|Image Courtesy of 123RF|
don't turn away from me!
Listen to me,
and answer me quickly when I call!
I hear the quarreling explode just as I reach the dryer to fold the next load of warm, clean clothes. Little Miss Aspie, looking for a constructive way to channel her hyperactivity and relate to another person in the household, grabs the exercise balls and hand weights away from Mr. Hemophilia, who needs to follow through on a regular exercise plan for good joint health. His anxiety escalates as she continues to push him to work-out with her. He wants privacy and had the equipment first. The shouting gets louder as sibling tension escalates.
"God," I whisper as I begin to pair socks,"Please let there be peace in this house during the Christmas break."
Is it any wonder we parents with kids who have a variety of diagnoses find ourselves conflicted over having the children home for the holidays? There are so many moving parts to the Christmas season. We long to love on our families, bring our chicks under our wings and cuddle in the wonder of this winter pause.
Creating memories together...Aren't these all the things that make this time of year meaningful?
Drawing close to teach the miracle of the Christ child...
A cozy fire...
Twinkling lights in a darkened night...
Instead, there are sleepless nights from excited children who have limited executive functioning. Guests walk in on home therapies that aren't quite following the course they should be. Typical siblings reach their maximum coping abilities with those who exhibit challenging behavior. It all crashes into each other as you are still trying to figure out if you will accepting your friend's invitation to yet another celebration this weekend.
Sometimes the best celebrations, the sweetest time together as a family comes when we set aside expectations, to-do lists, and lean into the open space of unstructured time.
Exercise your "No, thank you" muscle with those putting designs on your free days.
(Check out the many previous posts we have on the topic of "boundaries".)
You are not alone... Don't feel guilty! So many of us experience these overwhelmed, conflicted feelings during the holiday break. It doesn't make you a bad parent or a bad son/daughter or a selfish brother/sister. It's merely another piece of all the moving parts that are Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year.
Just anticipate this type of stress to rear its ugly head this time of year, and plan accordingly. Be deliberate, intentional in carving out special time as a family, doing what might be most appealing to your own children. You know them best. You will never get a second chance at their childhood, so do your best to focus on just one thing that you can give to your child in the way of time together or family experience. After all, if we spend this season marching to everyone else's beat, succumbing to the demands of others, then we haven't been Christ's image-bearers to the ones who are our primary duty and closest to our hearts.
As for meltdowns and medical malfunctions, be open to changing plans. As one entry in my devotional Bible states, "Happy Are the Adaptable"*. Flexibility with the unique needs of our kids makes all the difference. Despite best efforts, you will never be able to completely control your child's health, their behavior, their medical emergencies, so why fight it?
Even if you have to get up early to do it, make certain you carve out some time alone as well. Take a walk to clear your head. Spend 15 minutes reading, praying, making a puzzle. This will fortify you to go back in there when it's time to don the referee shirt and break up the cabin fever brawls. It gives you those little moments of clarity to realize each day that it is what it is. You will survive. This is like being stuck in an overcrowded elevator, but you're almost to your floor.
Abandon perfection for the only Perfect One who we celebrate this time of year.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, friend!
PRAY: Lord, help me to keep my expectations in check this Christmas vacation. Exchange my anxiety and irritability for a loving embrace of what and who really matters. Let us look back on this season with joy in knowing that we focused on what is most important.
~ Barb Dittrich