I think it’s really easy for us to get swept up in the picture perfect Christmas. Social media is a bugger for that don’t you think? I know I am guilty of following the types of families on Instagram that look from the outside in, to be just that. Perfect. The types of families that all wear matching PJ’s, open their presents in front of a colour coordinated Christmas tree, with their log fire crackling behind them.
Our reality? Well, it’s kind of different. For a start, a log fire with Oscar around? Not even a chance ?
I sometimes get the impression from what people say, that I can paint this idealistic view of what a family looks like. We might look like the type of family you’d like to be a part of, to some, which is all very flattering, but this is just a gentle reminder, that sometimes not everything is as it seems
Oscar woke 2 whole hours earlier than Alfie and Flo on Christmas Day. Not unusual for a child to wake early on Christmas Day you might think…. But did I mention it was 4.30am? Oh and imagine if a told you that the 4.30am start was nothing to do with his excitement that the big fella had left a whole heap of presents downstairs for him. No, waking at 4.30am (or thereabouts) was something that happens every single day. And for a child who has just a handful of words, suddenly at 4.30am he becomes VERY vocal and VERY loud too. Imagine every day, trying to keep him quiet so he doesn’t wake his brother and sister, who unlike him, need more sleep to function.
Imagine, and apologies for all the “imagines” but I’m just setting the scene here, that before the day has even started I/we’re all pretty tired before the day has really begun. Not so perfect now hey?
Christmas Day started off well for us though. I actually think that this was the first time Oscar has truly understood the whole present opening thing and watching him Alfie and Flo walk down the stairs together, see that Father Christmas had been and their faces when they saw what he’d left for them, was priceless. At home, with just the 5 of us, Oscar seemed relaxed and at ease. Perhaps more to the point, I had been too but when he got to my parents, where the house was full of our family (13 in total) while it wasn’t a total disaster and there were moments of wonderful, it certainly wasn’t how I imagined it would be.
When it was time to open presents, I think Oz just became a bit too overwhelmed. The pace they were being handed out (my nieces were super excited to dish them all out) combined with wrapping paper flying everywhere, the noise, others crowding around him, eager to see what he’d gotten, it all just became a little too much for him. Sometimes when this happens Oscar can become introverted and not want to engage, other times though and in this instance, he can become wired. Grabbing at other peoples presents, trying to rip off the paper, attempting to sit on them or jump on their backs , the sensory overload for Oz at times, can be all consuming. Not wanting him to hurt anyone (there was after all a few children wandering around at this point who were younger and therefore smaller than him) we obviously tried to calm him down. We’d usually give him a movement break, taking him outside for a walk or a run around but at this point with it being Christmas Day and in the middle of the festivities, having pointed to the TV, we decided to put it on quietly for him, so that the rest of the family could enjoy opening their presents. I think before I’d had Oscar, if I’d had heard that someone put the telly on for their kid midway through present opening, I might have passed judgement. But since having had him and understanding his needs a little more. His need for calm, knowing that my mum had given me a little nod to say, it’s honestly ok Sarah, we made the call to put it on for him.
I should mention here that Oscar, has been really suffering with a bad ear infection throughout the Christmas holidays and I now realise, leading up to them too. It’s hard to know how much that effects him. I’m pretty certain it’ll be having a knock on effect on his behaviour but then there’s always the chance, that this is just him.
When it came to eating his Christmas Dinner, on seeing the big crowd around the table, he took one look at them all and bolted. He’s familiar with all my family, he sees all of them regularly, knows exactly who they all are and loves them all. He also loves food and has never been one to really refuse a roast dinner, but for some reason he didn’t want to sit down at the dinner table with everyone. This isn’t usually something that would phase him, but for some reason at the moment, whenever we’ve seen friends or family over Christmas and New Year, he’s been funny about sitting down for a meal with everyone.
We tried to coax him there with the promise that he could sit next to Daddy and even watch Daddy’s Phone if he sat with us (which worked momentarily) but after a few short minutes, a few bits of broccoli and a couple of pigs in blankets, he’d wanted to get down. Short of forcing him to stay at the table, which let’s face it, trying to implement disciplinary techniques in front of our entire family, all trying to enjoy their Christmas meal together in peace, we decided to let him get down from the table.
This wasn’t how I’d imagined Christmas Day to be. I’d imagined we’d all sit around the table together. I’d felt sad but also frustrated that the image of how Christmas Day was supposed to pan out, was slipping away.
After dinner, while his cousins and brother and sister busied themselves playing with their new toys, Oscar did so for a little while (this year loving a wooden birthday cake he could cut with a knife and dish out, along with two light up tambourines that he enjoyed shaking endlessly in the kitchen… only knocking over and smashing one loaded glass of prosecco as he went ?) but fairly quickly decided that he didn’t want to be a part of it. Instead he decided he’d much rather sit on the stairs with his iPad and watch that
As the years gone on, Oscars ability to sit and focus on toys/games has massively improved. Just yesterday I watched as he sat with Alfie and Flo and they all playing together with the array of Paw Patrol toys they’ve acquired. He honestly has made such progress in that respect. But on Christmas day, perhaps because it all got a bit too much, he chose to take himself off and sit away from the group
I think the point here is, sometimes we have this idealistic view of how something’s go and occasionally it doesn’t turn out the way you’d hoped it would. I think for any child, the change in routine, the extra people around etc can be hugely overwhelming and I really think it’s ok to give yourself a break as a parent from time to time and not try to enforce something on them, especially If they’re not happy.
But with a child who has additional needs, I think we as parents spend and awful lot of time trying to get them to lead as “normal” life as possible. Trying to get them to conform because that’s how society has us believe is acceptable. Like sitting beautifully and eating our meal in a restaurant for example. Or walking through a shopping centre without running off. Sometimes, these things are totally manageable for Oz. Did I mention he sat for the entire performance of Aladdin just the day before and loved every second of it? In fact that time it was Alfie who spent the best part of the show asking when it was time to go (He was scared of the baddie apparently) But sometimes, for Oscar and others like him, stuff like this comes harder to them.
So just to say, I think it’s ok to give him space. It’s ok to give him the iPad or put the telly on. You do whatever you gotta do because you don’t want to ruin it for your other two children, who by the way, loved every second of Christmas. You do what you gotta do because it’s important that all the family are together at Christmas because that’s what it’s about. I don’t want to shut ourselves away and not join in because of Oz. Because there are always those times that he CAN do it and wants to be a part of it. For those times, we can’t stop being who we are.
And if it means your cousins come out to play with you in the kitchen from time to time because they know you’re out there and they want you to feel a part of it all, that’s totally ok. If it means your Auntie coaxes you outside to have a go on your cousins new roller skates (that you definitely can’t manage yet, but she did it because you wanted to have a go) that’s ok too. And if your Grandad (my dad) quietly whispers to me “I’ll go and sit with Oz” because you’re watching TV in the other room and he wants to keep you company because he doesn’t want you to be alone, that’s ok also. And when I spot your little head peeping round the door and I gesture to you to come in and you shake your head no but then smile watching everyone else having fun. If that’s all you can cope with, then I’m ok with that. Really ok
It’s not how I imagined it’d be. But it’s our Christmas. With you.