My son has had three Christmases. And all three of those Christmases have ended with meltdowns. Even when he was just a few months old he couldn’t handle the stimulation from the Christmas celebration we have at my grandparents’ house. There are just too many people, too much noise, too much change to The Routine.
This year I contemplated not going to the Christmas celebration at my grandparents’ house. My husband and I decided we’d try it one more time. If our son had a rough time again this year we wouldn’t put him through it next year.
Trevor did great at the beginning, but as the day wore on it was obvious that he was overstimulated. He was mouthing everything (including some Christmas ornaments on their Christmas tree!) and the look of fear in his eyes when my family broke out into a chorus of “Happy Birthday” (my uncle’s birthday is on Christmas) together signaled the end of our Christmas celebration. As I went to put his coat on him he ran away from me. Trevor has enough trouble controlling his body when his sensory system is properly regulated, but when he’s overstimulated he’s even klutzier than usual. He tripped over his own feet and sailed into a table leg, smacking his forehead. So we left their house with a hysterical toddler and a growing goose egg. Not exactly the Merry Christmas I had hoped for.
And because I was worried about a possible head injury I couldn’t let him nap. By the time evening rolled around Trevor was a mess. He couldn’t even make it through his evening routine without repeatedly collapsing in an inconsolable heap. All throughout the night he woke up crying and screaming because his ability to self-soothe had vanished. I felt like my toddler had regressed into the colicky newborn he once was.
The following morning I woke up exhausted. I told my husband that next year we were staying home. A big Christmas celebration is just too much for Trevor and it’s not fair to him. A few hours after making that statement to my husband I got a call saying my grandfather was being rushed by ambulance to the hospital. Yesterday, just two days after Christmas, he passed away. And you know what, my perspective on this past Christmas has changed.
It was worth it. The tears, the bruised noggin, the meltdowns, the sleepless night. All of it. Because we got to be a part of my Papa’s last great memory here on Earth. Usually I put my son’s needs before everything. And of course, that’s the way it should be. My hope is that as Trevor gets older we find better ways to help him cope and he doesn’t have meltdowns during special occasions. But for now I’m here to say that sometimes, it’s worth it to disrupt The Routine.