I know I'm not alone in having a hard time with Christmas. Many parents with autistic kids do, as well as many other parents, or non-parents---many people of many kinds. But I'd dare to say it's harder for parents raising autistic kids than it is for most. I've been feeling it a lot this year---a very lot. I feel like I'm going through the motions, trying to do the things you need to do for Christmas but not feeling them in any way. I've been trying to figure it out---why especially Christmas? I think it boils down to the isolation autism brings.
"Christmas is for children". That's a phrase you hear a lot, and something I believe. Once you are an adult, your main role is giving a great Christmas to your kids. But what is your role if your child could care less about Christmas, if your child in fact doesn't have any real awareness of Christmas? That is Janey. I am quite sure I could skip the whole bit and she wouldn't care. I could not have a single present for her under the tree, and she wouldn't even notice. I could not have her hang a stocking for Santa, and it wouldn't bother her a bit. It makes it all feel a little meaningless. I will still have presents for her and a stocking, of course, but who am I doing it for? I guess it's for me. In a way, she might be happier if I DIDN'T give her a present or have Santa come. She hates to open presents, and she has to be urged to check out what is in her stocking, sometimes to the point it annoys her. Christmas music is the only part of Christmas she seems to enjoy, and she would enjoy that just as much in July, with no holiday associated with it, if I played it then. And so, if Christmas is for children, and your child doesn't care about or even like the Christmas things, what is Christmas for? (especially if you aren't very religious, and I am not)
All around, you hear people talking about what their children want for Christmas, about how their kids are counting the seconds until Santa comes. It's yet another part of life that autism steals from both Janey and me. Writing this, I feel sort of petty. I have my boys, and when they were young, they did all the childhood Christmas stuff, and I enjoyed it a lot. So why is it so hard now? I can't really explain. Maybe it's accumulated lack of sleep, or school worries, or the constant edge I have, waiting for Janey's next outburst. Maybe it's unseemly jealousy, of all the people with children that seem to be to be incredibly perfect, people that often don't seem to appreciate the amazing gift that that is. Maybe it's the growing realization that Janey is not progressing in many significant ways, that what we have now is very likely what we will have for life. But a big part of it is sadness for Janey. I am sad she can't anticipate Christmas. I am sad that presents scare and not delight. I am sad she will almost certainly never have children of her own to give a Christmas to. I am sad that a week from tomorrow will be like any other day to her---a worse that usual day, probably, because it will feature a changed routine. I am sad for all that Janey will never feel or experience.
It might sound fake to say this after writing all I have, but I do wish anyone who reads this that celebrates Christmas a very merry Christmas. I am having a tough year, but I am going to keep working on finding a way to make Christmas special for Janey. I hope you all have found a way, and that you find joy and peace this year and always.