Christmas, the most wonderful time of the year. And yet, for many, the holiday is hard. For some people it is, and always has been, a dreaded time of year. Depression, negative memories, chronic illness. For others, it may be a rough season but they believe things will get better in time. They may have a new circumstance that makes joy and happiness hard to grasp right now. A recent death of a loved one, job loss, disease, other heartache. However, they are able to hang onto the ‘this too shall pass’ belief. Things will get easier.
We taught our children from a young age that the focus of Christmas is the Christ Child. Jesus is the Reason for the Season. That the traditions of Christmas reflect our beliefs—the tree, the lights, the songs, the star, the angels, the gift-giving and receiving, all are symbols of our Christian faith. Our preconceived notion is to include all of these and more to make it as meaningful and magical as possible. The wonder of those things is part of the enjoyment. However, pulling Jacob into those traditions can be another story. And that’s okay. It is still a celebration. Our family doesn’t have to do things like other families. I know and accept that, even if sometimes I am envious of the apparent ease in how those traditions seem to be carried out beautifully with other people.
Jacob has Christmas lights blinking in his bedroom all year long. He has a Christmas tree in his room each December. He will not help decorate but usually enjoys the ornaments just as they are placed. (Some of you realize he does toss random items on our trees adding unique designs.) Occasionally, I’ll find a majority of his ornaments scattered on the floor. He listens to Christmas music and watches Christmas DVDs whenever he is in the mood. So in some ways, Christmas is in the air around our home year-round.
For me, I find the gifts are often the tricky part of Christmas. We cannot put gifts under his or our family tree because he would open everything (whether it has his name on it or not) right away. We aren’t able to include him on gift giving choices or ideas. And, buying gifts for Jacob can be difficult. The things that bring him pleasure are mainly music and chocolate. Chances are, if he likes it, we already have 2, 3, or 4 of them. He has no wish list. And yet, I put thought into what I buy for him hoping it will be something he’ll really like. He will enjoy. He will choose to wear. There is great satisfaction in finding something that is a win in his eyes. For him, opening a gift is probably as much fun as the gift itself. Although, he does open gifts with anticipation that surely the inside is even better than the packaging. Often the gift itself may be a disappointment. One might think that an adult who behaves as a child might exhibit the joys and excitement a child would. Not Jacob.
I have learned that expectations often lead to disappointment. Expecting is one way of hurting ourselves. We’ve been on this autism roller coaster for close to 4 decades. Why do I even let myself expect a different outcome? ‘This too shall pass’ probably isn’t happening. Christmas Day this year was harder than usual for some unknown reason. I was excited about making mini cinnamon rolls Christmas morning and singing Happy Birthday Jesus. I was excited about his presents. I wanted him to be excited too. He wasn’t. Didn’t care. Oh how I wanted him to care. He quickly opened his presents and that was that. He was done and Christmas was over. It was basically a big let down. I bought him things with intention and deliberate thought hoping he would find enjoyment and pleasure in what I chose. Maybe I need to focus more on the thought and let myself enjoy the reason for my choices and not so much on the gift he may or may not care one bit about. His favorite thing this year wasn’t a gift but a Bronner’s Christmas catalog that came in early November. And everyday, EVERY DAY, he flips through the pages and points to a picture of an ice cream cone and wants us to talk about it. He won’t eat one but he likes to hear about Dairy Queen ice cream! Just so you know, the keyboard toy that lights up did hold his attention a few minutes so I’m counting it a win. Plus he is having fun with a couple of musical toys given to him by a sweet friend. There were certainly things he enjoyed.
I’m putting it all out here and showing my selfish nature in the name of transparency. Keep in mind, Jacob cannot talk. Because of this, I’ve not heard him say the words “thank you” in his 39 years. No – “this is perfect, Mom”, or “I’ve always wanted one”, “this is the best present ever, I love it”. No big bear hugs. No huge grin. No signing those words nor using an electronic device to tell us what he’s thinking. It feels so one-sided and it gets old. Very old. Christmas Day, I could not help it, tears flowed. All because I wish things were different. Normal – whatever that is! Wanting his expression to show he felt the magic and meaning of Christmas. I invited myself to a pity party for one. I didn’t party long but I needed the good cry. It is okay to give yourself permission to acknowledge hard stuff. ‘This too shall pass’ isn’t in the Bible, but the promise of God never leaving us is repeated throughout. Look around and know you are not the only one. And this isn’t the end. HE has more in store and it is way better than anything we can imagine. Don’t give gifts for the bear hugs or thank you notes. Give freely from your heart to bless others as you have been blessed.
I really like this quote I ran across a while back :
“Blessed are those who can give without remembering and take without forgetting.” Elizabeth Bibesco