch none the less and that’s okay.
There are plenty of things that I don’t like that others really enjoy, but I’m not made to like them just because it’s popular or because someone else wants me to like it. Why should he have to like the holidays and why should I be upset if he doesn’t enjoy the same things in the same way that I do? I totally understand wanting to share with him what I experienced as a child and there is a sense of loss in that. I honor that feeling completely and then it’s time to figure out what’s going to work for us.
My son actually really likes gifts if they are set up for him to succeed. No wrapping, no batteries needing to be put in, no teaching him the “correct” way to play with it. If I have it all ready to go and let him play with it the way he enjoys to, then he is the happiest little dude. The same goes for birthdays. When we sing to him he gets so overwhelmed that he cries. If we just say “Happy Birthday” in a sing-song kind of way, he giggles for days! He’s not a sweets guy, give him a piece of cake or a cookie and he’s disappointed. He likes fruit and crackers so that’s what he gets for dessert and he couldn’t be happier.
The more I take cues from him, the better the experience is for everyone. It’s always the times I try to project how the experience should go is when it ends in everyone crying. So this holiday season we will have all of his gifts ready to go for him, unwrapped with batteries in. We will have fruit and crackers instead of figgy pudding. We will have stories of Santa and his Elves instead of visiting them. It’s his holiday season too after all. I will still eat my cookies and drink my Hot Toddy’s because let’s face it, we could all use some of those to get through this journey and the season, merry or Grinchy as it may be! Here’s to making all different kinds of new memories!
Wishing all of the special needs tribe and all who love us a very happy holiday season! Hugs!