Christmas at the McRae’s

Christmas is fast approaching, only 5 ½ weeks away, and our son has one very specific request for that one thing he wants for Christmas.

Going back to when our son was young, Christmas time felt like a stressful nightmare, at times. He had so much anxiety and stress at that time of the year, and usually it lasted the whole month of December. What didn’t help were the change in routines, big family visits, the lights and decorations that were everywhere, the gifts and not knowing what was in each box that was wrapped, all brought him incredible anxiety. Let’s not forget the shopping malls and school concerts.

Each Christmas brought with it an incredible baggage of unwelcomed emotions for me. My greatest wish was that our family could enjoy this special time of the year like other families seemed to be able to do – with much greater ease than we ever could. But instead, that time of the year often left me with frazzled nerves, feeling isolated, exhausted, and stressed. I felt torn between wanting to experience the sparkly glistening happy visions I had of Christmas, but instead I had to look to the comfort of returning to normal routines, with decorations packed away for another year, feeling like I had been put through the wringer and left hanging to dry. There was always a great sadness that would wash over me at that time of the year, because no matter what I did I could not change or fix our family’s reality with what the holidays did for our son. All I could do was learn to accept it and make better choices for him. It was a far cry from visions of sugarplums dancing in my head.

For a few years, I remember we were no sooner into the New Year that he’d tell us what he wanted as a gift for the following Christmas. Geez, I thought, give us a break and let us pack the last decoration before giving us your wish list for next Christmas. Another not so fun part that we had to learn to cope with was the repeating he did (I’m not kidding) hundreds of times each day. And with each repetition, he would demand a response. He would repeat the name of the gift he was asking for and usually that would start as early as August – sometimes way earlier. That always lasted until Christmas morning when we would realize usually with a sigh that we had survived and made it to another Christmas. This was a horrible time for him with all the anxiety he was wrapped up in and had no control over.

We learned what is best is for him and that is for him to tell us what he wants for gifts and we then write it on his calendar for December 25th. That has helped ease a lot of his stress. Allowing him to be in control and know that he will get what he asked for is the best present that we could ever give him. Trying to find that perfect gift we think he might like is a total waste of time, money and energy, so we no longer do that. He only wants what he wants – nothing more, nothing less. We have learned to fully trust and believe that he knows exactly what it is he wants and when he gets it, he’s always so happy.

The last few years, I have to say he’s mellowed out significantly around the whole Christmas gift thing and the month of December in general. One of the most significant things was having us step back and learn to understand him and his needs better. We try to stay away from busy malls, decorate less, keep normal routines when we can, avoid large gatherings and go to the smaller get-togethers instead, buy what he wants, don’t go the extra mile to fuss over the trivial things because it really doesn’t matter to him, lower our expectations for him and ourselves, strive towards what brings us to a place of being calm and peaceful, let go of expecting him to wear a new outfit I might want to buy him and instead allow him to wear his regular clothing of choice, regardless of what that might be, and aim for what makes him and us happy instead of the image I once had of what Christmas should look like, learn to say no if we see that it’s not the best thing and be ok with that.

Now this Christmas, he has a bit of an unusual request. He wants long hair for Christmas. That’s what he wants. I take the blame for that one. Earlier this year on one particular day, my patience was wearing thin. I was tired of him asking me for long hair… but what he really wanted was for me to tell him when his hair would be the length he wanted them to be. He wanted his hair to grow fast but yet I couldn’t make him understand by using words that I can’t control the speed at which his hair was growing. He wouldn’t understand that. He kept asking so I told him that on December 25th 2012 he would have long hair. There! Well he took this literally and has believed it since, that on Christmas Day 2012 his hair will be the length he wants. As soon as I said it I knew it wasn’t the answer that I needed to give him but there was no taking it back.

I don’t know if he thinks that his hair can actually grow that length by Christmas morning or not? He will be disappointed and I’m to blame and I have no way to make it happen magically. My estimating isn’t very accurate either (something like my husband).

