Christmas contemplation

Christmas is one of those times of year when we often look back and see how life has changed. Sometimes for the better, sometimes worse.

Pudding in front of a large model polar bear.

I’ve been in a contemplative mood lately. Partly because of the memories that are turning up on Facebook at the moment: three years ago Pudding had just been undergoing testing for the clinical trial that he is now on. Having been through months of heartbreak after diagnosis, the trial brought all sorts of different emotions and worries – would be accepted into the trial? would it make a difference? how long before the treatment would be made widely available?

Three years seems like a lifetime ago now, and although I sometimes speak with other parents who are only just at the start of this MPS journey, it can be hard to remember, truly remember, what those first few months were like. The vagaries of the mind can be quite useful – protecting us from the worst horrors so we (mostly) don’t get stuck in the same loop for ever.

I know I’ve been through so many states of mind – despair, guilt, anger, hope, frustration – and they come and go in unexpected ways, spiralling through the months and years. Never linear, sometimes bursting back in when I think I’ve waved that one goodbye. I’ve come to realise that emotions don’t behave in the way I used to expect.

But lately one has still caught me by surprise and I don’t quite know how to label it. Content isn’t quite right as that implies I’m happy about the situation (I am often happy too but that’s a separate emotion) yet resignation is wrong because it’s too sad. I think the best I can use is acceptance.

I’ve talked before on the blog about accepting this new path, but I guess there is a difference between reluctant acceptance of something that we can’t change and this new feeling of calm deep inside. And that is despite, or possibly even because of, the fact that I do now think we will have to say goodbye to our gorgeous boy way before his time.That will always be something I would change in an instant if I could, and I know that any of those emotions can come back and thump me in an unexpected moment, but for now this is where I am.

All Around the World sticker book. Fold out scenes with 400 animal stickers.Oddly the thing that made me realise it was this book. I bought it five years ago, long before Pudding’s diagnosis and intended to give it to him when he’d grown up enough to be able to use it. Every year I have looked at it in my present drawer and known that time hadn’t come yet. He is nearly seven now, and I’m not sure he will ever reach the stage of being interested/able. And it’s time for it to go to someone else. Previously when I’ve given away a part of the life he will never lead, it has been almost a physical hurt. An arrow to the heart that says, ‘This wasn’t what you expected’. But this time? Acceptance with a smattering of fond nostalgia.

Actually, maybe I was wrong to throw out the word content earlier. I am happy that it will go to another deserving little boy. Content does have a place in this life alongside MPS, and I shouldn’t feel bad about that.

Since moving house, life does seem to have got onto a more even keel. And when I snuggle up on the sofa with my Pudding watching his wholehearted enjoyment of a film, or when Hubby tickles him and brings out his deep chuckle, or when he bounces in excitement with a snowball in each hand, that is what I feel. Deep, deep love and content.

On an end-note, I’d just like to say a thank you to each and every one of you for reading my emotional ramblings and following Pudding’s journey. Wishing you all a contented and loving Christmas!

Christmas presents

Since I started writing this post the end of November has been and gone. And what with house move and hospital trips (sorry to those not following us on Facebook, it’s all been on there!) I’m still feeling pretty unprepared for Christmas. Apart from one area that is.

I’m completely prepared with Pudding’s presents. And that’s because I’m not getting him any.

How dare you! Child abuse! Unnatural mother!

I did wonder if I could ‘fess up to this one as I know that some people will be horrified by the idea. But for me it’s just a natural progression in the path we’re taking towards accepting this new life and accepting Pudding for how he is.

I remember as a child how magical Christmas was. The building of excitement in the previous weeks. Lying awake for hours chatting with my sister on Christmas Eve. Parents and grandparents getting increasingly cross when they came in and told us to shut the **** up (only they put it a lot more politely). Waking up to find Dad’s old walking socks at the end of our bed had been stuffed full of presents in the night. Pattering downstairs to see acres more presents under the tree, but having to wait (oh, the awfulness of it) until everyone had breakfasted before we could open them. So many anticipated and much-awaited rituals.

