Tuesday, December 27, 2011
An autism Christmas...redefined
It's what typical parents do right? I did it too. Spent way too much money at Toys R Us and once Kai went to sleep, we set up the entire living room with toys. I mean, the ENTIRE living room. There was a drum set, ride on toy, books, ball toys, instruments, electronic toys, DVD's, train set, etc. You get the picture. Never mind that he had just been diagnosed several months before, that he had a thousand a ten red flags, that he was not even close to being able to write a letter to Santa....oh no. I had this image in my head that just had to happen. I am really stubborn after all.
Several years later ,around 2008, we had a tiny breakthrough. He started to look at the gifts out of the corner of his eye, run towards them, touch them and then run away. He would be curious of what gift bags might have in them. In 2009, I numbered all his gifts. I would ask him to bring me # 1 and I would open it for him. I would then repeat the same exercise for all gifts without once forcing him to open the toy or play with it. In 2010 I labeled all his gifts with his name written really big where he could see it. I sat with him and would tear the gift for him initially and had him finish opening it. This year, well this year was amazing.
This year brought on something in the likes of a light switch. Something just turned on. Shortly after his birthday when he asked about "birthday gifts" he started asking for Christmas gifts. I explained that Christmas was in December, we were only in July and we would also need to have a Christmas tree first. The day we got the tree he was just beyond excited. He now knew we were in December and naturally, Christmas must be very near. The tree went up the day after Thanksgiving. He checked that tree several times a day to make sure he did not miss "the gifts". He asked and asked and asked and asked until he was blue in the face.
Days before Christmas I sat with him to write a letter to Santa. I had him address it to Santa Mommy. (I don't know what his cognitive level will be years from now so if need be, I can always have him drop the "Santa" part of the equation to avoid having a 17 year old asking for Santa because it's what I taught him.) I prompted the first several things on the list I knew he would like and then he rattled off a couple of things ON HIS OWN to add. I was floored.
I really thought he was not going to make it until Christmas day. This boy is making up for years of not celebrating Christmas in one year. The night before we celebrated with a Noche Buena dinner. We had the kids in attendance and Kai open a couple of gifts before Santa's big delivery the next morning. He was so excited. It was hard to explain that it was only a preview until the next morning but he obliged.
Christmas morning was just a dream. He dove to open all gifts. He played with them one at a time before going on to the next one. He really truly enjoyed this Christmas like I had wanted him to do that day when he he was 3 in 2005.
I could not stop smiling. I still can't stop smiling. I want to make it clear that it's not about the material side of asking for things on Christmas. To me, with him, it's about seeing him enjoy a day that typical children look forward to. A day that I as a child enjoyed so much. It's about us being able to finally have a day when we are the typical ones too and not the ones that once again do things differently and all the effort that comes with that. A chance to feel normal and relaxed where the only stress is how much you probably should not have spend on this or that. What most people see as typical or normal, is what we yearn for. It's really tiring to not be that typical family 365 days a year, 24 hours a day. For once, we were kinda normal and it felt great!