Tag Archives: presents

Christmas Without Casualties

29 Dec

Christmas is always such a weird time of year in my family.  It’s a mixed bag of emotions for me, ranging from the very bad (my Dad’s death three weeks before Christmas six years ago) to the very good (my younger son’s birth on Christmas Day five years ago).  Then there’s the fact that almost every year, I find myself inthe midst of some strange family drama that has very little to do with me.  I have to deal with someone threatening to boycott Christmas, someone else threatening to decline gift exchange, bizarre arguments, and plans that change multiple times before landing on the original arrangements.  Then you add a child with autism, and built-in resistance to changes in routine, and the picture gets very interesting.

This year it wasn’t too bad.  As always, I missed my Dad in the weeks leading up to Christmas, but took heart from the fact that Christmas was his favourite time of year and he would be bitterly disappointed to see me having a miserable time on account of his passing.  So it was with nostalgia and bittersweet memories that I put up the Christmas decorations this year, just a week before Christmas.  Dad would have approved of the Christmas tree laden with ornaments, including James’ plastic Playdough scissors that he insisted be hung on the tree right below the angel.  He would have loved the little village I have in George’s room, complete with lights and snow, and he would have nodded approval at the little Christmas tree with lights that I got especially for James’ room.

Here’s the amazing thing that happened this Christmas.  There was no family drama.  Let’s say that again, shall we?  No.  Family.  Drama.  Admittedly, we came close.  Gerard and his mother had some words.  Said words were taken out of context by both parties, and a big misunderstanding ensued.  I have so enjoyed the wonderful feeling of peace and harmony that we have been experiencing with my mother-in-law, and I did not want to let that slip away because of one stupid conversation.  I spoke to Gerard.  I spoke to my mother-in-law.  I smoothed the waters, and explained to each of them what the other meant, and peace reigned again.  Mother Theresa would have been proud of me, and for the first time in years, we were able to celebrate the festive season without waiting for the other shoe to drop.  It was truly a Christmas miracle.

Things were OK on the George front as well.  His resistance to changes in routine has intensified over the last few weeks, and while this did cause some difficulties, there were no crises that we couldn’t handle.  They were little things, like the fact that he got extremely anxious whenever the lights on the big Christmas tree were turned on (interestingly enough, he has no problem with the lights on the little tree, or the lights in the village in his room).  So, we dealt with it in the simplest way possible.  We did without the lights on the tree.  When he saw presents, he wanted them opened right away.  Seeing a wrapped present that he’s not allowed to open is not a pleasant experience for George.  Lots of distraction and tactical planning later, we had all survived, and apart from one casualty, all of the presents were left intact until the proper time.

There was one very difficult moment on Christmas Eve, after my brother-in-law had left with his wife and baby, when we were trying to get the kids settled for bed.  Both of the kids, no doubt reacting to the excitement and pure overstimulation, had meltdowns.  One autistic, one neurotypical, manifesting their pent-up anxieties in different, but equally loud and stressful, ways.  Simultaneously.  It was like Meltdown Central at my house, and it took a long time for calm to be restored.

In the end, though, Santa was good to everyone, and we all got through several days of Christmas (and one birthday) as a harmonious, happy family.   I can truly say this: Dad would be proud.

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Blowing out another set of birthday candles

2 Dec

When I woke up yesterday morning, I felt a little bit down. It was my birthday, and for some reason I was thinking that very few people would remember or care. The previous day had been torture for all of us – it had been a very rough day for George – and none of us had managed to get much sleep. I think that at the start of my birthday, I was suffering from exhaustion as well as emotional fall-out. For a variety of reasons, I just wasn’t expecting a lot from my day.

Then I turned on my computer and checked my email. There were about a dozen birthday messages waiting for me from friends and family members. I opened my Facebook page and my eyes popped as I saw birthday wishes from about fifteen more people. It was only six in the morning and already I had received birthday wishes in one form or another from almost thirty people.

Wow.  Maybe my birthday wouldn’t be so bad after all. I got myself dressed and looking semi-presentable and left for work.  My pathetic self-pity tried to follow me, but I knocked it on the head and fed it through the paper shredder.

In the middle of the morning my Mom called.  This is always a highlight of my birthday. Even from the other side of the world, my Mom manages to make me feel special in a way that only Moms can. Later in the day, I got a call from my brother. He was calling from a cell phone in South Africa, so we had only a brief conversation that I struggled to hear in the chaos of the bus station, but it was so lovely to hear his voice and know that he was thinking of me.  And all through the day, the emails and Facebook messages were pouring in.  By the time I got home from work last night, I was feeling touched by all of the kindness, and truly humbled that so many people had taken time in the chaos of their own lives to think of me and wish me well.  Even today, the wishes are still coming in.

When I got home yesterday evening, there were flowers and a birthday dinner and cake and presents. As I sat there among my family, the feeling of being loved and appreciated settled on me like a soft snowfall.  How had I thought, that very morning, that people would not care?

Turning 40 worked out well for me. I became a citizen, received a marriage proposal, and after a rough start, I had a great running season. Now that I’m 41, I look forward to more great things. My wedding, for one, which is just five short months away. Now that I’ve joined a running club, I expect to go from strength to strength. I have started the process of conquering demons from my past and making positive changes to my personal life.

And next year, I will not start my birthday by feeling sorry for myself – life is too good for that!