Of course when I had children I looked forward to sharing that magic with my boys. T has of course got all that anticipation and excitement. And yes, I do get a certain satisfaction in making him wait to open the big presents! But Pudding? Well, as you’ve probably gathered by now that if someone lives in the moment to the extent that he does, there isn’t a huge amount of understanding of Christmas.

Pudding holding a wrapped present and smiling.We’ll do some Christmassy trips out in the next few weeks and I may post pictures of Pudding smiling at Santa Claus (why wouldn’t he? Pudding loves meeting people and getting attention. A big beardy man in a funny suit is no exception.) But if we didn’t do any of that he wouldn’t feel like he was missing out.

Last year I did buy him presents but didn’t wrap any of them because he’s never been interested in unwrapping any before. When he came downstairs in the morning he just wanted his breakfast and TV as usual. In all the excitement I even forgot to bring his bag of presents down and when I eventually showed it to him he dumped Hubby’s slippers on the top and ignored them.

I am gradually learning that many of the things that we carry on doing as parents are partly for ourselves, wanting him to enjoy the things that we have anticipated and expected ourselves. If we try to force Pudding into the mould of a ‘normal’ child it is stressful for him and stressful for us too. So we learn to adapt and cut out a new path for our family.

There is of course always the possibility that he will surprise us all and suddenly show an interest in the whole Christmas thing. In which case there will be some things under the tree from other people and we will adapt again. But one thing I can guarantee is that on Christmas Day he will enjoy himself with food and TV and cuddles and family. He might not be able to join in all the Christmas rituals but one that we will definitely enjoy with him is having an almighty game of indoor snowballs.

 

Getting Christmas right

Peace on earth and goodwill to all men….

Not always true at Christmas! Close proximity to relatives, too much food and over-excited children can be a recipe for disaster in any family. Then you add into the mix a child with special educational needs, and BOOM!

But, this year Hubby and I are quietly congratulating ourselves on getting it right.

Pudding wearing a Christmas hat surrounded by books.

In the run-up to Christmas my Facebook and Twitter feeds were full of other SEND parents dealing with anxious or autistic children finding it hard to deal with the change in routine. Most children love the release from lessons for nativity plays, Christmas crafts and so on, but for some it is an incredibly difficult time. Thankfully, this is not an issue for us – all the excitement just passes Pudding by. When other adults ask ‘Is he looking forward to Christmas?’ the simple answer is  – he doesn’t have a clue. I recently wrote about him being cognitively around the level of a two year old. But how many two year olds don’t understand about Santa and presents?

I’m glad that we could still enjoy all the Christmas preparations with T (any reservations he had about Santa’s existence disappeared when December came!), but this year I let go of the need to include Pudding. It’s not fair to ask him to help put out mince pies for Santa when he’ll just want to eat them himself.

It’s not worth buying him lots of presents when he still hasn’t played with many that he got last year.

There’s no point wrapping presents when he doesn’t want to open any. (Endearingly, he looked so happy when given a wrapped parcel, and did wave it around happily showing everyone, but then wandered off.) I just put his things in one big gift bag that he then tried to stuff Hubby’s slippers into as well.

Pudding watching a film on his tabletOn Christmas Day itself, he woke up a bit later than usual so T’s stocking was already open and I was free to get Pudding’s breakfast – definitely more important than presents in his view! Later he did his usual thorough job of pulling all the books off the shelf while we opened our presents. We had a lovely walk in the woods with Sister and family, where he could chase around with his brother and cousins. Then he pretty much watched films on his tablet for the rest of the day while we relaxed*, chatted, played games and drank.

So we might not have given him the perfect picture-book Christmas, but we gave him the perfect Christmas Day for him. And to top it all, at dinner we discovered that he loves roast parsnip – what a day!

 

(*  Special shout-out to Sister and her partner for sterling work in the kitchen to allow this. I made the vegan main, and the Christmas cake but that was about it.)