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I’d like to introduce you to Sunday

A few months ago I spent a wonderful weekend in Philly for Bloggy Boot Camp and I met a bunch of special women some of whose blogs I have been reading for some time. It was great to meet so many women with such diverse backgrounds who loved to share their stories. I particularly enjoyed meeting women whose lives were similar to mine, thus the introduction to Sunday..

 

women with funny maskThis week marks the beginning of the holiday season.  In the coming days many will celebrate Thanksgiving.  In December families will come together for Hanukkah, Christmas, or Kwanzaa.  Each holiday involves its own unique celebrations and customs influenced both by family and culture.

In our home the holidays are influenced most by Autism.

If you visit our home you will not find a large Christmas tree in the living room lovingly adorned with ornaments passed down from my mom’s tree.  There will be no lavish spread of food because the boys refuse to eat anything other than their normal day to day fare of grilled cheese sandwiches and homemade chocolate chip cookies.  The fireplace is cold and still on Christmas Eve because setting one is too dangerous around the boys.  Similarly, you will not find us loading up the car with presents and suitcases for a trek to share the joy of the holidays with our families.

Because it seems autism is not something they want their holiday to include.

Every year I go through the varopis stages of grief over the fact that my family chooses to not include my boys in their holiday plans.

Shock & Disbelief:  
Why wouldn’t grandparents want to spend the holidays with their grandchildren?  Even if said grandchildren  prefer playing with wrapping paper, long colorful ribbons, and loud obnoxious toys over sitting quietly in Grandma’s lap while she reads them ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas?  Christmas is supposed to be about the children and celebrating with them the magic and beauty of the holidays.  Why would grandparents and family choose to miss out on that?

Anger & Bargaining:
When the boys’ grandparents choose to spend their holidays with their other grandchildren who do not have autism I am left feeling nothing but anger.  In some ways I am comforted in knowing that the boys do not know nor care why their grandparents are not visiting with us.  But I do, and it burns me up!

In previous years I would bend over backwards to invite family to celebrate with us.  I would plan out elaborate menus and wake up at 4 am to start the turkey in hopes of getting a couple hours in the kitchen before the boys woke up.  Family would come, eat, stay maybe an hour and then leave immediately following dessert.  I stopped trying to cater to their needs of my extended family after that.

Depression, Reflection, & Loneliness:
This stage seems to be where I spend most of my time during the holiday season.

I mostly feel lonely and a bit sad for family and all they are missing out on when it comes to the boys and how quickly they are growing up.

I miss my mom something fierce too.  She was was the best damn Nana this world ever saw.  She was also an amazing mother and friend.  Before her death in 2004 you would find her spending every weekend, every holiday, and all her vacation time visiting her grandchildren and having fun with them.  I mourn the fact that she is not here now to enjoy her grandsons like I know she would have wanted.

Acceptance & Hope:
Eventually (typically somewhere around December 24th) I make peace with the choices my family has made in how and with whom they choose to celebrate the holidays.

I focus on making the most of Christmas with my amazing husband and the boys. Mike and I sip eggnog, play Christmas music much too loud (which the boys love!), turn on the outside Christmas lights, break out the Scrabble board, and later we turn on The Grinch Who Stole Christmas and A Charlie Brown Christmas Special and we enjoy our grilled cheese sandwiches and chocolate chip cookies together.  Just the way a family should at the holidays.

***************

Autism may mean my boys are different than most and that may mean that our holiday celebrations are a bit out of the ordinary as well.  But, ours is no less filled with love, a sense of togetherness and magic.

And if someone isn’t up for celebrating the holidays with two boys who embrace those holidays full force and without abandon….then its nothing more than their loss.

Sunday is the frazzled mom raising two boys on the severe end of the Autism spectrum while living to laugh and blog about it at Adventures in Extreme Parenthood.  You can also find Sunday tweeting her Banshee heart out on Twitter at @ExtremeParnthood and on Facebook by searching for her name: Sunday Stilwell.

About shelley

Shelley Kramm is the founder and editor of I'm Still Standing and The DC Ladies. Learn more about her and her inspirational family here and connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, Google+ and on about.me.

