In the past, this blog has featured a few stories on how not to do christmas when you have an Autistic Family.
After 2007 and 2009 we eventually we learned to go our own way. We buy nice food, a lot of wine and plan our day around our kids. Presents that they have specifically requested arrive in a neutral space. In Liam’s case they are snatched out of the stockings and brought upstairs to be watched. For Grace, it can take up to a week for the “new” to be absorbed into her existing collection, a bit like when you have to leave a goldfish in his bag inside a new tank until the temperature evens out.
By the time of writing, one Sesame Street Story Book has made it upstairs into her bedroom. The remaining 4 are still in the kitchen, acclimatising. Only one has the celophane unwrapped.
Everything about our day, like our lives is arranged around what makes our kids happy and comfortable. No forced traditions, no expectations, no disappointments.
The only problem is you can end up with a day that is just that, like any other day. But a day where all your usual scaffolds are unavailable. No babysitter to mind one child while you take the other out for a walk in the hills, or to mind the other one while you take the big one into town for Sushi or Noodles. No McDonalds, no supermarkets, no video shops.
And sadly, thanks to Liam’s recent escalation, we couldn’t even be sure of a walk together in the Wicklow Hills – as he hasn’t been out with us as a family for almost 18 months.
I am also poignantly aware of what I am missing, or what I have missed in Australia where Christmas Dinner is well over by the time we wake up in Ireland. I really miss the sound of kids who “get‘ Santa running from bed to living room and exclaiming “Look what we got!”
The morning spent in shorty pyjammies or swimming costumes as they can’t wait to try out the pool toys Santa brought. I was desperate for news from home but of course real families are too busy being together on Christmas Night to be updating their facebook statuses and posting pictures.
So by 1.30pm yesterday I was actually crying into my crunchie nut cornflakes (I like a late breakfast) while scrolling for pics of my extended family. A picture of my almost 3 year old niece in Melbourne with a new doll had me sobbing with longing to be home and with my people.
Liam was refusing point blank to go for a walk with us. Offers of Ham sandwiches and Dairy Milk would not lure him and I looked at the clock wondering how long before it would be acceptable to open a bottle of wine. It was too bright outside, I had just eaten cornflakes for lunch.. Was this really what our Christmas was going to be about?
So I went upstairs to cajole Liam once again and had a brainwave, he really wanted the Captain America “Avengers” DVD and we’d been unable to find it retail; What if I offered to order it on ebay in return for a walk?
What if I lied and said that Daddy’s van was broken and he and Gracie would have to come in the car with us? What if I made 2 ham sandwiches and hid them in the car?
I made the offer of the DVD from ebay and he took it! Quickly we whipped up a contract on Liam’s iPad usingPicCard Maker and printed it off straight away.
|Liam crosses off one box for every task, in this case a walk in Glendalough|
Bill got Gracie ready and into the car with Liam in the front and me and Grace in the back. All the way there he whinged and negotiated where Bill and Grace were going. He seriously thought we could get out at Devils Glen in Ashford, where he could go for a walk with me alone and in control. But Bill just kept asking, “How are you going to get home?” and he stayed calm all the way up to Glendalough. My one christmas wish was coming true. When we got there, Liam and I got out of the car and headed on up to the Upper Lake walk while Bill and Grace hung back. It was bright, sunny, a bit colder than where we live but nice and Liam really relaxed. I could hear Gracie singing and making her noises as she and Bill followed a good distance back. But as long as Liam thought he had all my attention he was relaxed, strolling along scripting his latest obsession “Stuart Little” and happy as a clam.
|Not Impossible; Inevitable.|
As we approached the Kiosk and Carpark at the Upperlake I could hear men shouting and thought they might be playing a game. As there were so many “new irish” like us out enjoying a walk, I thought it might be a some lads from Eastern Europe playing soccer. But what I saw when we rounded the corner and came out of the trees made me smile:
My fellow colonials from the sub-continent were playing a game of cricket!
In case you don’t know, when Australians get together on Christmas Day for lunch, they often follow it with a game of back-yard cricket. My Grandma played it well into her 70’s and with one of the grand or great-grandchildren as a runner, she is a really good batter.
As you can see, the carpark was virtually empty. Seems it is only us ‘new irish” that appreciate Ireland’s natural wonders like Glendalough. And People from India especially like it since it was used for a scene in a Bollywood film, a few years ago. Can’t imagine what they make of the climate!
My final miracle happened as we passed the carpark and headed back via the boardwalk to the lower lake. Grace and Bill had passed us while I was watching the cricket and I could see Gracie in her new pink coat, skipping along the boards in front. I watched Liam to see what he would do, then stood back as he approached Bill and…
|My teenaged christmas miracle|
For the first time in about 18 months we were together as a family outdoors. After all the months of horrendous behaviour, keeping Liam in one room while Grace was in another. Not being able to go anywhere because he couldn’t be left with Gracie and a babysitter. The changes in the house, the changes to his meds, the visits of the Behavioural therapist, starting to visit respite..
This felt like we had turned a corner, figuratively and literally. And we were on our way up.
So we got back to the car, Liam got his Ham Sandwich, Gracie got a treat too and home we drove with me beaming as dusk turned to night.
And the best part? By the time we did get home around 5pm-ish it was Legitimate Drinking Time.
Bill and I cracked open the Champagne/Beer and prepared our Roast Fillet of Beef with dijon mustard gravy, sweet potatoes, asparagus, green beans and baby spuds. Liam had vegemite rice crackers and Gracie had vegemite toast, and Walkers Salt and Vinegar crisps.
(not a Turkey or a Brussels Sprout to be seen)
It was bloody marvellous. God Bless us All, Everyone, and a Happy Holidays to You and Yours.
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