Christmas was always full of surprises when I was a little girl, that was half the magic. Would Santa get that special present that I was so desperate for? The excitement of opening my presents on Christmas morning with my big sis, taking it in turns to each open a present. We used to spread the opening of presents throughout the day because we had so many. Santa presents were always first then our main present from Mum and Dad then presents from under the tree from family and friends after lunch. Naturally, I wanted to pass these traditions on to my own children. Well I tried and tried but sadly year after year ‘Merry Christmas’ became ‘Meltdown Christmas’, which progressed into ‘Massive Meltdown Christmas’ and quickly transformed into ‘Mega, Massive, Meltdown Christmas!’ Aiden could not cope with the surprises, the waiting or the general change in routine.
After many years of getting it wrong and dreading Christmas altogether I finally accepted that Christmas would just have to be different to the one I had growing up.
I learned that the surprises were for my pleasure, not Aiden’s. The thought of a stranger coming into his room at night to deliver unknown presents caused him huge anxiety. And waiting in turn to open a present, with the added pressure of possibility not wanting that present was just too great.
Aiden never understood why he received so many presents that he never asked for. Most kids would be happy to receive more presents! Not Aiden! To him, if he hasn’t asked for them, it’s because he doesn’t want them! He wasn’t being ungrateful, he just didn’t get it! Consequently this meant Aiden would unwrap his presents and place them very neatly into the plastic tub and keep them safely under in bed. They would sit there all year untouched until I had the annual bedroom sort out. What a waste of money!
It took many years to learn (I’m a slow learner and a little bit stubborn) but eventually I realised once he had the presents that he had asked for, the ones, I new, he really wanted, yep, and that special one that I always kept till last, he began to relax. Why didn’t I learn sooner, who knows? I promise I wasn’t trying to torture him on purpose – but that must have been what it felt like for him!
We mastered the fear of Santa by ensuring he left presents in the lounge. Aiden would wake up on Christmas morning and open them instantly ensuring they were only presents he had requested. We then gave him that special present from us straightaway – we wanted some credit – can’t have Santa taking all the glory!
Aiden was then happy and would go off and have his routined, two bowls of cereal for breakfast while we all continued to open presents with the other kids.
The presents ‘under the tree’ never made it ‘under the tree’ and were just opened when they were received. This helped reduce the anxiety and gave him one less thing to worry about.
Concepts, reality and make believe for Aiden are very difficult to understand and Christmas has them all.
We try to explain to our kids that Christmas is a time giving and for thinking of others, this is something that does not come naturally to Aiden, he can not put himself in someone else’s shoes, he’s not interested in making someone else happy and unintentionally comes across as very self centred.
He is not affectionate in any way so that Christmas spirit that we all hold this time of year, is yet another reason for him to feel on edge. He never knows when someone is going to dive in with that special Christmas kiss!
Santa – Well he’s still alive and kicking in our house! Aiden, who’s now 18, cannot lie, so my biggest fear, with him having younger siblings, was always that Aiden wouldn’t be able to keep the Christmas magic going. However, it turns out, it’s now my younger ones who are keeping the magic alive for him. Maybe it will be this way forever? He just doesn’t understand the concept. Aiden understands people who dress are not really the person they are dressing up to be, however, he says, they are still a real person! So, sure enough this year he put out a mince pie and milk for Santa.
Christmas for us is still regimented but so much easier. We put the lights and tree up and take them down on a set day, presents for Aiden’s are no surprise, Aiden eats breakfast, lunch and dinner at the normal time, regardless of how many selection packs he’s eaten in between and 2 days before Christmas we double check what the most important present is!
To others, it must look like we let Aiden do what he wants and we exclude him from the family!
To us, what we do works and it means we CAN have a family Christmas! OUR family Christmas!