Last year I wrote a post entitled The Reality of Christmas and was open about the stresses that I felt as a parent of a child with additional needs, who didn’t quite get Christmas.
I spoke about the pressure some of us feel trying to live up to the expectations of social media in hammering the hell out of Christmas, introducing children to Elf on a Shelf, visits to Father Christmas, nativity and the countless other events that the festivities bring. I wanted to show the world that Christmas for us, can be very different but I didn’t want sympathy, purely understanding.
What I wrote seemingly resonated with many parents in very similar situations and there was a sense of relief in what I and others felt was very much the same thing and it was shared many times over.
And whilst it’s always flattering when a post is shared, there was a tinge of sadness to it all because I was still left feeling that I wanted Joseph to experience Christmas as I’d known it. I wanted him to be excited about making a list. I wanted him to not be able to sleep on Christmas Eve because he was beside himself waiting for Santa to deliver his much longed for presents. Ironic really as the other 364 days I am willing him to stay in bed!
I reflected on what I wanted for Joseph and realised it was typical of many other situations we encounter. I am seeing life through my lens and believing that his happiness is driven by what society expects us to find delight in. I realised that Joseph doesn’t need the media driven frenzy that we all come to expect and sometimes want to rebel against. I realised that his happiness comes in many different forms and just because he doesn’t want to write a letter to Santa, name 72 different toys he wants, and insists on playing with his old (bastard) iPad, doesn’t mean that he and I can’t enjoy Christmas.
Through the course of our autism journey, I have learned to adjust my expectations and balance introducing experiences to Joseph, which I feel he may enjoy alongside allowing him to relax in his own world.
Two years ago all he would say was “presents”. Last year he named every mode of transport he knew. I recently tried asking him what he would like for Christmas.
Me: Joseph what would you like for Christmas?
Joseph: Nothing, I just want to eat my chips
M: You must want something? What toys do you like?
J: I don’t know
M: You know when we go to the toy shop or the supermarket and you want to buy everything? Think of something you would like from there
J: I’d like a Paraglider Trike
Me: *eyes rolling* I don’t think I could get one of them, what would you like other than a Paraglider Trike?
J: A Paraglider
M: *eyes rolling* Can you think of anything else?
J: Another Paraglider
Give me strength!! Maybe this post should be an appeal for someone to make him one?
We’re a blended family so we do take into account what other people want and need and have to balance that with what Joseph needs. I’m not saying I’ve given up this year, it’s another form of self-preservation by not expecting much.
I’ve never been the one for celebrating Christmas on the 1st December and this year I’m not going to put any pressure on any of us. It’s about taking it one step at a time and going with the flow.
And if he wants the (bastard) iPad again, then so be it.
This post was first published on Family Fund.
Tina is mum to a 9 year old boy Joseph who has autism. She likes to give an honest (often sweary) account of their lives dealing with autism. You can follow her on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or directly through her blog.