Holidays are Weird.

Holidays are weird.  In our house, we celebrate Christmas.  This brings stress on me every, single year because I am the one who must cook and clean and coordinate for those who come and celebrate in our house.  Every year, it is a different group.  Inevitably, because it is my nature, I stress out about whether I will cook it right, adequately, timely, and get everything done.  I get headaches.  I tense up and get muscle aches.  I know I’m going to do it but I can’t stop it anyway.  I become cranky and then exhausted.

So why should it surprise me that my son reacts in an identical way?

Really.

And, I think it has less to do with autism than it does with the words I have seen posted over and over again by friends- three simple words –  that carry very heavy weight  – “change of routine”.  Autism or not, these three words make life just a little harder.

I am just as much a creature of habit and routine as is my son.  I need and crave routine because it helps me remember and plan.  It helps me get to where I need to be on time.  It helps me keep myself physically and mentally healthy.  Do you find that routine is good for you too?

So, just before Christmas, I was distraught because my son seemed to be regressing – not in the medical, scary kind of “regressing” but in behaviorally “amplifying”  things I thought were either on their way to “extinction” or “mastered.”  Of those, the two greatest culprits were: (1) using the toilet and (2) screaming.

Even if I had this toilet, I think he would have preferred his undies at the time...

From about Thanksgiving on, he was not even trying to make it to the toilet.  He’d just lay on the floor, playing with a toy or book and just act as though he had no understanding of how to get himself to the toilet, something he had been regularly doing for about six months before Christmas.  I’d ask him if he needed to use the toilet, while I tried to get all my Christmas prep work done.  He’d respond, “No!” and start to recite math equations (a new behavior) while literally grunting and pooping right in front of me.  By time time I took him to the bathroom – you know- it was too late.

As for the screaming was not an angry or “melty” scream – it was the  “I want attention” scream.  He played video games and screamed.  He would find a YouTube video of a Dodge Challenger with blinking headlights and he would scream.  He would play games on the iPad and scream.  You get the picture.  Now, I can take a good loud kid.  But I do have my tolerance levels.  And at the decibel level of “sonic boom”, I have reached my tolerance. He exceeded that level (and that pitch – I think the neighborhood dogs could hear him) by world-breaking records.

One of the neighbor dogs...

These are not big problems in the scheme of things.  But when you are in the middle of them, 24-7 with no support system (they all have holidays too), and stressed out yourself, it can take its toll.  As I stood in the middle of that screaming, pooping, peeing, never-ending laundry, present wrapping, cooking, cleaning festivus, I could not see see the forest for the trees.  All I could see was I was standing directly under the poop tree and the scream tree.  There was no big picture.  And so I did my share of yelling and threatening no Santa and worrying about “regression.”

But then something really cool happened.

The “big” holiday was over.  The presents were unwrapped.  The guests ate and were gone.  Semi-normal made an appearance.  We started our ascent back to normality.

The little boy who had been crapping on the floor began to tell me, “Does your tummy hurt?” which was “code” for “I need to use the toilet” and the poop tree quit “blooming”.  The screaming became more manageable.  Instead of a high-pitched, non-stop, glass shattering noise, I got exclamations of excitement, “TURN!!!”  “HOW MANY POINTS DID I GET?” and “YOU WON THE RACE!!” (Translation – I won the race).

If I charted it, I would have seen the direct correlation of Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with the worst behavior.  If I would have charted my own behavior and my own stress, it would have been identical.

My son cannot say, “Hey mom, I’m stressed out because we have all these people coming over, and I really wanna get presents from Santa NOW,”  and “I don’t understand how much time has to pass,” and “I don’t really understand who is coming to  my house” and “Will I have to eat weird food?” and when and for how long?  But his behavior was saying it to me.  I wasn’t hearing him.  I was having my own holiday meltdown.

Always – always, it’s about communication.

