Have you ever compared what your life is like on a daily basis with your child to someone else’s life and wished your life was just a little bit more like theirs? I used to do this all the time and truth be told I still do this occasionally when my life with my child with special needs is chaotic. With social media always showing us all the happy, smart people out their leading exciting lives it is hard to not compare even though we know that is not reality. It is just a snapshot of a bigger picture.
Dreams of a Norman Rockwell Holiday
The worst time for me to do this is during the holiday. I love the holiday season for many reasons. I love the feeling of happiness, giving, generosity, love and acceptance during this season. In the past, I used to not like it for many reasons as well. I would watch all the children excitedly tell their parents what they wanted from Santa, join in with all the holiday games and parties, look forward to decorating cookies and see their faces light up when they unwrap their gifts and so on and so forth. I so wished and prayed I would have these very same experiences with my child. But my reality with my child is very different.
Adjusting, accepting & embracing a new kind of Normal
My life looks a little different during the holiday season just like a lot of our mommies of special needs children. My son could care less about presents. As a matter of fact, he screams and lashes out when I give him a present to open. I think he thinks it is therapy (occupational therapy to be exact). I take him to St. Augustine every year to soak up the holiday spirit with all the holiday lights and people singing. I try to get his photo under the big Christmas tree. I want to have those fun photos to show people my son during the holiday season. This year he screamed from the time we were parking the car to the time we left 30 minutes later. I decided to settle on driving through the neighborhoods with light displays to try to “catch” the holiday spirit. After several failed attempts to help him experience the holiday spirit, I had a light bulb moment. This is not what brings him holiday joy and spirit. The extra noises, lights and excess people during these events is a sensory overload for him. He likes places and things that he is used to within his routine. This is how I am used to celebrating the holiday and I wanted to pass this on to him. Traditions are very important to me and I wanted to have these traditions with Brandon. It is time for a change.
Starting a New Tradition
I realized it is time for me to start new traditions and have a “New Kind of Normal”. I started writing down all the things Brandon likes to do during the holiday. He loves to eat, he loves to jump, he loves to ride in the car, he likes hanging out at the gym because he is used to going there, he loves music and he loves his Chewelry. So, this year instead of giving him toys he will never play with I got a big basket and filled it with his favorite snacks and a year supply of chewelry’s. I filled his stocking with sensory toys and fidgets.
On Christmas morning, I waited for him to find his fun stash on his own time. No prearranged time to open gifts, no coercing him to sit on the floor and get his presents out from under the tree, no flash of the camera going off. I had to learn to give him space to experience the holidays on his terms, not mine and when he was comfortable. When he finally saw his fun stash his eyes lit up, he looked at me and started jumping up and down and grabbed one of his snacks and excitedly gave it to me to help him open it. I smiled and enjoyed that moment and was thankful for the many lessons my son teaches me on a daily basis. Our holidays are not perfect, but we are working on better traditions that suit our family.
Ideas for New Traditions
It is difficult to start new traditions. This is an amazing book with lots of great ideas for traditions for your family. You could use this book with your family to choose new traditions that fit your unique family.
Lisa K (Parent)