Mom blogger Michaela Searfoorce, an NYC parent of two toddlers and a preteen son with special needs, reflects on her blessings in honor of the upcoming holiday season.
With small children, even the best of holiday intentions can turn into chaos. Add a child with special needs to the mix and the spiked eggnog becomes more necessity than festivity. So it will come as no surprise that with two toddlers and a disabled preteen, many of our family efforts at tradition have only been successful in creating stories that will be retold for years to come.
Something as simple as Christmas Mass can be a nightmare for a child with autism or sensory issues. There are lights and decorations everywhere, extra people (lots), noise and music, even strange smells. And the holiday services are much longer than usual. Much, much longer. By the end of the evening (or well before), James has his hands over his ears, a coat over his head, or is asking "Is it almost over?" in his not-so-subtle worried voice. The organ is too loud, the music too "sad," the incense too smelly, it is too hot, a baby is crying. Add to that not one but two toddlers climbing seats, rolling on the floor, screeching, whining, spilling grapes beneath the pew, fighting over books, and a beloved family tradition begins to resemble anything but.
Then there have been the unforgettables -- the Christmas Eve that James, thinking he'd discovered a secret chocolate stash, inhaled an entire bar of Ex-Lax. Or the children's Mass that invited kids for a front-row view of the pageant (including my 2-year-old gleefully riding another child around the altar). Or my personal favorite, the Christmas Eve toilet explosions (yes, plural). Among James's plethora of special needs is megacolon (even worse than it sounds). As we found out the hard way, megacolon and prewar plumbing don't mix.
Despite it all, wrapping gifts at 3am on Christmas Eve is always special, even though we are dead tired. There's something magical about turning around as we finally head to bed for one last look at the gifts spilling out from the glow of our Christmas tree -- the tree that we excitedly picked out at W. 99th and Broadway and spent hours decorating. There's even something endearing about being woken up two hours later by our ridiculously delighted children.
We consider ourselves very, very lucky. We want our kids to know that there is no amount of tears, Ex-Lax, altar rodeos, plumbing crises, or spilled fruit snacks that will change how amazingly blessed we feel to be their parents, and how simply happy we are to be in this family.
The best way we can think to pass this feeling of gratitude on to our children is to show them the joy of giving. And what better season to demonstrate this tradition? Though our children are still young, we have started in small ways -- participating in toy drives with scouts, baking holiday treats to pass out to the homeless in our area (and tucking a little $ into the box).
It is my sincere wish that the gift of giving touches you and your family this season and that you have a happy, magical holiday!
On December 16, Searfoorce will be collecting non-perishable food items and wrapping gifts for a family under the care of a local shelter in NYC; many families at this shelter have been touched by domestic violence and have a child or children with special needs.
Want to help? You can stop by a holiday meeting at P.S. 163 (163 W. 97th Street) on December 16 and drop off a donation, help wrap gifts, or bring a treat for the volunteers. Visit www.thefoorce.com for more details.
Michaela Searfoorce lives in NYC and blogs at www.thefoorce.com.
Also see: NYMetroParents' Holiday Bazaar of Traditions, Memories, Insights, and Gifts