Most of us biomed parents know that holidays are a time of dread. We hold our breath for “how will it go this year?” As Easter approached I began to try to calm my usual holiday excitement because I have learned that it is never going to go how I plan. Those images I had when my kids were little of children dressed in holiday splendor, combed hair, holding their baskets and smiling for photos by the front tree…..not in my house. I even went out on a limb and bought my son an Easter suit this year. I had not bothered the last 4 years because he would never wear it.
Those are other people’s Easters.
Easter with autism is very different. While my son is normal is most ways, every once in a while some part of autism peaks out to remind me that it is not completely gone. I am not complaining mind you, I am happy he is doing as well as he is. I am just sharing our experiences as they happen. So others with “regular” kids can appreciate how easy they have it.
Easter morning my son wakes me at 8:02 am. We discussed that we would not wake mommy before 8am, because my son has a habit of waking at 6am on holidays. Well, he did wait until 8:02. Then he woke me again at 8:30, and 9. Until I finally dragged myself out of bed, tired. He was ready, and I had to wake everyone else. When everyone was up we let him do his indoor egg hunt for the golden egg. This involves clues written on paper that we find. We give him the first paper with the lyrical sentence I read to him, as to where the next clue is hidden. He enjoyed this and ran about to find his egg.
He did find it and was so excited that it was “gold”. I forgot that to him this meant it would be worth a lot of money, because “anything gold is valuable” he told me. Apparently, $5 is not a lot of money for a “gold egg” in his mind. And boy did I hear about it.
He does not react to emotions in the same way that some children do, as in he cannot disguise his disappointments. He lacks the social graces I guess you’d call it, so if he does not like something, he will say so. If something does not seem the way he thinks it should be, you’ll know! Dad does not understand this and recognize that this isn’t personal. Had the egg been blue, the $5 would have fit in his mind, but a Gold Egg is supposed to be worth more. Who knew? But I understood.
We moved on. My son found his basket and he was so thrilled with his gifts. Mind you in our house candy is an enemy. We purchase organic candy in a small quantity and then the kids get things they want instead. There is no Easter grass either because that is treated with flame retardant chemicals. So he received some chocolate and some toys. He ran about yelling “I got it, YES, YES” when he received his Storm Trooper Helmet. The one he’s been begging for months. He had dad open it in a hurry.
Sounds great so far, right?
Let me continue. Once it was open it required some fitting and customizing to get it to fit my son’s head without wiggling or falling off. My son has no patience for that or for anything that feels weird or fits weird, especially on his head. This is part of his sensory problem. Dad kept adjusting the helmet and trying it on, but it took many attempts, and by this time my son was losing steam. He was getting frustrated and angry at the helmet. Dad mistook this for lack of appreciation. It was not; my son loved the helmet but could not understand why they would make it not fit a kid right?
He’s right, why do they do that? This all resulted in Dad yelling, my son crying in his room, and me angry at dad for not being more understanding. I had tried to tell dad to back off and give our son some time, just put the helmet down as it is, and when he’s ready to try again, we can adjust it some more. Dad insisted we do it now. Mom has a better gauge for what son can tolerate than Dad does. My son got angrier and took the helmet to his room and put it in the corner. He was so upset at it that he fired his Nerf darts at it. When I entered his room and saw his helmet covered in darts I knew the problem. He was angry. I tried to talk to him and ask him what he was feeling. He said that he liked his helmet but was upset that it did not fit him well, that it wiggled and felt funny on his head. He wanted to know why they don’t tell you that on the commercial. Good point. I explained that things aren’t what we see on TV, and that the helmet needs adjusting when he’s ready and that it might feel weird, because he’s not used to something like that. I explained to him that dad was upset because he thought that he did not like his new toy, dad misunderstood. My son said “mom I can’t help how I feel, what I am supposed to do about my feelings?” I explained to him that dad didn’t understand that you like your toy; you’re just upset that it isn’t working for you yet. I helped him calm down and he worked out his feelings. He went to explain to dad how he felt, but dad was not receptive. Dad said to me, “if I had acted like that as a kid, I would have had my toys taken away and my butt beat”. I said that it was a shame your parents were like that and we are not them. So as usual we got into our usual holiday argument about how I am too lenient with our son, and how is he ever going to learn anything?
I feel that maybe I know best when it comes to my son with things like this, since I have a deeper understanding of what is really going on. This is not a spoiled child, but a child in conflict with emotions and trouble expressing those emotions.
My son’s morning was too emotional for him to wear his suit. I should have predicted that.
He did want to have his outdoor egg hunt still. Dad sat in the chair angry, and I went out to hide the eggs. “Pull up the boot straps mom, it’s time to put on the happy holiday face again”, I though. For the kids anyway. My older one knows better now, but at least for the little guy we could have a nice egg hunt.
We had the egg hunt, while dad pouted in the house, my son relished the coins he found inside his eggs. He played happily with his new helmet all day, even took it to bed.
He did not wear his suit and I did not get any cute pictures of shiny spiffy children in Easter clothes happily posed by the tree. There was no way we’d survive church this year either.
What I got for Easter was, in a fight with my spouse, again. This happens a lot when it comes to my son. He feels we need to be stricter, stop babying him, I feel I am not babying and strict is for the military. I am raising a human who is thoughtful, kind and sensitive. You get that by giving that. My son did thank his father for his gifts twice that day, dad barely acknowledged it. My son asked me why? Good question. Dad should not take these things so personally, I don’t. I know that my son appreciates what we do for him. Most of his emotions are normal for the situations, he is not good at faking or hiding them like the rest of us are taught to do. Many people don’t deal with blatant honesty. Maybe someday dad will. Maybe someday we will have a nice holiday where mom and dad don’t fight about child rearing, and my kids wear dress clothes and smile for pictures. Maybe, but I’m not counting on it. “Eastertism”, like “Hallow-autism”, and “Thanksgiving but I’m not eating”, and all those other jumbled mess of holidays we have are all I have.
I have had to learn to change my view of what a holiday is. I’ve had to let go of the Easter suit and nice pictures. I have learned from mom’s who have it worse than I, that what I have is a blessing. A child who can express emotions.