Tis the Season: Making Our Own Traditions

Rosie is lying on the couch wrapped in blankets, watching me, every now and then muttering "two more days." It's the first time in my 23 years of being a parent that I've ever experienced a child counting down Christmas. Bobby never did, even when we had a figurine where you took an ornament off every day and it counted down for you--we always forgot and never had it accurate because the boy would either ignore it or take them all out within the first week.

I don't know what clicked for Rosie, that at nine, she has spent the entire month of December announcing every day multiple times the days remaining to Christmas and her belief that "this will be the best Christmas ever!" I've enjoyed the daily reminders, seeing this anchoring in time. It's a novel experience for all of us in our house--Bobby and Lily show no concern and seem to pay no attention to the counting down. It's not that they're not looking forward (well, I'm not so sure about Bobby) to it, but that they aren't anchored, don't feel the need to count down to anything. I think. I don't really know.

It's okay, though, that my three experience time in their own way, that they don't tend to the same kinds of behaviors that other kids do. I've read blogs over the years, laments really, that Christmas is so hard for families and for autistic individuals and it's always seemed to be because of expectations of certain experiences.

I think we've been fortunate. We have a very small tight-knit family and few expectations placed on us. My parents have always accepted my three as they are: unique, wonderful individuals with different needs and ways of expressing themselves. As I learned over the years with Bobby that absolute honesty was going to happen despite attempts to teach him to not share when he didn't like a gift, I learned to ask what he wanted, to shop with him to get what he wanted. We learned what he liked and what he didn't. How hard is it to stop and ask? I applied the same thing with the girls. Instead of Christmases being fraught with meltdowns and let down expectations, we have a blast. Our household is designed around their (and my) sensory issues. If they need to disappear and calm down, they do. If I need to do the same, I do. Acceptance that we are all different with different needs and that it's okay to take care of our needs means that holidays aren't any different than any other day.

I'm not saying that it's perfect, though, without some level of conflict and sensory overload (just like every other day). It's not. What I am saying is that when our expectations are in line with reality, and when we are fortunate to have friends and extended family members  who understand our children (or us) and are accepting of our individual needs, holidays can be navigated successfully and pleasurably.

Maybe it doesn't look or feel traditional. Maybe there aren't decorations (or many). But it is our holiday, our way. Tomorrow Rick and I will have been married for 24 Christmases. It's taken (quite) a few of those Christmases to learn how to let go of expectations, to look at how things really are, and to create meaningful traditions for ourselves.

May your holidays be exactly what you want them to be.

We'll be pausing to remember those families who have lost beloved family members and friends.


melbo said...

Merry Christmas and happy anniversary! Thank you for all your hard work here over the year. I always appreciate reading your thoughts and keenly anticipate each new colour change/wig combo. Countering is a place I love to visit.

K Wombles said...

Thanks, Mel. :) I appreciate your kind words and your friendship! Merry Christmas!