Christmas. A time of year which seems to start on the 1st of November. As soon as Halloween has finished, shops are very quick to remind us that there are only 54 more shopping days to go. The nights begin to get longer and the days shorter. Then there's the first frost in the morning. Which always comes as a bit of a shock, especially since you haven't restocked the defrosting spray since last February and have to do the whole windscreen by hand.
I resist having any decorations in the house until the 1st of December. And then everything is unleashed from the safe place in the attic. Lights are strung outside, and I'm sure we're visible from space. The Christmas tree is decorated, usually by me. And if it's by the children, then it's redone by me when I'm on my own. And don't roll your eyes - how many of you can cope with 4 baubles on one branch and nothing higher up than the first foot of the tree. Admittedly, now my son is taller than me this isn't such an issue. But I still like the tree done my way. That and the cake are my two contributions. Well, obviously there's the food, present buying and card writing. But apart from that....
I love doing stockings. This was something my parents always did for us and is a custom which I love. Filling the stocking (my husband's kilt socks) is fun and I love leaving the full stockings for the children to find in the morning. It was only when my daughter was about 4 that a problem became apparent. It was Christmas Eve and we'd got the socks out for them to put at the foot of their beds. She was a little confused. It was way too big for her and she didn't really want daddy's sock in her bed. We explained, while trying to retain some magic of Christmas, that Santa would fill the sock while she was asleep.
This was when all hell broke loose. Santa? In her room? He was a man she didn't know, coming down a chimney into the lounge, and taking a sock off her bed? Not. Going. To. Happen. We eventually calmed her down and she was content to leave the sock outside her room, on the understanding that Santa didn't come in, but he still left some presents for her.
It was only later as I reflected on this that I realised that children who have autism need to have the facts explained carefully and truthfully. It can be a magical time for most children and there is the excitement of trying to stay awake to see Santa come in. Not so for children for whom everything is so literal. We talk about not speaking to strangers, being careful not to go away with anyone you don't know and yet we're happy to announce that a man you've never met is going to come into your room when it's dark and everyone is asleep.
So we compromise. We adapt. And we change things so everyone can be comfortable and relaxed. Is it really important that the sock is left on the bed, or even in the room? I don't think so. And the joy of watching the wonder in the morning as small toys and chocolates being pulled out isn't lost because of traditions that I wanted to keep going.
A small thing, perhaps, but one which makes me appreciate the difficulties which my daughter lives with daily. Even if she does wake me up at 5am to show me what she's got.
I'm a married mum of two children, a boy and a girl; my daughter has global learning difficulties and autism. I have a degree in librarianship and information studies but my priority just now is being at home for both my children. We're a family who are living with disability but are not letting it define our lives. I blog at https://autismmyfamily.wordpress.com/.