This holiday season I will play with you in the freezing cold and then we’ll come inside to watch The Charlie Brown Christmas Show together.
I’ll buy you a remote-control car that you don’t need, anticipating the joy on your face when you see that you have too many presents under our tree.
We’ll go to the botanical gardens and the zoo to look at the breathtaking holiday light displays. Your daddy and I will drink hot chocolate and try to coax you into tasting some.
We’ll get to the airport early for once, so that we don’t miss our flight. We’ll arrive at our destination, and we’ll feel at home. In other words, we’ll do the obvious holiday activities. I also hope to do some less obvious things this Christmas season.
I hope to breathe deeply and easily. I will exhale anxiety and exhaustion, while inhaling contentment and peace. I will embrace the loveliness of each relative and find amusement rather than annoyance in their quirks and assumptions. I will remember that they mean well when they don’t understand your quirks. I’ll remind myself that their assumptions don’t have to be the end of the conversation about developmental delays.
This year I will choose to utter the words, “Maybe you will catch up to kids your own age, but it’s okay if you don’t. Not all kids with special needs do.”
I will not take the easier path of nodding and smiling while crumbling inside.
I’m going to be brave and disagree out loud when someone suggests the theory that “boys who stay home with their mothers don’t learn to speak because their moms anticipate their needs, and they don’t learn to ask for what they want.”
This year will be the first Christmas that you see holiday lights and attempt to say “Christmas!” (or close enough).
This year I will not compare you to your cousins who are your own age.
I will not worry about where you sleep. It will likely be with me, while your daddy willingly sacrifices a good night’s rest on your grandpa’s living-room sofa. I will know that your sleeping with me is fine, no matter what my family says.
I’ll remember to bundle up and go outside when you wake up early in the morning in a different time zone, rather than pacify you with videos. I’ll remind myself that my brothers will be awake too. I’ll call for a breakfast meeting, rather than stressing out while waiting for unknown plans to be revealed.
I’ll remember that my relatives may have insight and a new perspective on your upcoming transition into kindergarten.
I’ll remember that we’re in a crowded house, and that my dad might simply be worried that the toilet will overflow again.
This year I will not feel guilty that you are not a typical four-year-old. I will not let the unknown make dinnertime conversations awkward.
This year I will turn my back on sadness and worry. I will embrace all the members of our family. I will speak when I should—and take a walk when silence wins.
I will remember that my family had celebrated and loved you, before you were even born.
I will remember that they love you, still, even though they don’t necessarily know or understand your words.
They’ll love you now—a boy who is full of belly laughs, wonder, and childhood delight.
I will remember.
This, and every holiday season, I will make Christmas magical for you. I will dance with you beneath fairy lights, cover your freezing ungloved hands with mine, and show you the importance of family. I’ll know how to nod, smile, and walk away from them.
This holiday season, I will be a better mom.
“This Holiday Season: A Letter to My Son” is an excerpt from the new anthology Mom for the Holidays: Stories of Love, Laughter, and Tantrums at Christmas and Hanukkah. Visit them at momfortheholidays.com! Kristi Campbell of Finding Ninee has been featured on Autism Speaks, Scary Mommy, Mamapedia, and Families in the Loop, and was published in the popular anthologies The HerStories Project, Mother of All Meltdowns, Awakening Wonder, and Life Well Blogged: Parenting Gag Reel.