During the Holidays it gets pretty rough with our little Monsters, but it gets even harder when you have kids on the spectrum. Somethings that us as parents of kids on the spectrum understand is the limits and the possibility of things during the Holiday season. Things that we all go through during the Holiday season. For us it is all about surviving the Holiday season. For others it seems they never truly understand what we go through. How hard it is or why our children hate being in certain places. Why our kids don’t rip open gifts and why they won’t eat the Christmas ham. We are trying to decide on how to get from one place to another without a meltdown. We just want as much enjoyment and meltdown free time as possible. Stress comes with the Holidays and maybe understanding why we aren’t enjoying it like you. We still love this time a year and have a new way of going about things. We are still enjoying the Holiday season, but with a few limits and the possibility of a few new things in mind.
Our ways of surviving the Holiday season.
1.) If you ask me to go Christmas shopping with you and I have the Monster that day and it happens to be busy, expect a meltdown or 2. Be prepared for some screaming while we are in every. Single. Store. I have learned to ignore it, he’s in his stroller and he will eventually be fine. I have decided that I will never be a victim inside my own home. I refuse to stay home and limit not just myself but my child. The world will just have to deal with the meltdowns and the screaming. He is trying his best to adjust to the rest of the world, so shoppers…just deal with it. My husband works crazy work hours, so leaving the Monster home every weekend isn’t an option. Sometimes it’s not an option for us at all, so be ready for it. His patience is thin and something at any given time just might set him off. Don’t worry, my plan of seeing if he needs something sometimes works, if it’s something else that is bothering him…well in the words of Dory (Finding Nemo) “Just keep swimming.” We will get through our shopping trip, it might take a little longer, but we will eventually get there.
2.) The Holidays is a 2 person job. We can’t have Thanksgiving dinner on Thanksgiving. My sister Kas works retail and since she is higher up in the store, she doesn’t really get time off during Thanksgiving week. The bad thing about having it the Sunday before is Mike usually always works. Having to watch the Monster and eat, plus try to visit with my family is impossible. It’s a headache, yeah I get plenty of help from my family, but it’s still hard. Having 2 people and 4 eyes usually always on the Monster makes things a little easier and more comforting. So when visiting and having a conversation with every person in the room might not be possible. With or without Mike something is always going on and something is always distracting the Monster. Don’t get offended if I am chasing after the Monster constantly and have no time to have a long conversation about how you cooked the turkey today. The husband is most likely cleaning up a mess or trying to eat and now that I am done with dinner I am a little busy trying to keep my son from touching the mashed potatoes with his fingers that he just had in his pants. 😉
3.) The limits with the eating. The Monster might not always want to eat. If he isn’t in his environment then he might enjoy playing a lot more than eating his dinner, I can feed him when I get home. If he doesn’t like it then I have no problem taking out his potato chips and Cheetos and letting him munch on those until we get home. Food is food in our book, and my Monster isn’t going to eat turkey or ham (unless I hide it in some other type of food) so sorry if it hurts your feelings when I say, “No, he doesn’t like that, I will find him something else.” It’s not because I don’t want to feed my child wonderful things like a turkey leg. He just won’t eat it. No big deal, when we get home I will make him a pizza or a grilled cheese. Hell, I will even stop by McDonald’s and pick him up a cheeseburger. He will get a meal sooner or later, it might not be the meal that you prepared, but it will be a meal.
4.) We might be late for the festivities. We can’t go on time anymore if we don’t need to. So if we are walking in an hour later than we should, it might be because we had a bad morning with the Monster. If you’re calling us and asking us why we aren’t there yet and we say, “hey, were running late.” In other words it’s taking us a little longer to all get ready. We also have to get things ready, like food/snacks, portable dvd player, tablets(iPad, innotab etc.), sippy cups with juice, diapers, toys, baby wipes, extra clothes and whatever other little thing that the Monster might enjoy or need. No need to reheat the food, we are used to eating it cold, we are used to running into small problems and meltdowns. We will make it if we can.
Which brings me to the next few subjects that are similar to the one above.
We might have to leave earlier than expected………..
-) When we say we can stay for 3 or 4 hours, be prepared for us to leave early. Leaving early is our childs speciality. 😉 Their has been many times where I have said a few hours and then a few hours turned into only an hour. Sometimes the smells, the other kids, the crowded rooms, the noise, the different types of lighting..it all bothers our kids. Just because you are having fun (most likely due to your extra ingredient to your egg nog) doesn’t mean I am having fun chasing my kid in and out of every room. Just because the other kids are running and playing appropriately with each other, doesn’t mean my kid is going to do the same with them. So if we are running out the door after only staying an hour because our child is going into meltdown mode. Don’t get shitty, just say, “bye.” I don’t enjoy having to listen to my child scream and I’m not going to do it just because you want to talk to me a little longer. Call me later, I can talk then…well maybe.
The questions and answers nobody seems to quite understand the reason to……….
