Autism and Christmas

Christmas in a Special Needs Home

“Christmas” in every house is different. Whether you have a child(ren) with Special Needs or not, the expectation to create a “perfect”Christmas for your family weighs heavy on us all as parents.

Christmas time in our house used to be an emotional and often a sad time, for me as a mom. I was hyper aware of what Christmas “should” be, and yet in our house it did not meet those expectations.

I had my own memories of Christmas from my childhood, I had my experiences of Christmas as an adult and of course there were countless TV shows/advertisements/social media posts depicting what we are supposed to “perceive” as Christmas.

The sadness in our house for me through the years has been for the most part because my older son Conor had no real understanding that “Christmas”day was “supposed” to be monumentally different, to just about every other day of the year. He saw the presents, he saw the Christmas dinner, he saw the tree. He didn’t seem to care and just wanted to have his “normal” routine continue as always. He wanted the dinner he always liked and the day to carry on as it always had.

While Hailey would excitedly open her presents and show them to Conor, he would sit back, not too sure of what was happening and generally seemed uninterested. With a lot of coaxing he might look at his presents with a shy smile or sometimes would just push them away.

In the early days, I remember literally crying into the sink as I washed the vegetables that would be part of our dinner. I felt a weight on my shoulders that maybe, back then I didn’t truly understand at all.  I think guilt played a huge role in those days. I wanted him to have the experiences I had when I was young with my brothers and sisters. I wanted him to wake up excited to see what Santa had brought for him. I felt, him not understanding or having that interest in Christmas was a failure in me as a Mother.

I think the guessing game of what Santa could bring for him had an effect on me also. The run up to Christmas itself when Conor was small,was a sombre time as I had no idea what to buy for him (I still don’t if I am being honest). I have spent years buying Conor toys from the Fisher Price/Vtech section (in the Baby/Toddler aisle), he was growing up but the toys he had a small amount of interest in, were still baby toys.

I used to try and avoid Smyths Toy store in December each year as it would be packed with Moms and Dads shopping in the “boys” aisles, picking out cars, trains or construction sets, picking out toys and games I had seen my own brothers love growing up. I avoided it in December like the plague and instead I would shop in October/November when it would be less busy and I could tell myself it didn’t matter and that Conor would be happy with what I had chosen for him. The truth was I had no idea if Conor would like his gifts or give a damn about any of them.

I feel this year I am in a different place mentally. I still have that guilty feeling and I did struggle again this year to pick out gifts from Santa for Conor but it is different this year.

I guess it could be acceptance. I feel I am accepting the fact now that Conor just doesn’t care a great deal about Christmas and presents. I am now accepting he is happy just as he is and that maybe he has the right idea? Social pressures tell us what “Christmas” should be, how we should all feel and that we all need to “merry and bright” come Christmas morning. Delighted with life and our presents under the tree.

Special Needs Christmas

Conor is happy just being himself, hanging out at home with us, playing with his Ipad, eating the dinner he likes and maybe (if I am lucky)having a look at some of the presents he receives.

There is an old saying that I may not have the correct wording of; but it goes something like “it’s not what’s under the tree that counts, but who is around it”. For me, I think that is where I am mentally this year. Yes, we won’t have the hoopla that our neighbours and friends have when their children wake on Christmas morning, but I will have my son here with me,happy and healthy.

It has taken almost 9 years for me to get to a place where I accept what I cannot change, and I want to say that maybe next year I will be back at that sink crying over the carrots again, and if that happen that is okay!

When I started to write this blog post I wasn’t sure where it was going or what I was going to write but I kept having this vision of a Mom on Christmas day, crying like I have often cried, wishing for a life that may just not be possible.

I want to reach out to that Mom or Dad now and say, yes, it is so hard sometimes when you just want to have a “normal” Christmas like“everyone” else. But I also want to say they need to remember your “family” Christmas is just that, it’s “yours”. It is what you make of it. You don’t have to live up to any expectations but your own. Your child may be like Conor and not care less about any of it, maybe he/she will stay in their room ignoring everyone else, maybe they will hate their presents. Who knows, I don’t that is for sure. But I do know that starting out with the mindset this is “OUR” Christmas has helped me tremendously. Relinquish what you perceive to be the “perfect” Christmas and make “YOUR” own Christmas traditions instead.

One of our traditions albeit not one I really like myself is that at-least one of my three sons (Max included) will stay awake all Christmas Eve, so every single Christmas Eve, either myself or my husband have had to stay on “Santa” watch. Making sure the boys don’t try to escape out of the house or that they don’t get into the toys and break everything. Is that a fun tradition? NO! But it is part of our Christmas every year lol! I can expect that it will happen. Much the same as I have come to expect and accept Conor may not look at any of his gifts for possibly days or weeks after Christmas, if at all.

Yes, it is hard sometimes but this year for whatever reason I have a feeling of peace about it all. I have accepted that if he is happy and healthy; I am at the very least one of the lucky ones.

I hope wherever and however you celebrate Christmas this year you are surrounded by love and peace. Make Christmas YOURS. x

Amanda

Christmas in a Special Needs Home

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