Now if God had allowed his hair to stay straight like when he younger he could have had the length he’s wanted by now. Instead he gave him a head full of curls since he was a teen, and they just do not seem to be growing anymore. He has grown his hair now for 2.5 years and it looks like he still has a long way to go until it’s the length that he will be happy with.

Will his hair be long in time for Christmas? No. He will ask me again at Christmas for long hair and I have to figure out what I will tell him. Do I dare guess a different date that he might have longer hair? He always needs to know when he will have things and this one date I’m afraid I probably won’t ever be able to guess correctly. Does anyone dare to guess for me??

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Comments

  1. Christmas 2015. Sounds like a good date to me. Tell him Susan says so, and she should know. 🙂
    Susan recently posted..Come NovemberMy Profile

  2. Oh my goodness I just love this post. I love the picture of your son with the designated wish length. I don’t know the date for that one… but does it help that there is general love coming to your family from this reader as you invite me into your unique and purposely peaceful/stable environment? I look forward to your next post! I see a book in your future!
    Karrlin Bain recently posted..Cherished Snowflakes~ by Karrlin BainMy Profile

  3. We could all take a page from your son’s book! Let go of expectations, go with what we want, no more, no less, dial it down…and not wear ourselves out to a frazzle? Sounds perfect to me. As for the hair? Ouch. I feel for you. Loved your post!
    Sue Jorgenson recently posted..Danse Macabre at Mono LakeMy Profile

  4. They’re a bit costly, but have you thought of hair extensions Suzanne? Take the photo of your son to the hairdresser, explain the issue and you might even get her to come to you. Give it a shot.
    Yaz recently posted..10 Bizarre Ancient Healing Methods (And Some Are Still Used Today!)My Profile

  5. By the way Suzanne, I’d like to join your writing circle in December. Can I do that from a different wordpress platform?
    Yaz recently posted..10 Bizarre Ancient Healing Methods (And Some Are Still Used Today!)My Profile

  6. Lynn Matthews says:

    Hi Suzanne, As I read your post, I felt as though we were team members at work. All that you said is so familiar as I deal with exactly the same things with the people I work with too and not just with Christmas, but also with the continuous happenings in their lives, the constant many times a day repetition and the need for reassurance. Such a lovely photo of your son. Maybe if you explain that his hair is sooo special because of all the lovely curls, that it’s going to take a little longer than expected. 🙂

    • Lynn this whole Christmas thing is becoming easier with him. Its not 100% that’s for sure but manageable in several ways when I look back to not long ago it seems. The true test will be yet another Christmas in a month. I wish for your month of December to be an easy one for you with the children you care for. I did find one thing to tell him about his hair when it dries and we see all the curls forming, I told him that each wringlet looks like a little tornado. He loves and is fascinated with tornados and that got his attention one day.

  7. Thanks for this post Suzanne! I think we all need reminders to take it easy over the holidays and to keep our anxiety levels in check. So easy to get swept away into the visions of what we thing the holidays should be. When really it’s so much more enjoyable to let it be.

    I wish I had the right advice for what to do. I have an idea: are there ways to manage his expectations through storytelling? You do it so well. My daughters like to hear stories. I just make it up (on the spot usually) to address things they need to hear.. whether it’s how to be patient for waiting for their turn on the swing at the park or how to deal with a conflict with another kid. Maybe you can tell the story of a boy who waited and waited for his hair to grow.. and set his expectations for how long it could take. All of the things he tried that didn’t work (might not want to give him any crazy ideas). I don’t know maybe that’s opening up a can of worms – would he want to hear it over and over again? I’m just wondering if there’s a way that you could gently set his expectations?

    • Thank you for you wonderful advice which reminded me that I do need to make him a social story about when and how fast or slow his hair will grow using images and few words always works magic with him. He will then get it better. I always forget about the social story idea. Thank you for dropping by.

