On the day after Thanksgiving, I threw myself into Christmas. I woke up my husband early and insisted he go and get the tree and ornaments out of storage. It is our first Christmas in our new home, so I was determined to make it a good one. It is awfully hard to not have fun decorating with little ones. I loved every minute of it. But for all the tree-trimming and elf-on-the-shelf fun, this year it is bittersweet. It is the first Christmas without my beloved daddy, who died in May. Daddy loved Christmas. He was one of those rare people who get the true spirit of the season. He whistled Christmas tunes everywhere he went and put up tacky decorations everywhere just for the joy of it. He couldn’t care less about gifts. But he did give me a gift that I will always treasure. Anyone who loves you can give it as well. But few do –an unrelenting acceptance and a determination to take joy in that child, wherever he or she may be in development. Did that mean that Daddy didn’t value therapy and progress? Of course not. But more than those things, he valued Callum. The delightful, smiling little boy he was right then. Autistic children often don’t give a hoot about presents or typical toys. Their parents can be inundated with others’ requests for suggestions for what to buy a child that doesn’t play. What hurts parents is the somewhat disappointed reaction we sometimes get to the suggestions. The intention, of course, is not to upset us. But, when you see a look of disappointment on Granny’s face when you suggest she buy him a pack of plastic hangers, it is hard not to feel sad. I call it The Look of Tragedy. And we parents of special-needs kids see it a lot. We see it when our kids won’t play with cousins at the holiday get together. We see it when our kids show no interest in gifts. Woeful glances when our children are happily stimming away in a corner on Christmas day – away from others. An expression of “Oh, how sad.” But what my Daddy understood was that there was no reason to not delight in him. Callum doesn’t care about gifts? Fine. But he loves the lights. Callum isn’t interested in posing for a holiday picture? Okay. Instead, get a great action shot of him giggling while being tickled. Daddy just adored him “as is”. And he didn’t fixate or spend one moment looking contemplative for what Callum was missing out on. That was a gift of immeasurable value –a perspective on life that enables me to cope with having an especially vulnerable child in a big, bad world. That was a gift that keeps on giving every day --the wisdom to take joy in what we have. He not only gave me life, he taught me the easiest way to go about living it. How I will miss him this year, sitting on our couch wearing his reindeer antlers and enjoying his grandchildren. But I feel his presence around me. I like to think I am enjoying the excited shrieks, snuggles, and sticky kisses for us both. This Christmas, I thank those friends and family who affirm our happiness when we have it --rather than negate it. In doing that, they give a gift that has no equal. “Each day comes bearing its own gifts. Untie the ribbons.” - Ruth Ann Schabacker Don't forget to enter our Boredom Buster giveaway: a Kindle Fire preloaded with our best-selling apps!
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