Saturday, December 24, 2011

When Christmas isn't Joyful

"I don't like Christmas. This holiday stresses me out."

This was what the voice output said yesterday on our older son's dynavox, his portable assistive technology designed to help him communicate and give him a voice when he isn't able to give his own.

Each day, I program news from home, information about what our son did after school the previous day. He and I go over this together so that he knows what I have programmed. He then takes this to school and shows it as his morning news.

His Teacher's Assistant sends home news from school each day as well, and, on this last day of school before we break for the Christmas holiday, he didn't have much to say that was good.

He wanted to go home.

The holiday stressed him out.

He watched a movie and it was...okay.

No joy in the parties. No excitement for Santa. This kid wanted to come home and hole up in his room and make the holiday maddness disappear--and that's exactly what he did when he did arrive home in the early afternoon.

In our household, we have one child who is so excited about this holiday, he is so zapped up that he runs frantically around the house practially speaking in Tongues. The other child just wishes it would go away. One child obsesses over every minutia, tirelessly, with the energy of a thousand men. The other does not want to discuss it.

As their mother, I am literally torn. Of course, it is easier to handle the uber-believer. Bake cookies! Watch holiday movies! Visit houses with lights! Drink in the season! Go on! More! More! More! There's always time to collapse in the New Year.

However, in years past, with every holiday that our other son hates, a piece of me has felt broken.

Recently, with his increased communication skills, I'm now able to really "hear" him say what I sensed all along. He truly doesn't like holidays. And, yes, he truly hates Christmas. It bothers him. It stresses him out. Every year, when his behaviors go off the charts, he isn't some stark raving maniac like I'll admit to thinking in prior sleep deprived days.

He's a stressed out kid living in a chaotic world.

But, what can I do? I can't make Christmas go away.

Oh, maybe I could if he were an only child. But he's not. He's the sibling to a Christmas enthusiast.

As I sit on the family room couch, pecking away on the keyboard of my portable Mom Cave and contemplating this situation, he is trying to settle into bed for the night. I hear I'm tossing and turning. Then, getting out and standing, turning around before getting back in bed again. Toss and turn. Back out of bed. Toss. Turn. Out of bed.

In the past, such "behaviors" would come out of the woodwork on the last day of school, and I would think, "Great! Here we go! It's going to be a long break!". Oh, I knew he was suffering from a lapse in the routine, but how different everything seems when your child is able to confirm your hunches.

Gosh, now I realize he's been crying out for help.

This year, I have purchased the gifts. They are particularly great, if I do say so myself. But, I'm not pushing them on him. I'll place them quietly in his vacuum room where he can open them on his own time.

No pressure.

No expectations.

Well, I think that in order to meet the needs of both of these kids on Christmas day, I just might expect the need for a good pair of running shoes because they will be spending the holiday as far apart from each other as possible. But, that's okay. It's only for a day.

I can do anything for a just a day, right?

Merry Christmas, everyone! Good luck to all of my fellow special ed families out there!


  1. Yes, one day at a time, one after the other. Your story has certainly opened my eyes to the spectacular gift of communication we generally take for granted.

    I hope you have a very Merry Christmas!

  2. Thanks, Mike! Merry Christmas to you and yours!

    Our son's increase in communication the past couple months have been more of a gift than I can ever say.

  3. Merry Christmas Amy and peace for the one who needs it. Routine is his life and let's be honest, Christmas is anything but! ♥ and ((hugs)) to all and to all a good night.

  4. Merry Christmas! Half of our family is now at the airport! We have half of the gifts open. Half are not touched. Half of the household tracked Santa's every last move and half of it ignored his very exsistence. If we can continue at this pace and remain intact, that's all I can ask!

  5. Blending the needs of both, yikes. Somehow, you always make it work. You have magic, do you know that?

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