This morning, Tony left very early to go to New York State to get Freddy and his friend Cheryl and bring them home for Thanksgiving. This was a change in routine, as I got Janey ready for school and got her on the bus on my own. Janey never says much in the morning, but today, she said even less. She went through the stages of getting ready fairly cooperatively, but she kept looking at me with a confused and wary look. I explained to her as best I could that Daddy was getting Freddy, that he'd be back later, that her brothers were coming home today, that school was going to be shorter than usual (they have a half day), that we'd have a nice big meal tomorrow, that school would start again Monday---all that. And I thought, as I've had many times, that Janey would prefer there to be no holidays at all.
I don't know that for sure, of course. But I strongly suspect it. Holidays, to her, are upsetting changes in the regular routine. They involve Mama and Daddy doing things they don't usually do, and not being available when she expects us to be. They mess up the school days and weeks. They have people trying to get her to do odd things, like blow out little fires on pastry, hang socks up at night, go through many steps to open up something she doesn't want or care about, dress up in odd costumes and go to houses and ring doorbells---a lot of weird stuff.
I think sometimes if Janey was an only child, we'd pretty much have birthdays and Thanksgiving and Christmas be much like any other day. There are parts she likes, of course. Christmas music is one of her favorite things on earth, and in fact "Frosty the Snowman" got the only smile out of her this morning I could get. She enjoys a good cake as much as anyone. And she'll be glad to see her brothers. But overall, holidays stress her. But she isn't an only child, and even if she was, Tony and I are people too. We'd want some holidays in our lives.
The combination of autism and holidays, or Janey and holidays anyway, bring on two big feelings for me---guilt and sadness. The guilt comes on, strangely, when I do things to make holidays less stressful for her. If I don't get her more than a token gift for Christmas, because she hates opening presents and has no interest in 99% of anything material, I feel guilty that she has nothing under the tree. If I don't take her trick-or-treating, as I didn't this year, I feel guilty that she is missing out on something I loved as a child. The guilt is foolish, I know, but it's there.
The sadness---that is on me. It is my sadness. Janey is not sad that she doesn't fully get and enjoy holidays. But I am. Holidays, in a lot of ways, are for parents. We look forward to seeing our kids pull treats out of the stocking, gather huge piles of candy and sort them, blow out candles as we wipe away tears and think about how fast they are growing up...holidays are the Hallmark moments of parenting. And I admit---it makes me sad, in a completely selfish way, that Janey would prefer to skip so much of what I want to experience with her.
Thanksgiving is one of the easier holidays. It involves mostly eating, which Janey certainly does like. It starts the season of Christmas music, which can never start too soon for her. She even sometimes likes the parade on TV a bit. So, we'll try to keep the day as routine as we can for her, while sneaking in bits of the parts she will at least tolerate.
Happy Thanksgiving 2016 to all of you. I am incredibly lucky to have found this community, and I am thankful for those who read this blog, extremely thankful.