I can’t quite remember exactly when Sean started asking me if I was excited about Christmas. Certainly, it was at least double digit days ago.
“So Mom…. Are you excited?”
Sometimes I’d say, “Yes.”
Other times I’d ask, “About what?”
I’ve even told him, “No.”
Face it. You have to have some fun when you’re asked the same question over and over again.
And over…and over…. and over.
While Sean is thirteen, he is as excited as a six year old over this year’s Christmas.
Could it be the asked-for Chuck Norris movie that has made him giddy with anticipation? Or is it the combination of the Hawaiian shirt and cowboy hat that appeared on his Christmas wish list?
Hmmm…. I guess in less than 24 hours we will all know what has caused my boy to take to his tiptoe walk and smacking at his ear as he paces back and forth between the kitchen and other rooms of the house.
Yep… the boy is definitely excited.
As for me… Well, the holidays are different. People are constantly asking what my plans are…eagerly awaiting me to unfold some grand adventure.
However, Christmas Day will be much like Christmas Eve and Christmas Eve will be much like any other day of the year.
They have to be.
You know routine – and comfort and that feeling of being in a safe zone – is always key to getting through anything.
And “anything” means holidays.
Sean, in a true moment of clarity one year, inquired why we were always the last ones to arrive and the first ones to leave any family gathering.
We were truthful.
We said it was because of him.
Two hours was our usual time limit….Three at the most.
Sometimes it was a matter of minutes.
It’s better now. Sean has the coping capabilities to go sit in a corner and read or think. But will he join in conversations with his numerous cousins or wait patiently for his turn at the foosball table?
Sure, you’ll hear him talk. But is he talking to anyone in particular? Probably not. Is he talking with someone instead of at someone? No.
Will he eat or even attempt to eat the lavish spread that’s been prepared?
When it comes to the holidays and family gatherings, you feel so much like you just want to be “normal” for once…for just a few hours.
You pray, “Please, let us get through this.”
And then you can’t.
Your family tries to understand. They go out of their way to accommodate. They try to convince Sean that a turkey leg is actually from a really big chicken.
But in the end, your heart breaks as your child has a meltdown over some minor thing that you never in your exhausted brain could have anticipated or you see the pained expression on his face from being in unfamiliar surroundings or you selfishly tell him 5 more minutes in the hopes of visiting with your relatives just a bit longer after he’s asked you for the zillionth time when you’re going home.
That turkey dinner…that 40 mile drive… those 5 minutes more are simply not worth it.
Nothing is worth putting Sean through that type of stress.
So today on Christmas Eve we will arrive late and leave early. We will snack but wait until we get home to have dinner.
And tomorrow we will wake up and be as normal as can be…with, of course, a few minutes of frenzied unwrapping thrown in.
We will stop by Grandma’s for a bit to say “Hi” and then it’s back home to have what we call in the Lehning household “hodge podge” for dinner.
Chicken nuggets. Mac & cheese. Whatever Sean wants for dinner. In fact, it will be whatever each of the kids wants for dinner.
As the saying goes, “The kitchen is open.” The short-order cook awaits…
Our Christmas will be simple…as it should be.
Because kids – autistic or not – are simple.
And Christmas is all about the kids – with a little Chuck Norris thrown in - isn’t it?
Merry Christmas everyone and, as an old family traditional saying goes, I wish you all health and happiness.