Different But Not Less (blog hop)

First, I’d like to shout out to The Fragile X Files for making me aware of this! If you haven’t checked out Bonnie’s blog, you should! Really…right now. I’ll still be here. *twiddles thumbs ((in the most PATIENT way ever, of course.))*

OK, back? Aren’t her kids the cutest?? Love them.

Anyway, the subject of this blog hop, hosted by Adventures in Extreme Parenthood, is…

How does your family celebrate the holidays?
What changes have you had to make due to raising children with special needs?

I already posted, here, about the holidays and I was going to leave it at that. Christmas was great for us, but not for everyone and then I opened it up for a group vent ((A waffle iron??? Really??)) I’ve reconsidered because I realized that the reason we had a great Christmas was because we changed our expectations. That’s almost like…cheating…isn’t it?


I had amazing Christmases growing up and as long as I tried replicating those experiences for Monkey exactly, I was doomed to fail. Monkey simply could not handle a holiday like that. So what have we done that made this year such a success?

We knocked out the high stress activities.

  • We did not go to see Santa. The big man is barely tolerable to Monkey at 18″ in height standing motionless and silent in our living room…real live Santa? Massive meltdown land.
  • We did nothing that required waiting in line. Except that train ride at Edaville and Monkey waited in line only by choice. We had no intention of asking him to do it and had made alternate arrangements (Duhdee was going to wait in line and we’d join him at the end, just before getting on the train.)
  • We did not do a holiday photo/card. Monkey hates posing for the camera. I can sometimes get him to do it but there is a reason nearly all of my photos of him are candids. Introduce a stranger to the equation and we’re back in massive meltdown land.
  • We did not go to the annual Christmas Eve party that my parents now host (my Papa used to host when I was a child.) There are dozens of people that Monkey only sees a few times a year at best. It’s loud. There is drinking (so even louder than our normal loud.) Massive meltdown land. Also, Monkey sleeps in his bed when we are really, really lucky…hardly ever (bordering on never) in the car so he would have been up really late and thus exhausted Christmas morning/day. Massive meltdown land, again.

This might be the most shocking one…

  • We did not make Monkey open gifts. Really. He gets overstimulated with too much excitement, even good excitement and that leads to massive meltdown land.  We HATE massive meltdown land! So, Monkey is given his gifts and he opens what he wants, when he wants. If he decided to play with his trains (that he hasn’t touched in MONTHS) instead of unwrapping a new toy…fine. We simply told him, “When you are ready, you can open another gift.” and then we shut up. And when he was ready, he opened another gift. No tears, no fire engine red ear signaling our trip to massive meltdown land was on a fast track. And, we stuck with this even when we were visiting grandparents and knew they really wanted to see him open his presents. This was hard. We wanted him to perform for his grandparents. Who doesn’t want their child to make you proud by being the grandchild you know your parents dreamed of? But I’ve learned this, my parents and my in-laws, dreamed of a child that made their kids happy…and Monkey does that just by existing. They have seen what a huge difference it makes to let Monkey set the pace. He’s happier, he’s more social and he’s more verbal. He let’s his personality shine when we find ways to keep the anxiety at bay…and they love seeing it.
So, now that I’ve listed off all the things we didn’t do doesn’t it sound like a crappy Christmas? Honestly! So now let me tell you what we did do.
  • We watched Christmas specials. All of them. The Charlie Brown versions were the biggest hit this year and Monkey is still requesting “Char Brown?” Guess what? I watched all of these when I was little and loved them! Yay for traditions!
  • We went to Edaville instead of the Polar Express. Monkey loves trains. Monkey hates waiting. Monkey hates strangers talking to him. Monkey hates darkened, crowded, noisy theaters. We got to look at Christmas decorations and Monkey got to ride a train. Win ((I totally just typed Wine! There was some of that involved this Christmas too!))!
  • We went to a tree farm and cut our own tree. Monkey loves to be outdoors. Monkey loves to run around and yell, “Cut! Cut!” while brandishing his sawzall. Win ((OMG, WINE again! This might be a sign that I…nah!))!
  • We baked treats. Monkey loves to help in the kitchen, especially when the mixer and food processor are involved. We picked treats that would be low stress and fun for Monkey…this means NO cookies that require decorating, fine motor stuff annoys him. We made whoopie pies, chocolate with peppermint filling and OMG were they GOOD! Also, easy….mixing, scooping batter onto a cookie sheet, cooking, add filling. Easy.
  • We said “yes.” Right now, on the Fragile X listserve there is a discussion about our kids not handling being told “no” very well and the trips to massive meltdown land that can follow. One mom said this, “Anxiety= need for reassurance= need to hear yes.” That is brilliant and though we never put it in those terms, we’ve learned this for ourselves. We say “yes” as often as possible and our lives are better for it! If Monkey wanted to set up a complicated toy as soon as he opened it, instead of opening another. WE SET UP THE TOY. We didn’t care how long it took to get through the gifts. At my parent’s house we let him go watch a movie between opening gifts and he even brought a couple home with him unwrapped. Everyone was happier.
So that is it. That was our recipe for the best Christmas ever. It’s not what I thought Christmas would look like when I dreamed of Christmas with Monkey but it’s what I really wanted…joy-filled for Monkey…and that’s ultimately what matters to me. I’m glad I finally realized that 😉

5 thoughts on “Different But Not Less (blog hop)

  • January 3, 2011 at 10:05 am

    So True, Melissa, you have to change your expectations and then everybody is alot happier, but especially our FX kiddo’s and that’s really what we all al parents want!

  • January 3, 2011 at 2:13 pm

    thanks for the shout out, Umma! And I have seen those fire engine red ears too, they are not pleasant……

  • January 3, 2011 at 4:56 pm

    First of all I have to say that your footnotes had me totally cracking up! They were brilliant!

    I’m so glad you joined the Blog Hop and that just like all the other families have found traditions that work and those that don’t and you have made the holiday special for everyone in the process.

  • January 3, 2011 at 5:22 pm

    Thanks, Sunday. It was a great topic!

  • January 3, 2011 at 9:19 pm

    Took me a while to come to the same realization and Christmases continue to be lovely as Alex (fx), now age 20, still enjoys it with childlike enthusiasm.


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