Sometimes communication does not come with clear words in our house – or even any words at all.  Even though we use words, regularly.  The words are there and get said at other times. Both of us did not see how the behavior was an expression of what was going on inside. Neither one of us understood what was happening until it was over.

I’m glad it’s over.  I know I will look forward to all the glitz and glitter of the holidays when they are fresh again next year.  I just hope I remember to pull out this post and put on my “hearing aids”.  And maybe both of us with have a spurt of growth in our ability to communicate with each other during our next holiday season.  Because communication is a two way street.

Happy New Year’s my friends. TGIM!  – yeah, I really mean that.

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About solodialogue

I'm a lawyer and the mom of a 6 year old boy with autism. I work part time and spend the rest driving here and there and everywhere for my son's various therapies. Instead of trying cases, I now play Pac-man and watch SpongeBob. I wear old sweaters and jeans and always, always flat shoes to run after my son. Yeah, it's different but I wouldn't change it for anything. The love of my child is the most powerful, beautiful and rewarding aspect of my life.
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9 Responses to Holidays are Weird.

  1. Lizbeth says:

    Oh Karen I am so with you on this post!!! A. was so upset and out of sorts up and until the Day of Reckoning (aka: Christmas). He made himself sick he was so out of sorts. So on top of everything, we had a puking kid who would just puke where he was standing and flapping. I was never so eager to get that tree down. And as soon as the house was put back to rights he’s been happy ever since. So we’ve been the neighborhood scrooges and have had EVERYTHING holiday related taken down and packed away—starting on Christmas!!!

    He’s happy and calmed back down so I’m happy with that. I didn’t figure things out till I asked him what was making him so anxious and he finally said the tree….I’m already working on a post for me to review next year so I don’t forget the mistakes I made this year.

    The thing is, if I actually paid attention to him and “listened,” I would have picked up on everything else he was saying. Sigh. Live and learn, right?

    I’m glad you got what T was saying too. 🙂

    PS—on a unrelated note, I tagged you in a meme.

  2. Again, it is so nice to read this and just know I’m not alone!! The only difference between your story and mine is my kid is still going in his pants and only seemed to “get better” for three days (minus a lessening of the screaming). SO hard! I hope that I will look forward to the holiday season next year, but I’m just not really sure…

  3. Broot says:

    ((hugs)) sorry to hear it was so stressful but I’m glad things are getting back to normal now!!

  4. Ahhh…. the holidays are over and normalcy has returned…. but…. are you ready for it?

    It’s time to go back to SCHOOL!

    Oh, how I can’t wait for THAT shoe to drop!

  5. Lana Rush says:

    It’s so hard to remember that behavior is the best language our kids speak, especially when our behavior isn’t the best, either…. I’m ready for the regular routine, too. It may not be easy but at least I sort of know what to expect.

  6. Good point. I can always tell that when my stress level is high everyone else in the house suffers along with me…

    It was SO nice getting back to a normal routine today. Glad that T. is settling in again!

  7. Kelly Hafer says:

    Karen, Lizbeth, Karla, et al…OMG. This is the kick-y thing about reading your blogs: I get to see that my kids are “normal” in the autism world. Ted and AJ’s behavior started going downhill from the moment I put the tree up. Not a slow ramp up either, more a zero to sixty in three point five type deal.

    Then it stopped. Cold turkey, no draw down. The catalyst? I took the decorations down and put them away. No kidding the VERY NEXT DAY, all was, once again, well. Or, as “well” as it gets around here.

    I refuse to not put up decorations next year because I love the magical, wonderful feeling the Christmas usually brings me. HOWEVER, next year, I will know and try to mentally prepare for the backslide.

    Here’s to 2012 and a new year of growth, acceptance, potty training and love to you and your families.

  8. ElizOF says:

    2011 was a roller coaster year and this one will be exciting but measured… I thank you for your friendship and blog support. You rock girl! 😉
    ♥Happy ♥New ♥Year ♥ & TY for the blog love and friendship! 🙂

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