It’s that time of year again…trees, lights, music, gifts and Christmas cards to name a few. What a lovely way to wrap up a full year of running and doing, but to take some time to reflect on your family’s adventures and share your joys with friends and family.
I remember as a kid, Christmas cards were just that: cards, with a message about Christmas with a few handwritten lines of well wishes, signed with love. Now, as greetings come in, it’s mostly pictures, which we love, sometimes accompanied by a printed letter, but rarely do we see any handwriting any more, even on the envelopes. On a cynical day, I often wonder if the sender even thought of us as they stuffed their envelopes and slapped on the labels. I remind myself we made the cut to receive a card and with the price of postage, that has to say something, right? Don’t get me wrong, we do love the picture cards. In fact, we post them on our cupboard doors and enjoy seeing our friends’ faces all year long.
Over the years, we’ve done the same, except we’ve never quite been with it enough to do mailing labels, so if you get greetings from us, you can be assured, we have thought of you as we address your envelope. The technological wonders of facebook and email have sure simplified the process though as we can update our status or post a blog entry and easily bring everyone up to date. The last couple of years, we haven’t included a letter, except to those folks we know aren’t online and so we’re back to our early years, back to the days of a card or a picture. Despite the chaos of our lives, we’ve found a way to simplify a bit.
I’ve found myself focusing on simplicity a lot lately. It’s not been a conscious effort, but as I think it through, it’s been necessary. In the midst of family life on the autism spectrum, I need simple. That’s where we find joy, in the simple moments.
We have five children, ranging in age from 3 to 14. That right there is the recipe for chaos and challenge, no? Our youngest son is 5 and has autism: more challenge. It’s also a recipe for great joy and blessing. Because we live on the spectrum, we recognize joy in the more simple moments of life.
I treasure the sound of “I love you” rolling off the tongues of all of my children, but I remember specifically the first moment I heard those words from our Ben. I remember exactly where we were and exactly what each of us were doing. These are moments every parent longs for, but spectrum parents may wait years to hear the words. Some never do, not because the child doesn’t love them, but they simply cannot form the words. They find other ways to show it, but to hear those words, that is joy, especially when you’ve waited four long years.
Looking back over 2012, there have been many challenges and many joys. One of the struggles living on the spectrum is that you never really know what kind of day you’re going to have. You may have everything planned and set up so that nothing could possibly go wrong, but any little thing can cause a meltdown. You have to realize this and accept it and work with the child. And when the moment passes, recognize that it is past and move on with your day. Dry your eyes and the eyes of your child, share a hug or a high five and move on, sometimes several times a day. And when you tuck that precious child into bed at night, let the joy that you’ve made it through one more day sink in and resonate your soul as that little one puts both hands on your cheeks, says, “I love you, Mommy.” and seals the deal with a sloppy kiss on the cheek. Yes, that is joy.
May you all experience abundant joy this season. From my family to yours, Merry Christmas!!