Friday, December 25, 2015

Twelve Christmases - An Autism Dad’s Christmas Letter to His Son

Twelve Christmases ago, I hadn’t met you yet. My dearest Mikey, you were still in your Mommy’s belly and wouldn’t pop into our world for a few more months. To say you were more anticipated than any Christmas present ever would be an understatement.

Twelve Christmases ago, I would speak and sing to you as you grew in your mother’s loving womb. I looked forward to the next Christmas when you would be in my arms and I could show you everything this special season brings to life.

As the following year rolled around, you were finally here with us. I was in love the second I had laid eyes on you a few months earlier, and now it was your first real Christmas. I remember watching your eyes and your face as you stared at the Christmas tree and lights. As I still do today, I wondered what you were thinking and if you realized just how much love you inspire.

When the next Christmas came, you had me on the edge of my seat. Your still not perfect walking skills would lead you to the Christmas tree and no ornament (within your reach) was safe. Little did I know that chasing after you to keep you safe would become a huge part of my life. Do you remember me lifting you up to the top of the tree to show you the angel (and to distract you from the easily reached decorations at the bottom of the tree)? I still wonder what thoughts filled your mind about that.

Christmas of 2007 was the first of our newfound life. Your recent autism diagnosis had rocked and saddened our world. Everything was now being seen through an autism filter. Was your interest in the wrapping paper and not-so-much your presents because of your autism or just a child’s prerogative?  

Our attempt the following year to introduce you to Santa Claus, led to me having to chase you as you ran as far and as fast away from the Jolly One as you could. Now, Daddy was never a big fan of Santa (having learned the truth at a very early age), but your mommy and I couldn’t help but feel a little sad about your reaction. You see, we were new to the autism parenting world and every little “different” thing would make us wonder what we could do to help...or if we even could.

As the next few Christmases came and went, and you were getting excellent help at your developmental school, your mommy and I felt more confident and hopeful (not to mention exhausted and stressed). But we realized that you would always have your challenges and that a “typical” Christmas might not be in the cards.

Now, as you know, your daddy is stubborn and always optimistic when it comes to you and your battle with autism. But, the one amazing breakthrough, the best ever Christmas gift I could get, has still eluded me. In our 9th Christmas, daddy wrote “”Merry Christmas, Daddy!’ An Imagined Conversation with My Son.” Yes, a simple conversation with you is all I wanted (and still want). The scenario I imagined in that story is still a fantasy, but someday I know it will happen.

So, now here we are at Christmas 2015...our 12th with you filling our lives with joy. To our excitement, you’ve shown more of an interest in the holiday. You wanted to look at toys (or toyssszzz as you call them) for Santa to bring, Santa himself no longer terrifies you (although you still probably wouldn’t want to sit on his lap), and the Christmas tree and lights still gain your smiles and attraction (but with less of an urge to rip them off the tree).

We’ve just opened this year’s presents and the smile on your face was priceless. It was the kind of sight that gives mommy and daddy a warm feeling in their hearts and a little more confidence that they know how to keep you happy. Daddy is happy with his presents too, but my wish to have a conversation with you was still not among those gifts.

I believe with all my heart, that some day we will have that conversation (and many, many others) that I crave so much. Wishes made at Christmas just have to come true (I mean isn’t that what the twinkle in Santa’s eye is all about). Merry Christmas, Mikey! Daddy loves you.