A few months ago I spent a wonderful weekend in Philly for Bloggy Boot Camp and I met a bunch of special women some of whose blogs I have been reading for some time. It was great to meet so many women with such diverse backgrounds who loved to share their stories. I particularly enjoyed meeting women whose lives were similar to mine, thus the introduction to Sunday..
This week marks the beginning of the holiday season. In the coming days many will celebrate Thanksgiving. In December families will come together for Hanukkah, Christmas, or Kwanzaa. Each holiday involves its own unique celebrations and customs influenced both by family and culture.
In our home the holidays are influenced most by Autism.
If you visit our home you will not find a large Christmas tree in the living room lovingly adorned with ornaments passed down from my mom's tree. There will be no lavish spread of food because the boys refuse to eat anything other than their normal day to day fare of grilled cheese sandwiches and homemade chocolate chip cookies. The fireplace is cold and still on Christmas Eve because setting one is too dangerous around the boys. Similarly, you will not find us loading up the car with presents and suitcases for a trek to share the joy of the holidays with our families.
Because it seems autism is not something they want their holiday to include.
Every year I go through the varopis stages of grief over the fact that my family chooses to not include my boys in their holiday plans.
Shock & Disbelief:
Why wouldn't grandparents want to spend the holidays with their grandchildren? Even if said grandchildren prefer playing with wrapping paper, long colorful ribbons, and loud obnoxious toys over sitting quietly in Grandma's lap while she reads them 'Twas the Night Before Christmas? Christmas is supposed to be about the children and celebrating with them the magic and beauty of the holidays. Why would grandparents and family choose to miss out on that?
Anger & Bargaining:
When the boys' grandparents choose to spend their holidays with their other grandchildren who do not have autism I am left feeling nothing but anger. In some ways I am comforted in knowing that the boys do not know nor care why their grandparents are not visiting with us. But I do, and it burns me up!
In previous years I would bend over backwards to invite family to celebrate with us. I would plan out elaborate menus and wake up at 4 am to start the turkey in hopes of getting a couple hours in the kitchen before the boys woke up. Family would come, eat, stay maybe an hour and then leave immediately following dessert. I stopped trying to cater to their needs of my extended family after that.
Depression, Reflection, & Loneliness:
This stage seems to be where I spend most of my time during the holiday season.
I mostly feel lonely and a bit sad for family and all they are missing out on when it comes to the boys and how quickly they are growing up.
I miss my mom something fierce too. She was was the best damn Nana this world ever saw. She was also an amazing mother and friend. Before her death in 2004 you would find her spending every weekend, every holiday, and all her vacation time visiting her grandchildren and having fun with them. I mourn the fact that she is not here now to enjoy her grandsons like I know she would have wanted.
Acceptance & Hope:
Eventually (typically somewhere around December 24th) I make peace with the choices my family has made in how and with whom they choose to celebrate the holidays.
I focus on making the most of Christmas with my amazing husband and the boys. Mike and I sip eggnog, play Christmas music much too loud (which the boys love!), turn on the outside Christmas lights, break out the Scrabble board, and later we turn on The Grinch Who Stole Christmas and A Charlie Brown Christmas Special and we enjoy our grilled cheese sandwiches and chocolate chip cookies together. Just the way a family should at the holidays.
Autism may mean my boys are different than most and that may mean that our holiday celebrations are a bit out of the ordinary as well. But, ours is no less filled with love, a sense of togetherness and magic.
And if someone isn't up for celebrating the holidays with two boys who embrace those holidays full force and without abandon....then its nothing more than their loss.
Sunday is the frazzled mom raising two boys on the severe end of the Autism spectrum while living to laugh and blog about it at Adventures in Extreme Parenthood. You can also find Sunday tweeting her Banshee heart out on Twitter at @ExtremeParnthood and on Facebook by searching for her name: Sunday Stilwell.