  8. Dawn Conery says:

    What a beautiful post Suzanne. I could feel your love and pain. I agree a book is in order for you! As far as his Christmas wish for long hair. Well, I only have two thoughts – you could tell him that his hair IS longer as of course it would be by then if only slighter, and celebrate that with him or you could tell him that there was something you wanted for Christmas and you didn’t get it either so you will hope again next year.
    Honestly? You are so eloquent and responsive to him, I trust that whatever you do will be the right and loving thing. Huggs, Dawn

    • Thank you for the ‘book wish’. My Bowen Therapy practitioner asked me today if I was going to write a book also. 🙂

      We’ll figure out the hair length thing with him. I know that he probably gets that it’s not growing as fast as he’d like. I will show him this weekend with pictures what length it will be in a year and then in two years… I will try to estimate and hope I’m closer to being right this time.

  9. I feel the anxiety, but I also feel how much love you have for this young man. I’m not sure I would have “given in” to his true desire, knowing what we know about how fast hair grows! But, you’re also allowing the magic of Christmas to transpire here. You’re allowing him to look forward to something and to believe. You also worry about the disappointment, which I understand is quite different with children with special needs. However, even if I don’t have a solution for you (other than maybe straightening his hair with an iron to make it APPEAR longer even if for one day! LOL silly, I know!) I truly admire how you listen to him and go with the flow. I am excited to hear about how you’re going to go about solving this one, however!
    Gabriella recently posted..Design a Joy-Filled Christmas (the one you’ve always wanted)My Profile

    • My daughter did straighten his hair for him once or twice. But he wasn’t that excited about it and I’m kind of happy because I couldn’t see myself straightening it every day for him. He would have been taught how to do it for himself. Loved reading your comment.

  10. Hi Suzanne,

    It makes my heart sing to see your son’s gorgeous photo. His eyes are so full of knowing, of inherit wisdoms that pass many of us by. I was merrily reading your post when my computer froze right on your son’s photo which allowed me to pause and connect more deeply with his beautiful energy. You have been truly blessed, as all of us are, who connect with your posts and his journey. There is something magikal within your son’s energy, within his magnificent journey. He is indeed a great teacher, a teacher beyond words. The message that seemed to come through with him, is we are all ‘enough’ just as we are.

    The Christmas hair …. I remember too saying things to my son to allow breathing space between the repetitive questioning ….. and like your son, once said it can never be undone or changed as this created too much unsurity and chaos within him. Im not sure of your answer to this one, maybe instead of looking for one, simply allow one to find you. An idea just popped in to my mind….. maybe measure his hair growth on a door ( or something similar) like we do with our childrens heights, and then he can see tangibly how long it is growing each month. He can also draw a line on the door of how long he wants it to be so that it is visual in front of him where it is now and where one day it will be. Date the door each time you measure it for him. Maybe he can guess where it might grow to next time it is measured.

    Change is unfathomable for our beautifully gifted children who walk with Autism. Knowing is everything. With our son each Christmas, birthday etc when we knew routines were going to change we would create a book together using pictures, photo’s, drawings etc of what our new ‘change’ would look like. As he participated with these books, it seemed to help him ease into the ‘new’ look day/weeks ect. So maybe use Christmas photo’s from previous years to help him cope with the decorations etc for this year. Maybe try one of these books with his hair growth …. find photo’s of his hair at different lengths and then now each time it is measured a photo can also be added…. or maybe make his ‘measuring’ door into a photo book…

    I know the perfect answer will find you with love in your heart…

    • Hi Jill, you certainly relate to our lived experiences with our son as well as with your own son. I was very happy to read all about your son and your experiences also around the holidays and birthdays. It’s not easy for them. It’s fascinating how your computer froze on my son’s photo. Thank you for your kindness about his beautiful energy. I have no doubt that he’s a great teacher and yes he is beyond words. Where I have to get the lessons without necessarily all the words that go with it and learn to read him by his vibrational energy instead what exactly he is trying to tell me.

