Wait, what? Why is that even a thing? I first read about this concept several years ago and I was flabbergasted. Why were parents struggling with their kids for a whole month? Don’t get me wrong, I understand the kids are having a hard time because of schedule changes, increased family expectations, and over-stimulation. What I don’t understand is why the kids are being put in that position in the first place. Especially sensitive kids and kids on the spectrum.
Why are parents overloading their kids with so many holiday activities and parties/gatherings? Not to mention seasonal changes in food and clothing. It kind of feels like setting them up for failure, and then feeling frustrated that they struggled. If you know your child is going to have a hard time with their routine taken away with school break, try to keep as close a routine as possible. If you know your child struggles with over-stimulation, don’t overstimulate them. What am I missing here?
This past weekend we went to a Christmas party that a local autistic adults and allies group put together. I was really excited to meet the people I had been facebooking with and introducing the children to an atmosphere where they were, for once, in the neurotype majority. Within 5 minutes of being at the party Builder Boy had his ear defenders on and was using the head band part to partially block his view; something I had never seen him do before. He ate his dinner and then went to the quiet room they had set aside, but other kids were using it as a hide-and-seek site and not being quiet which pushed him closer to complete sensory overwhelm and meltdown. Early Bird initially was fine, and was thrilled with the hired Disney Princesses and Marvel Superheroes that showed up. The Captain America especially was awesome, as that’s his favorite and the performer(?) was great with him. But after an hour he, too, was in the quiet room and only came out with borrowed ear defenders on. Lady Bug, on the other hand, as a sensory seeker had a blast. The lights combined with a mirror wide enough that finally she could put her arms out like Annie from Little Einsteins and see them reflected was heaven. It’s a bit ironic that a party thrown by autistics was not the most sensory friendly environment. But they had a lot more people show up than originally planned for, which accounted for a lot of what made this party so difficult for my boys. I realized near the end that, aside from kid birthday parties, they had never been to a party like that before.
The party started at 6 pm and was scheduled to end at 10. Despite that being past the boys’ bedtime by a good amount, and it being a 30 minute drive from our house, I had planned on staying until very near the end of the party. But just a little over an hour after we had gotten there, Early Bird asked if we could leave. I expressed my disappointment and desire to have a bit more fun if they were okay in the quiet room, and Early Bird said something I’ll never forget. “The needs of one outweigh the fun of another.” He was absolutely correct, and I told him so. We packed up, said our good byes, and went home. Yes, I was disappointed that my expectations of the evening were not met. But I wasn’t going to be able to have fun and talk knowing that every minute I stayed and chatted they were closer to misery and being out of control.
We have never struggled though the holidays because in part, thanks to homeschool, our schedule doesn’t really change. Another big part of that is we don’t go to the light parade, or stand in a long crowded line to see Santa, or have numerous parties and engagements. We have a peaceful and happy time resting at home with a limit of one event per week maximum. We don’t need extras to appreciate the season. Do you? Are all those things worth the frustrations and meltdowns that I see parents struggling with this time of year in the facebook mom groups? Instead of being annoyed that your child doesn’t appreciate them they way you do, maybe set them up to succeed from a place of rest and prioritize instead of trying to do it all. You might find that you have a happier holiday, too.