-) “He was so happy when you guys first got here, why is he upset now?” or “He was happy the last time you were here, whats wrong now?” Well lets see…Billy and Jane just got here and they have 8 kids alone. We have this child wanting to constantly hug and kiss him and someone keeps shoving food in his face. Then Uncle Buck (no relation to the movie 😉 ) is half drunk and is making him sit on his lap. Then we have this one little boy in the corner that keeps stealing my sons toys and then cries if my son doesn’t “share” with him. The place is crowded, someone around every corner smells like liquor and you have a million kids that keeps touching, hugging and talking to my child when he doesn’t quite understand why they keep doing it. Not to mention nobody is watching their kids, except me and every single person keeps surrounding my child when he clearly wants nothing to do with these people. Not to mention you have every light on in the house, plus a Christmas tree that has every inch lit up. Then you have Christmas music that is so loud everyone has to scream to talk. So yeah he was calm 20 minutes ago, but all these changes happened within the last 5 minutes and it is too much for him. So getting angry because we leave early. We learned not to promise staying for hours and that’s okay because grandma has had enough egg nog and she keeps hitting on my husband.
So in other words is me saying, when the Monster is ready to go…so am I. I’m not going to force my child to stay when I am having a hard time watching him. This isn’t a shopping mall, I can’t put him in a stroller and just say alright here we go. There is always something dangerous around, so understand when things like this happens.
5.) In my house we don’t put up a tree anymore. I love a Christmas tree! I think it is so pretty and makes it feel so wonderful inside the house, but my Monster..well I can’t trust him. I have watched him tear things apart and rip things down. So with the dangers of a tree in the house..nope not a possibility. So we limit decorations, put up some lights and what not in the living room and put the presents out Christmas night. It works for us and I am sure it works for another autism family too. So if you happen to be putting up a tree or decorations while we are visiting you, trusting him to put things on the tree by himself isn’t a good idea. Help him and if he doesn’t want to continue to do it, then don’t push him. Pushing him too far will send him into a fit and then once again here we are trying our best to control the situation without him pulling the sh!t off of every fire-place and every tree. He doesn’t have to help put up decorations like the other kids, maybe he just wants to watch. No big deal, just pushing to do something might not always be in his best interest, especially when he is out of his comfort zone.
6.) My son might..just might open a gift on his own or with help. Don’t get offended when he doesn’t rip open the gift like all the other kids you see around you. Sure, he might get excited watching everyone else, but maybe touching the wrapping paper bothers him. Maybe the noise bothers him and he hates the idea of hearing it over and over again. Don’t get offended over something so stupid. It’s stupid because it is obvious where our child is going to stand on this side, if he didn’t like it last year then don’t expect a complete turn around a year later. Yes, I am going to work with him, maybe one day he might enjoy tearing open the gifts like the other kids. Maybe he won’t ever like it. Just don’t get all upset over something so small. I am sure he will enjoy the gift anyways..well maybe. 😉
7.) I love that you have so many different ideas on what to get my son for Christmas, but you have to think of all the possibilities that might happen with that gift. He will most likely try to put it in his mouth a few times a day. And sometimes mommy and daddy won’t always be looking right at him to make sure he doesn’t do it. Messy things are a miss! I don’t like cleaning up after my son more than I already have to. He is messy enough, so having a paint session with him will just be a disaster. Getting him something breakable will be horrible also. If my son likes it, he will most likely feel the need to carry the damn thing to every room with him for a few days. And if he drops it and it breaks. I will pissed off. Why? Because my son will then go into a meltdown that half the United States will hear and I will be the one cleaning up the broken pieces and having to hear a child scream in my ear. I know there is plenty of things that are cute or maybe you bought your cousins best friends girlfriends kid the same thing and he loved it, doesn’t mean my kid will. Just because the “age appropriate” says for 3 year olds..well doesn’t mean my kid will know how it works. And just because he might not understand how the 3 year olds toy will work, doesn’t mean you should get him a baby toy either. Ask us. That simple. So if you ask us what he likes and we tell you. Please get him something similar to what we suggested. I hate having to throw sh!t and even though he might not seem disappointed, I might be. I just want the same thing for my kid, just like everyone else wants for their kids. A good Christmas and Holiday time.
8.) It was the night before Christmas and all through the house, my son wasn’t putting out cookies and milk for Santa. His mommy and daddy were just eating them from the container and laughing at the idea of Santa actually getting any. 😉 So we might set out milk and cookies, we might not. It’s okay, he doesn’t understand Santa yet. He will eventually, then he will most likely tell your kid the truth about Santa 😉 lets face it our kids are the most truthful and honest people on Earth. Even more truthful than your Aunt who gets drunk every Holiday, which is rare to find someone more truthful than her. Santa..no big deal, lets set out milk and cookies and lets enjoy the night before Christmas a different way. Watching “A Christmas Story” for 24 hours on TBS is how I enjoy it. And the Monster can enjoy it and be happy with playing and listening to you repeat the words of the movie. He might enjoy the Christmas carols and the lights he strung up around the windows because a tree wasn’t an option for you either. He might enjoy some milk with potato chips instead of Christmas cookies. Whatever your new tradition is, that’s okay. And it should be okay for your relatives too. Traditions are going to be different for your family and mine. Don’t expect us to force our kids into doing the same thing that we have done for years. Changing traditions to make it better for our children is one thing that will make it easier on us. And since the Holiday season is the most stressful time with a kid that has autism, we need it to be easier. As easy as possible, not just for us, but for our kids.
Holiday time is stressful so please keep that in mind, not just for us, but for our kids. Have patience and be understanding.