As the days get closer to Christmas and I’m trying to find the balance in teaching my kids the true meaning of the season and adding in the magic of Santa and elves, I like to ask my husband and learn how his Christmas was like growing up compared to mine.
These questions pop up as I’m mentally checking ahead all the things I want to do with my kids and wondering if and how autism is going to play into it. Can we put out cookies for Santa? Did my husband do that? Did he put anything out for the reindeer? Will it matter to Mr. L what kind of cookies we put out and will he let us? Will he like that?
Yesterday while wrapping the last of the presents I was reflecting over the years how present opening has changed for my oldest with autism. It started out nice and he was learning like any other baby/toddler how opening presents traditionally works. As a little one Mr. L also really enjoyed the wrapping paper itself.
Then as the years went by Mr. L and his autism took a turn and Christmas traditions got bumpy there for awhile. Opening presents became foreign and frustrating. But as parents my husband and I watched carefully and learned how to smooth out our son’s holiday stress.
For a few years we only saw Santa if it could be a more private experience; in a separate room at a church Christmas party, at the mall early in the morning with a reserved time, etc. As the years have passed our son has gotten better at balancing his sensory input, removing himself in a responsible way when things get to be too much, and he has learned how to prepare before hand for things that will be extremely stimulating.
I’ve learned over the years not to compare my kid’s Christmas experiences to my childhood ones. It’s not fair because it’s not the same. You shouldn’t compare apples to oranges when both can be good in their own ways. But I’m still curious how my husband’s holidays looked when he was a kid. It’s fun to hear from his point of view how opening presents on Christmas morning was like, and what other traditions he had.
As a young mom I used to lament that my son wanted to open one gift… and then play with it… for a few hours… and ignore his other gifts. But looking back I see how silly this was, and I’m just glad I was patient enough not to try to force my autistic son to open presents he wasn’t ready for- where’s the fun in that?
Instead of forcing this amazing child into the expectations I was raised with, I have opened my eyes and let him teach me the real important parts of this snowy holiday. Christmas morning is still done early like most families, but it is usually slower paced at our place. Kids open whatever gift they want that is to them in whatever order they want. We can stop and open a toy, find the batteries if need be and take a break while the kids play.
Sometimes gifts for the kids stay under the tree for hours and they get to them after lunch or during dinner. I’m not saying these children have piles and piles of gifts, but the things that they do have, have no rush tied to them.
Over the years I have just learned to pick my battles, and as the kids grown I continue to learn which battles matter. I want good kids, responsible and kind ones, and I want to keep things as low key as autism will permit.
But I’m still curious, what does gift opening look like at your place? What was it like when you were a kid? Tell us about it 🎄🎁🎅