      You also have given me a wonderful idea to track the measurement of his hair. It does have to be concrete for him otherwise he doesn’t get it easily. I like the book idea with pictures of him with his hair at different lengths on different dates where I can keep adding newer photos to show the evolution of him getting closer to his goal.

      I absolutely love having you here, always. xo

  11. You can do wonders with photoshop Suzanne! Maybe like Samson, there’s strength in his hair, a strength he is trying to find. I wonder what he thinks having long hair is about, what does it mean? what does it bring? … Santa has long hair! I wonder too if you could turn this question around to him and say I want to publish a book, when will that be? Maybe he knows when that will be. Maybe when you publish your book you can buy him hair extensions. Maybe, maybe, who knows, what is beautiful is that you know him so well, that you help him by doing things he needs. Not every parent can do that. Wonderful post. Thanks for sharing, and please let us know how it goes. 🙂

  12. Suzanne, another wonderful post- I’m awaiting the book also! There are several lessons hidden here for everyone. You have managed so well to make your holidays what needs to work for your family and I admire that. So many times we try to live up to expectations of others to exhaustion. As far as your Son’s hair dilema- perhaps if he just looks at it wet it will be long enough!
    Sue recently posted..Comment on Thoughtful Thursday by SueMy Profile

    • Thanks for dropping by Sue. It’s so true about the holidays. Maybe this year we can all learn to live up to less expectations. He loves looking at his hair when it’s wet and combing it straight. It’s coming the long hair, slowly but surely.

  13. Suzanne, a wonderful post. Some of your Christmas simplifications (avoid the mall, smaller parties) are things that improve the quality of my life, too! I, too, wondered about engaging your son in measuring his hair growth, maybe making a chart of the length month by month to help HIM to predict when he will meet his goal. Blessings to all of you!
    Janet recently posted..AuthorshipMy Profile

  14. Such a beautiful post, Suzanne. I loved seeing the photo of your son. The catch lights are great and it makes him appear as though he’s shining. And what a fantastic, loved-filled smile he has!

    I am hopeful that December will work out for your family the way it needs to. I can only imagine it will not be easy to help your son’s expectations about his hair. I really enjoyed reading some of the suggestions, especially measuring his hair. I also wondered if it would help to show him a progression of photographs over the last 2.5 years while he’s been growing it, so he can see the time it has taken. I wonder if that would help in combination with other things that you know work for your son.

    I feel really honored to have a better insight into Autism through reading your blog. I can only imagine how much this will help others not feel isolated and alone, especially during holidays.

    It’s so clear what a special woman and amazing mother you are, Suzanne. Your son is lucky to have you. 😉
    Becky in Burma recently posted..ATMs Now Available in MyanmarMy Profile

    • The progression of photos over the last 2.5 years is a great idea Becky as well taking photos regularly to add to his hair story. Thank you for all of your lovely comments Becky. I’m happy that you are enjoying reading what I share about life with our son. 🙂

  15. Marge Laprade says:

    I saw your subtle humour come through even though you are dealing with an impossible present request. Would telling Kyle straight out on Christmas morning that you guessed wrong about the year help him understand why he didnt get the long hair this year? Just a thought! Worth a try! 🙂 Seriously, I don’t think anyone has ever come up with a foolproof answer to this dilemma. You just gave me more insight into what it is like to deal with autism. Thank you for helping to awaken yet another part of my unconsciousness. …and I know that you will eventually figure most of it out because of your determination and love. Hey, look at what you have already accomplished! What an inspiration you are! Save a book for me, too! xo

  16. Love the picture of your son. How challenging to try to figure out when he’ll have the length of hair he desires. I sure wish I could help you with that one. I love how you share so honestly about your experiences, both the positive times and the challenging ones. He is truly blessed to have you as a mother.
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