It happens every holiday season: the annual hustle and bustle of cleaning, cooking, and shopping. The “don’t make so much food”, “let’s not buy so many gifts”, or my personal favorite: “I’m not mailing any Christmas cards”. My husband was teasing me just the other day when I said that this year I would not be sending any cards. “Yes, you will- you always do, who are you kidding?”. He was right- the very next day I placed an order that should arrive very shortly. I really do love giving Christmas cards as much as receiving them, but always find at the beginning of the holiday season that I need a “jump start” to get in the mood. At the end of the day, Christmas is all about faith, family, and friends, sharing delectable food and gifts. We look forward to being with those close to us, but gift giving for Brian is another story altogether.
In our home, Christmas presents, or any present for that matter, mean absolutely nothing to Brian. It’s hard to believe that this is still true, even today. I thought that Brian just needed some extra time, opportunity, exposure, etc. Over the years, Santa bought a variety of toys that we thought Brian would like, but he ultimately had no interest in any of them. This was very painful to watch, for every parent takes delight in giving gifts to their children, hearing squeals of delight, and seeing their joy. Brian, on the other hand, would get upset, scream, and throw his presents on the floor, It was hard for Jim and I to understand at first and Brian’s reaction was certainly the antithesis of how both of us felt about Christmas presents. This is one of the many ways in which autism is cruel and an unwanted guest- especially at Christmas. So, we had to learn over time to accept and to discover what Brian was really trying to tell us. ..
I admit, I am sometimes a slow, but always hopeful, student of my son when it comes to many things. But I’m happy to report that in this particular instance, I finally understand…It was just last week when my husband said “Every day is like Christmas for Brian” when we were discussing his recreational activities, camps, vacation, etc. I hadn’t really looked at it quite that way before, but Jim was right. These “Christmas gifts” are made possible by the collective efforts of an entire village. They are what make Brian really happy, as giving a toy on Christmas Day would be for another child. Despite, the initial adjustment to new people, places, and things, Brian learns that “new gifts” are not so scary and can actually be quite fun! There is the joy that follows, at least for the most part. Not every experience has been a positive one, of course, but fortunately these less desirable experiences have been infrequent.
Brian loves the company of others, which I believe, is his favorite Christmas gift of all. Our extended family, Brian’s school family, and social/recreational family,- each member has brought significant meaning to Brian’s life, and to our lives as well. Brian also loves to go out, and will hand me my car keys when I announce we are going to a particular place. Once upon a time, not so long ago, there was a little boy who hated to explore new venues and would scream in the car whenever we came to a red light. While Brian is still not a huge fan of New Jersey traffic (I’m with him on that one!), he can tolerate the stop and go of the road when he knows and trusts that the destination will be worth it. This is absolute heaven now compared to the hell that we thought we would never get out of in those early years. To say how relieved we are that those days are behind us would be an understatement- a huge Christmas gift for us for sure that continues to give all year round!
We will soon celebrate Christmas once again, embracing all that it has to offer with family and friends. And I have decided to let Brian try opening a few presents again! I know what you’re thinking- yes, maybe that won’t be a good idea, but maybe this year, it will be different. I have my theory how some small musical instruments may be just the game-changer that Brian needs, especially with his love for music. Regardless of what ultimately happens, Brian will continue to celebrate Christmas daily in his own way, with the people, places, and things in his life that mean more to him than a truckload of toys. There is a peace in this for him, and therefore, for us as well, and for that, Jim and I are extremely grateful. Peace is definitely an underrated and invaluable Christmas gift!
Wishing you the gifts of peace and hope during this blessed holiday season and beyond! Until next time, thanks for reading! 😊🎄🎄