I used to do the whole caboodle of Christmas – concerts, church services, Christmas parties, a pantomime and goodness know what else, but since autism entered our life (times 2) and has become more pronounced over the years, Christmas is now usually spent as quietly as possible at home.
I do miss the social interaction with friends but it’s not fair to put my autistic children through the added stress of social events when there is enough for them to deal with. The change from school to being at home, the expectation and excitement of Christmas presents, a special meal and everything else can all be too much for them and invariably, at some point we will get a meltdown or two (usually on Christmas Eve). So we quieten things down. This doesn’t mean we don’t celebrate Christmas; of course we do and like most other families we also adopt our own special traditions. One of those is the tree.
About two or three weeks before ‘the day’ we usually buy a real Christmas tree from a Christmas tree farm not far from where we live. The farm has fields and fields dedicated to growing all sorts of christmas trees and in the middle is a large barn that is lit up with Christmas lights and a massive inflatable father christmas. Our children love going. The fun of picking a tree that will fit into our lounge, of watching the men chop, tie and wrap the tree and our struggles to get it onto the roof of the car and back home has been a tradition that we have all enjoyed.
Unfortunately over the last couple of years, the recession has caused us to drop this in favour of our green plastic thing from the loft which, though is lovely for a plastic thing, is not quite the same. Our kids have missed choosing and lugging home a real tree so I may just revert to our lovely family tradition once more.
Whether plastic or real though, getting the tree and decorating it marks the start of our family Christmas. Decorating it used to be my sole pleasure while my children were babies but as our children have grown older they have now joined in, a bittersweet experience if I’m honest. Whilst I love involving my children, there does tend to be too many arguments between the younger two as to who has picked what, where they have placed it, who has put the most on.
But somehow we struggle through the arguments and broken baubles and hours later the tree is finally dressed with an array of decorations, many of which are handmade treasures from my children. We don’t do the colour coordinated tree that fits in with the lounge decor thing. Ours is full on red, green, white, silver, gold with tinsel, baubles and all singing and dancing lights.
Then it’s the ta-dah moment when we switch on the Christmas tree lights. In a flick of the switch, our lounge is suddenly transformed into something quite pretty where the only light comes from our beautiful tree. For a while we sit amongst the boxes that once stored the decorations and admire the cosiness of our lounge and the sparkle from our tree. This is where we are lucky. My children respond well to lights and colours which is why decorating the tree is something we really look forward to.
Unfortunately the only slight problem we have is removing the tree in early January. It’s not the practical issue of removing a hefty 6 ft tree that’s the problem (I have a husband for that) but the fact that my son becomes so attached to Christmas that he doesn’t want the tree taken away. I’m sure if he had his way, he would have Christmas every day of his life, such is his resistance to change and such is his love of Christmas. Somehow though we manage to revert the lounge to its boring pre-Christmas look, ready to go through the same thing all over again the following year.
This post is for Special Saturday, an online campaign that aims to raise awareness of children with special needs. Every Saturday a prompt is given to encourage people to write or tweet about something in order to help raise awareness of special needs.
If you would like to learn more about Special Saturday then you can do so though the following ways:
Facebook – http://www.facebook.com/SpecialSaturday
Twitter – follow @Specialsat and use the hashtag #specialsaturday
The Blog – http://specialsaturday.org/
Wendy at the Savette Gazette – http://www.savette.com/category/special-saturday/
This post is day 12 of the nablopomo challenge.