Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Reinventing the Holidays

When looking back on your own family traditions there is a natural desire to pass them down to the next generation.  We'd put up the Christmas tree on Thanksgiving or sometimes the day after if Dad thought it would seriously stress out Mom while cooking dinner.   Each child would be allowed to open one gift on Christmas Eve.  My paternal grandparents would literally load us up with full-sized varieties of Hershey candy bars to give us a sugar rush for the next twenty years.  We'd do the occasional cookie baking and hot chocolates, egg nog and cheer.  I'd spend time playing new Christmas songs I learned on the piano each year. We'd be up hours before the sun, sometimes the over-eager little me even up at midnight trying to pry my parents out of slumber in order to go through what Santa had left.  All the while my mother convincing me that I must have interrupted Santa and if I kindly went back to sleep Santa would come back and leave more.  To my dismay there wasn't any more in the morning than there was at midnight.   Santa would leave stacks of unwrapped toys one section of the room was for me, one section of the room for my little brother.  In our stockings we always had one giant apple and one giant orange with a single chestnut for good luck.

Santa was always good to me, and filled my childhood years with magic and love.   I had hoped to pass down so many of my memories and the way we did things when I was a child, because it was such a beautiful time in my life.  But then Noah came along and changed everything.  The way we do the holidays entirely.  

We didn't get home with Noah until January 9th, 2009.  All those years ago in a blog so fresh and new I wrote: 

The day Noah was born his daddy bought him an outfit in the hospital store that says "Special Holiday Delivery"  and matching socks with holly.  We plan to put him in it tomorrow, and celebrate with a late Christmas.  We're going to open presents together - the three of us!  I just pray this feeling lasts, and that Noah comes home to stay for years to come.   

Our First Christmas together celebrated January 9, 2009
Noah still heavily medicated was in and out of sleep when we did our make-up Christmas.  But I remember it just like yesterday, holding him in my arms in my pajamas the three of us by the Christmas tree.  Things got harder the second year.   Noah still was very much a distraught little baby.  He cried often and frequently nothing made him happy.  I sure tried.  I tried everything.  Realizing that things were overwhelming for him, there was no ability to attend family gatherings, and we decided we were not able to leave the comforts or the safety of our own home.   A few family members visited us, but only for brief amounts of time in order to ensure Noah wasn't overwhelmed.   By the third year we started to realize that some parts of Christmas were actually one of the few things that seemed to calm and comfort Noah.  The tree went up early, lights, songs, Christmas movies.  Whatever it took to keep him happy.   But how we went about the holidays still was different from how I ever dreamed it to be.
My Special Delivery and the Best Gift I've Ever Received
I longed for what felt like broken childhood traditions.  I couldn't really give Noah an apple or an orange, he couldn't eat solid foods, he couldn't unwrap his own gifts, he couldn't even get me up in the middle of the night to say Santa had come.  I wanted it, I still to a large degree want it.  But I'm learning that I can reinvent the holidays with a child that has special needs and that it is okay to start new traditions that fit his needs and us as a family.

Instead of an apple and an orange, Noah gets cotton candy and fast dissolving chocolates.  We put the Christmas tree up weeks before Thanksgiving even hits.  He has his trains, switch toys and Christmas books and movies to entertain him.  And allow him the freedom to make a mess of the ribbons and essentially un-decorate the lower branches of the tree on a regular basis.

Each year we seem to incorporate something new to grow as Noah grows with his abilities, likes and dislikes.  And are doing a night before Christmas chest for both the boys this year.  I found these cute little chests at Hobby Lobby, and I stuffed them with all the essentials you need the night before Christmas; a set of holiday pajamas, Christmas movies, coloring books, reading books, sensory activities, fast dissolving chocolate Santa and an apple juice box.  I painted each child's name in nail polish on the boxes since it was all I had on hand.  I made it work and poured a lot of love into each of them.  Making new memories for me and for the boys.

I'm finding if I can find new ways to make the holidays fun and work for Noah and us as a family then it doesn't matter the traditions that either Chris or I had as children.  It's about our children not what necessarily was a part of our childhood, but what our children will remember most about theirs.  And by reinventing the holidays I'm building memories they can both look back on and say remember when...


Noah's Miracle by Stacy Warden is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.