As I reflect on the last several years, Christmas has always been one of the most difficult times. The week before Christmas, for the last 3 years, we spent time in the emergency room with D. We spent time with resident psychiatrists in a padded room with nothing but 3 walls, a door, and a bed. We spent time working with them to determine if D was safe enough to return home for the holidays or if we would need to admit him for his, and our safety. The last several years, the weeks leading up to Christmas have been the most difficult I can remember for him.
Reflecting on this Christmas, the weeks leading up to Christmas have been some of the best we’ve had. In fact, we have enjoyed the greatest stability in D that we’ve had in almost 3 years, if not longer. D was a joy to be around. He was fun to spend time with, he enjoyed shopping for the girls, he enjoyed preparing for our trip to see grandparents. The stability that we enjoyed even allowed us to work together to get our things packed and get out of the house for the trip to NC.
Christmas day was one filled with happiness and joy. We woke up at my parents’ house to see what Santa brought and I was concerned that it wouldn’t be enough to please him. Just the opposite, he was excited with what he got. Opening presents was another time of excitement and sparkle in his eyes. He was not upset that he got a used iPod, just the opposite, he kept saying, “Thank you, Mommy! Thank you! Thank you!”
From there, we went to Chad’s parents’ and saw what Santa brought there, and on to Chad’s cousin’s house. Even through all of the traveling, the people, the activity, he held himself together. I was so proud of him for being able to maintain himself through the evening.
After dinner at Chad’s cousin’s house, we returned to Chad’s parents’ house and it was time to open presents with Chad’s sister’s family and his parents. It was about 9pm and he had been going non stop since 5:30am. We could see the anxiety had finally built up, but he was trying to hold himself together because he wanted to open gifts. He just couldn’t hold it together anymore, though. He tried, but he melted. He didn’t want to leave the room because he wanted to be with family, but he was just so tired he couldn’t help himself anymore. Admittedly, I was disappointed that the trigger that finally caused him to let loose was the type/number of gifts that were set in front of him. He didn’t realize that he had just as many and that he had great gifts, he hadn’t even opened them. It just didn’t look like as much until he DID open them. When he started to melt, even opening his gifts, he couldn’t bring himself back. We finally had to escort him out of the room and let him continue to melt in the back of the house until he was asleep. He tried, at points in the melting, to bring himself back, but he just couldn’t.
I was heartbroken and frustrated at the same time. Chad was trying to deal calmly with him having a major meltdown at someone else’s house. At home, we have more freedom to walk away, or let him melt however. That’s not so easy somewhere else. I was heartbroken because he had held it together so long and I knew he would be embarrassed the next day, yet I was frustrated because I wanted him to just snap out of it. (No, he has never just snapped out of it before, but I can hope, right?)
The next morning he woke up, moved forward with his day, and we went back to my parents’ house. When we got there, suddenly he remembered what happened and remembered what gifts he got. At that point, he was sorry for what happened and was actually very excited about his gifts from Chad’s parents. So excited, in fact, that we had to bargain with him to let us take some home and he could take only a couple of things to Aunt Becky’s since he would only be there a day or so.
He continued his Christmas celebrations with a trip to the museum with Aunt Becky & Uncle Jared, and then Aunt Becky brought him home. The rest of the week was pretty difficult as well. Being out of routine is just not good. It’s not good for a neurotypical child, it’s not good for an adult, it is really, really not good for a child on the autism spectrum. Once Aunt Becky left, it took another day to get back into the routine we have, but we did it and we got our little boy back.
Overall, this is by far the best Christmas we have had, I would say, since the year Spike was born! Yes, the best Christmas since 2006!!! I think everyone enjoyed their gifts, and more importantly the family time. It was a great Christmas and I am forever grateful to those who have helped us bring D to this point of stability. They are my Christmas gifts.