OK – last year’s holidays were different for sure. We were isolated, unable to see our family and friends, relegated to food delivered to our doors as we stood masked and gloved, waiting to wash off the virus. We zoomed with everyone, trying to be jolly, but it was hard and we all looked forward to returning to “normalcy.” We assumed that would come in 2021. Well – not quite.
This year, things have certainly improved somewhat. We’re shopping again and seeing our nearest and dearest with more frequency. For those of us with young kids in the family, that’s generally a big plus. HOWEVER (and there’s always a “however” these days!) – if they are too young to be vaccinated, then what? Are we going to infect them with our grocery store germs or are they going to infect us with their day care germs? Too much stress!
In addition to that, those of us with disabled children always have extra challenges around the holidays. Is it too much for them to process? Is the confusion making them harder to handle? What messages can we teach them that are meaningful but not beyond their capacity to understand? What gifts will actually enhance their lives rather than just add more “stuff?” How can we make this season “just enough” so that it is enjoyable?
In a sense, it’s the same set of questions we had when all our kids were little, but many of our “kids” aren’t little anymore. So we have to be respectful of their age and level of maturity without being either patronizing or going over their heads. Challenging!
We have all that, PLUS the real challenge of a bit of a malaise that’s surrounding a “not-quite-normal” holiday this year. I’ve talked to so many people who are having a bit of a challenge getting their Christmas spirit up to snuff. Understandable. We were ready for a regular holiday and we got this. So many of our rituals were postponed yet again – big get-togethers, trips to the Nutcracker or Radio City Music Hall, train rides, even sitting on Santa’s lap.
And we’re awfully tired of “making the best of it.” Yes, we are all incredibly lucky and we need to take deliberate time every day to appreciate what we have. I’m not dismissing that. It’s just that, for some of us, it takes more effort.
Our children with disabilities can, as always, give us good examples. After all these years, I still marvel at how my daughter and her friends find joy in the smallest things – playing Zoom Bingo, laughing at silly jokes, watching Everybody Loves Raymond, hanging holiday lights, teaching the dog a new trick. And the way they support each other is amazing! They cheer each other up when someone is sad or sick; they ask about friends who are having problems; they even send notes and gifts when a person has had a loss. (When our dog passed, I was floored by the compassion of my daughter’s friends!).
So at this “different” holiday time, we have another thing for which to be grateful – the way our disabled children can be role models for us! Let them guide us and it will be easier to “be of good cheer.” Wishing you and your families a blessed and joyful holiday. May the New Year continue to bring us health, safety, joy and gratitude. Happy 2022!