I used to love Christmas as a child. Before the freaking elf was invented, Christmas was fun and full of magic. My mom used to get upset with me when it came to Abby’s Christmas. I would never tell her it was Christmas Eve. She would just wake up (at her normal time) Christmas morning, surprised to see all the gifts.
It was perfect!
She got up at a reasonable hour, I received the best gift ever–not having to answer every single night if Santa was coming.
Then the grandmothers conspired against me.
Both of our parents began spending the night of Christmas Eve at our house. We would go to Mass, do the traditional Chinese take-out (as an aside, what the heck is up with having Chinese food on the second highest Christian holiday) and wear matching pajamas. It was supposed to be fun.
Then they told Abby to leave cookies out for Santa.
Why? She asked.
He comes tonight, the grandmothers explained.
There went my chances of sleeping in the next morning.
When Abby (finally) stopped believing, I was relieved. Honestly, I thought I was going to have to break the news to her when she left for college. She really believed, and believed for a very long time.
As with most events in our lives, with Bridget the holidays are different.
Bridget has never believed in Santa. Until last year she could not even be in the same room with one without screaming in panic. She still will say NO SANTA GO HOME to the Macy’s day parade on Thanksgiving. This made life immensely easier when Abby stopped believing. We didn’t have to put on the facade of pretending Santa was coming, or worried that Bridget’s belief would be inadvertently quashed. I was perfectly fine with Bridget not believing. The fact that the freaking elf would never be an issue filled me with elation.
Then, one year, I received this video from Bridget’s school.
As I watched the video, I was overjoyed not so much that Bridget believed in Santa. She still doesn’t understand. But that she overcame her fear. Her grandmothers, tho, got their wish. One they had never voiced to me, but one they both held. That Bridget would one day know the magic of Christmas.
For me, the magic of Christmas isn’t in Santa. My struggle was always with the Christmas tree. I love decorating for Christmas. I always had this image in my head that my family would decorate the tree together, as a unit. Bridget always refuses. She is okay with the tree. She is fine with decorations and the house not looking the exact same. She just doesn’t want to participate.
Or maybe she doesn’t want to participate with me.
When it was Abby’s turn to hang her ornaments, Bridget was all in. Bossing her around. Telling her where to put the ornaments (for some reason all had to be on the top of the tree). Climbing the ladder and showing the awe of the princess ornaments. I got my Christmas moment, just in Bridget fashion.
Had I never had that moment, I would have been okay. Because the pros of Bridget not believing far outweigh the cons. I have always been content, even when her relatives haven’t, that Bridget just is not into Christmas. It just has never been the thing to break my heart, other milestones yes. But not this one. I cannot explain it, I know I’m not in denial but Bridget not being into the magic of Christmas just doesn’t hurt.
I wish it didn’t hurt her aunts and grandparents. They are wonderful in not sharing that hurt, but I know it is there.
I know that a lot of parents with children who have special needs also have that wish. They want that picture of their child on Santa’s lap, as they whisper their secret wishes in his ear. That every Christmas their heart breaks, because they are reminded that they will never have that Hallmark moment. They will never be woken up at 4 am, have to hide the freaking elf or hang an ornament on the tree.
There are a lot of moments in raising a child with special needs that they break you. That you become a puddle of ugly tears, that you become so brittle you think you are going to break into so many pieces you will never be put back together again.
My not so little wish, to those parents, is that this year Christmas doesn’t hurt you. That you giggle over your typical friends who woke up in a sweat at 3am because they hadn’t moved the freaking elf and feel superior. My not so little wish is that while I know how much you love your child, that you would never say how much these moments hurt you, is that your typical friends rally around you. That your village gets it and gets you through the holiday season.
My wish for you is that you are given a little Christmas magic this season, even if it’s in an unexpected way.
This is how I Finished the Sentence, for the first time in a long time yet still following rules: “I wish…”
What is your wish this year?