Other places to find shelley

Comments

  1. Thank you so much Shelley for letting me grace the pages of your awesome blog today.

    I have learned so much from you and I will always bow down to your playground-building greatness!

    You are a true inspiration!

  2. Hon. This broke my heart!
    F- your family. If they choose not to enjoy your wonderful kids… no matter what is up with them… they don't DESERVE to bask in the glory that is those wonderful, unique boys.
    I'd RATHER sit and eat grilled cheese in front of The Grinch Who Stole Christmas than to spend the holidays sucking up to a bunch of people who don't appreciate what family really means.

  3. Great post Sunday! The holidays are indeed so much more stressful for us if we let them be. Which I usually do, because I can't seem to let go of the Norman Rockwell painting that it's supposed to be. I'll get there….

  4. Hugs, sweet Sunday. You're such a kind and generous person, it breaks my heart that your family makes no effort to include you and your boys in their holiday celebrations. It is an unbelievably cruel kind of selfishness on their part. Family is about acceptance. Period. It's a shame how few people seem to understand that.

  5. oh, this made me very very sad. From all that I've learned from your posts and tweets, you are an amazing mother and you have amazing kids. Your family is losing out. Definitely.
    That being said, there's something to be said for realizing it and doing your own thing that fits your family. The holidays are for celebrating, not for creating misery. Your idea of Christmas sounds wonderful, and we'd join you in a heartbeat.
    alysia

  6. Sunday, you are so right to make your own traditions and celebrate the way you want to. The other members of your family are really missing out. My niece has autism, and yes, we had a few (ok. MANY) rough visits in the beginning when we were all learning how to make this work. But it's been 10 years now, she's 13 and we just had a gorgeous Thanksgiving w/ her. *I* was waaaaay more inappropriate and disruptive than she was. Really. I'm the one that threw a tantrum. So eat your grilled cheese, dunk your cookies and sing. :)

  7. Grilled cheese and homemade cookies sounds pretty darn good to me. So sorry for the loss of your mom. Good moms are amazing people – and you are clearly one of them.

  8. Oh my…I am totally crying right now, that breaks my heart..I don't get it, they're family, family is supposed to embrace and accept what outsiders don't understand…
    I hope you and your family have a wonderful holiday…

  9. Who says the holidays need to be about family. Do you really want to spend one the best days of the year with people who you don't really "like" and you would run around catering to. No Way! You want to be with people who enjoy you and your children and husband for who they are. I know right not your family probably feels a little isolated, but I predict eventually your circle will grow. You may not find yourself spending the holidays with "family", but it will be family who are like family.
    So sorry about your mother. That is the piece that is truly sad, I don't know how I would survive these days of motherhood without my own.
    Happy Holidays!

  10. I don't know if this makes me more sad or pissed off! How dare they not celebrate with your boys. Why not just get them big boxes wrapped up with smaller wrapped boxes inside and whatever obnoxiously loud present their hearts desire.

    Why not just press the cc cookies dough inside the molds and make some xmas shaped cc cookies.

    Heck, we have grilled cheese for xmas lunch. I do splurge and get the really nice bread and quality cheese, but its still grilled freakin cheese.

    I just want to smack your family and tell them to f-off and I don't even know them.

    Time to stop ranting like a crazy. I love you Miss Sunday, and think you have an awesome family.

  11. I am impressed by the strength it must take to experience that every year, and then, to still come to acceptance and gratitude and togetherness enjoying your own unique version of Christmas!

  12. Thank you everyone for your kind words and support. It means so much to me.

    I think this year I would like all of you to come celebrate Christmas with me and my family!

    Grilled cheese sandwiches and homemade chocolate chip cookies are on the house!

  13. Hi, Shelly! I already know Sunday thanks to the wonders of Twitter, but I am so glad she introduced us to your blog.

    Your pictures are making me hungry.

    *giggle*

    Seriously.

  14. This is such an important post. It is so sad to me that we are all struggling so hard to find acceptance for our children out in the world, but some of us can't find it even with our own families. I'm so sorry that you and your beautiful boys are excluded. Your Christmas sounds more fun than a stuffy, quiet one anyway. :)