Preparing for Christmas

Sarah Brisdion's avatar

by Sarah Brisdion
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For most parents, that means spending more than you can afford on stuff you know the kids won’t really play with, but they have been going on about for months, so you cave. 

Lining the cupboards with more food than an Army could eat.

Because even though we don’t eat them at all throughout the year, we are very likely to have a huge craving for cheese, crackers and nuts after a giant roast dinner and box of Roses on Christmas day, right? 

Getting the decorations out of the loft and revelling in putting them up way too early, all because the kids want you to (honest!).

Making terrible mince pies that resemble cardboard with spicy raisins in them and watching Christmas movies that we’ve seen a hundred times before, but they get you in the spirit.

Christmas parties, where you drink more alcohol than you usually consume in an entire year.

Writing cards for relatives and neighbours, that you never see and who probably can’t remember your name.

And then there is the favourite for many - visiting Santa.

The kids are so excited and can’t wait to get an early present. It’s the one time of year when letting your kids tell a lie (that they’ve been good all year!) is socially acceptable. And they love it!

It’s magical isn’t it?

This is all part of the build-up and enjoyment of Christmas. It might be bonkers, but it’s great! It’s tradition. 

But for families with additional needs, it can be very different.

We can’t always enjoy all of those things. It's not a time of year that we always look forward to.

For example. My little boy has a HUGE fear of Santa.

He is quite ok with seeing him on the tv in a film and the concept of him bringing him presents, but if he sees anyone dressed in a big red suit and beard, he is so petrified that he vomits and he quite violently shakes.

This makes things a little tough during December as you can imagine.

He is constantly on edge in case there is a Father Christmas figure about and we have to try to organise our lives so that he doesn’t encounter one.

That unfortunately means missing out on lots of things at school and in the local community. I’ve never been the biggest Christmassy person, but I do like to get in the spirit and enjoy the build-up - especially the mulled wine - and we are very kindly invited to lots of things.

Sadly we have to make our excuses and decline. Which makes us feel terrible. It’s not that we don’t want to attend. It’s just that we can’t. It’s just too much for Hadley to handle.

We have tried to get him over his fear. We introduced him to Santa at his RDA riding school last year and the year previous, hoping that if he was on horseback at the time, he wouldn’t feel so threatened or worried.

It didn’t work, and although he was so brave and he did take his gift, it really upset him and caused him a lot of worry. I felt terrible for that.

We won’t be putting him through it this year. As time has passed, he seems to have become even more afraid of people who are dressed up (which is what the fear is really, it’s not just Santa, it’s any adult in fancy dress costume or mask, particularly men with anything on their faces). 

When Hadley is an adult, it won’t really be an issue. But to be scared of Christmas as a child, really does suck sometimes.

It affects his sister too.

This time of year is also very tough on Hadley’s twin sister. She is not scared of Santa. Not one bit. She cannot wait to tell him what she wants for Christmas.

But she’d love to do that with her brother. She’d love to go as a family to see him. Especially at our local activity farm, with their amazing Christmas Barn.

But Hadley doesn’t want to do these things with her. And she does feel sad about that. Poor love. She is so understanding and caring, but she’s still only six years old.

It’s hard not to get upset and cross about these things when you are six. 

Of course, we can take her by herself, and we will. It will be beautiful and she’ll have a lovely time. But it’s always laced with a bit of sadness - and that lovely parent guilt!

It’s such a shame that Hadley misses out on something that his sister finds so magical. But his fear is so real and so harsh! 

Presents

Then of course there is the issue of presents. Birthdays come with this problem too.

Most toys and gifts you’d expect a six year old boy to want are just not suitable for Hadley. His fine motor-skills are affected by his Cerebral Palsy and so whilst most of his friends are now Lego obsessed, it is impossible for him to play with.

And with his mobility restricted to using his wheelchair or trike, any toys that involve moving around or getting down on the floor are also no good for him. So we have to find things that he can do and that he will enjoy - and I have to admit we are now running out of ideas. He has pretty much everything that he likes and can use.

It’s getting harder and harder each year. It's making him grow up very quickly as toys just don’t really play a part in his life. 

Whose turn is it this time? 

We usually have Christmas at home and will do again this year. Not because our families wouldn’t have us or take it in turns. But because spending a whole day at somebody else’s house for Christmas day, comes with its own set of challenges too.

It’s hard to take all of Hadley’s equipment, so physically it would make the day even more challenging for him. From where he can sit to eat, to using the toilet and changing. It’s just easier to be at home. 

Don’t get me wrong, we will have a fab time, in our own way. I don’t want this to sound hugely negative, as we are so lucky to have our health and each other as well as brilliant family and friends who completely understand our needs, which is what it’s all about really isn’t it.

And I really do appreciate that there are so many families whose Christmas will be so much tougher than ours for so many reasons. But, I have to admit, I do feel just a little pang of jealousy at times.

So to all those families whose Christmas is not the most wonderful time of the year, whether that’s because of disability or illness or something else… Merry Christmas!

I hope it’s as stress free as possible and you get to enjoy doing whatever works for your family. x

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