Wednesday, December 7, 2011

GBE2 Weekly Writing Challenge: Truth

So, this is how it all started:

I was preparing to pull out the stockings that my sister made quite a few years ago for our boys. However, before I always do this, I first pull out the short social story I made about them. After all, for some children with autism, the hanging of a stocking is a foreign concept. That big sock filled with toys, hanging at the fireplace so that some man with whom they've never spoken (too scared) can enter our house while they are sleeping and fill them? Well, it all seems so exciting to most of us but it can seem pretty strange to a person who thinks in only black and white.

In our home, our older son merely tolerates our fascination with the stocking celebration.

When I pulled out my hand-made social story about my sister stitching the stockings, our younger son's brow immediately furrowed. So, I put down the book and asked him what was wrong.

"Ohh," he said with much worry. "I sure hope I don't get coal in mine."

At first, I found the concern endearing. I'll admit that my husband uses this time of year for good behavior leverage--as lots of parents do! We learned years ago from my brother that parents can just pick up a phone and, voila!, have a direct line to Santa! This was sheer brillance!

Once we started having children, my husband quickly claimed to being able to BBM Santa in the blink of an eye if our younger son stepped out of line. Forget the antiquated days of e-mail! The threat worked so well that all Daddy had to do was to touch his Blackberry, and our younger son would step right back in line.

And yet, in the past year or so, as he's grown and his issues have become more defined and his anxiety has grown to new levels, it's evident that this parenting tactic has taken on a life of its own.

"What do you think you did that's going to lead Santa to put coal in your stocking?" I asked him.

"Pretty much everything," he said with worry. "I don't know where ok stops and bad begins." He truly didn't know what to do.

I wanted desperately to ease his anxiety. So, the plan was for him to write a letter to Santa to purge him of his concern. Good, right? I was patting myself on the back for my parenting at this point. Our older son walked into the room to get a drink. Younger son was busy writing. I was Mom of The Year.

"So, Mama," our younger son asked, "where is this letter going to go?"

"We'll place it in the tree in the special Santa letter holder we have." I answered.

"Does Santa come into the house EVERY NIGHT to check for letters?" he asked. His eyes round.

"Noooooo. No." I said. "Not every night."

"Oh," he trudged on. "so he just comes in the house when I write letters?"

Geez, kid, why the inquisition??

"Ummmm, yyyeah." Was that a good answer? Maybe I should have gone with magic...

"So, if I keep writing letters, then he could be in our house every night!" His eyes were wide with the possibilities.

Oh, dear.

By this point, our older son was listening. Our older son is not thrilled about the jolly man in red. Actually, we ruined this kid with the Tooth Fairy. From that point forward, any thought of someone sneaking into our house at night--bearing gifts or not--just creeps him out.

"And, mama? When Santa comes into our house, do we HAVE to be asleep? Because Aidan W. said that we didn't. I think I heard that we did. So, what do you think?" His questions were coming fast and furious.

I wish my answers were coming to mind as quickly.

"Oh, yes, you have to be asleep." I answered. "You have to be asleep in order for him to work his magic!"

Older brother started pacing. Shoot! Magic is no good for older son! Older son likes CALM! Why didn't I think of that??!!

"You know, though," I started with the damage control. "Magic is very quiet. You don't even know it is happening. And, magic is always happy. It's calm, quiet and happy."

I sounded like a dork. Parents are officially dorks. This is how it happens. We get caught off guard, and we get sent right down the toilet into the sewer of dork-hood.

"Magic?!" our younger son questioned. "Oh, I don't know about that. I thought he just reached in his bag and pulled stuff out. I don't know that I want any magic going on. That doesn't sound good. What if it's scary? What if some of the magic is left behind and turns evil?"

Are you kidding me? Is this really where this conversation is going? One parent cannot possibly talk about Santa with two children on completely different areas on the autistic spectrum. It just isn't possible.

Here we are, trying to celebrate the simple joys of the holiday season. Only, I'm reminded that in our lives, even the simple things aren't simple. And, to prove it, right then, in that very moment, they were both a bundle of nerves, and their mom was nothing but a big, fat liar.

"Listen," I said in a last-ditch effort to salvage this rotting family moment. "Christmas is perhaps the biggest holiday of the year for a lot of people in this country. We're surrounded. It's really easy to get caught up in all of the details. There are simply too many to deal with. Why not pick one or two things that are your very favorite about the season and concentrate on that?"

I saw our younger son exhale.

"Well, I'd like to not have coal in my stocking, and I like the cookies." he said.

"Me, too." I answered. "And, I think your brother hopes for a good night of sleep that night without any visitors to his room."

Blessedly, mama found truth in simplicity and hoped to keep it that way for as long as possible.


  1. Oh boy, my son is at the age of the grand inquisition too! LOL Great post as always!!


  2. *waiting for the applause to quiet* Excellent post and fantastic mothering! You just amaze me each and every time you are challenged (and we know that is OFTEN) you just rise to the occasion!
    Wishing you a very Merry Christmas and the boys a nice peaceful and shhhhhh quiet visit from the jolly old elf. Ps. I've never ever seen him or heard him in my house and I am very, very old.

  3. I found this very interesting. I've mentioned I have a grandson with Aspergers syndrome, but this post reminded me more of his older sister. She's 21 now and STILL doesn't like Santa. Never would sit on his lap and was scared to death to think about him coming into the house when everyone was asleep. She's the only kid I know who was thrilled to find out Santa was Mom and Dad--or Nana and Grandpa.

  4. Kathy--GOOD LUCK! It's exhausting no matter the circumstances!

    Friz, you are so kind!

    As are you, Jo! And, btw, Jesus is older, so there's only so much sympathy you're going to get on the age comment. LOLOLOL!

    Angela, I don't know your family circumstances, so there could always be more/less going on with your granddaughter...but on the surface, it isn't uncommon to find shadow effect of autism---little things here and there--in siblings. Anxiety during the holiday season isn't a stretch for any kid, btw. But the idea of the stranger coming into the home (tooth fairy, easter bunny, santa--who gets more publicity than any of them) can create a lot of anxiety for spectrum kids.

  5. You really are a natural-born mom. Lucky, lucky boys.

    Oh, and Jo is only a wee bit younger than Jesus. *cowering and covering my head, waiting for the inevitable wallop*

  6. You sound very patient.

    I'm going for the lie being that you once lived in Australia.


  7. talking, conversations are great, are they? enjoy these happy holly days, amy.....