I will probably say this each and every year but this was a great Christmas; one of the best!!
Jake had a lot of fun and was super excited to see what Santa was going to bring him! When he came into the family room Christmas morning, he stood there with his mouth wide open and sat on the couch taking it all in. Christmas’s past he has cried, hid and showed no interest in the pretty wrapped packages. There was a time when the wrapping paper literally made him gag, he hated the sound of the paper being torn and wouldn’t touch any gifts. Well, those times are gone now. There were no tears and he couldn’t wait to rip open each present!
On Christmas morning we watched the kids explore the gifts Santa brought, then we all went through our stockings and finally we opened gifts. We always take turns so that we all can see what gifts were given and being opened. Jake waited patiently for his turn and was engaged which made the morning that more fun!
The main toy Jake wanted Santa to bring was the PJ Masks headquarters. His eyes lit up when he saw it and was so excited; his favorite gift by far!
Whenever we do anything that is a tradition like Christmas or birthdays I always watch Jake and think about the years prior, I think as parents we all do this to some degree. I am especially interested in seeing how much Jake has grown from the previous years; it is a gift in itself! Watching the progress is better than any present because we (Allie, John and I) know how difficult past Christmas’s and birthdays have been for him. There were a few years where Allie had to unwrap Jake’s gifts, there weren’t many because he couldn’t tolerate the sounds. Then a couple of years ago Allie unwrapped Jake’s gifts and he watched in awe to see what was inside. Last Christmas Jake told Allie that he didn’t need help and happily opened his gifts. This year Allie didn’t even offer to help him, he was into it with full force and opened each present with pride!
Our Christmas was truly great!
Thankful for so much this year and am already dreaming of all the things Jake will accomplish in 2017!
When Jake was in preschool he hated for me to come to his class. He would hide either under the table, behind his teacher or in the corner. I couldn’t go near him and if I did he would cry. At that time Jake couldn’t tell me what upset him. When Jake was in kindergarten he didn’t cry but he would hide from me and didn’t want me to help him or talk to him. As the year went on he started being more okay with the idea of seeing me at school. First grade was even better! He would get excited when I was there and this smile stretched across his face. This year he runs to me with his arms stretched out and can’t wait to give me a hug and a kiss!
This past Thursday, Jake had his class Christmas party. I was already in the classroom when his teacher brought the class in the room. As soon as Jake saw me, he jumped out of line and ran to me with a huge smile! He asked his teacher “Can I give my mom a hug and a kiss!” Of course she said he could, he threw his arms around me and squeezed me tight. My heart about jumped out of my chest remembering the times before when he couldn’t do these things. Hugs had to be taught. He would lean in and receive but to hug back was not one of Jake’s natural instincts.
Personal space for Jake is very important. He didn’t like being too close to anyone. Hugs would have to be short and there would be no cuddling when he would sit next to me. There were times I couldn’t even look at him or he would melt down. Those days are now few and far between, thankfully! Jake will sit right next to me on the couch, hug me tight and just the other day while we were watching TV he grabbed the blanket and put his head on my chest! We sat like that for at least 20 minutes. The only time he has ever snuggled with me on the couch is when he is sick. Because of this I asked Jake if he felt okay and he said “I’m tired and just want to be with my mommy!” Sweetness. I soaked it up and this memory will last forever!
Christmas is hard for Jake. All of the activities, being off schedule, lights and sounds can send him in a downward spiral pretty quick. This year is a little different than those past. He can now verbalize his feelings a little better. He will tell me when something is bothering him and sometimes will say, “I’m going upstairs, I need to be alone and play by myself.”
Advocating for himself is something we all have been working on for a while now. Only recently has Jake grasped that he can tell us or his teacher what is going on so he can have the help he needs. I’ve witnessed his teacher encouraging him, his therapists and of course we (John, Allie & I) work with him too. Jake seems to grasp this concept a little better and although it is still quite difficult, he is making great progress.
It is hard being a mom of an autistic child. Being a mom in general is hard but having a child who struggles to understand things we think should be “easy” is quite exhausting. I redirect, encourage, use way too many words and get frustrated. Why can’t my child spit or blow his nose? Why does he still struggle dressing himself? When will he be able to shower on his own? The list goes on. SO many thoughts go through my mind regarding Jake especially if we are about to do anything new. I try to anticipate his needs before we go anywhere and to pack all the things he might need so we don’t encounter a meltdown. I was talking to my friend about this the other day and she likened it to having a new baby and filling the diaper bag before you leave the house. It’s true! I have to prepare for any possible situation. It isn’t that big of a deal when your child is an infant but when they are nearly 8 and you’ve been doing this for 8 years it is, I’ll say it again, exhausting!
But there is always that sweet silver lining! My boy is healthy, happy and loved. He is progressing and meeting goals left and right. Like everything else I’ve seen and done with Jake; I know one day he will do much much more than I ever dreamed he would!
“We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure…” Hebrews 6:19
Last night we took a ride on the Polar Express. When I first mentioned it to Jake he wanted no part of it; he said he only likes the movie. Yesterday, Friday, I told him that I would check him out of school and he said “I don’t want to talk about it”. I asked him where we were going and he said “I don’t want to go to the Polar Express and I don’t want to talk about it!” New things are scary for Jake; he doesn’t really know how to process it and needs a lot of help! Fortunately, we have a fabulous teacher that helped him get excited! When I checked Jake out of school he was extremely excited!!
Jake had a great time and loved having his cousin, Ella, with him! I think she helped him relax and enjoy every part of our ride. He loved all the songs and sang and danced! He waved out the window to people and was in awe when we got to the North Pole. He couldn’t stop looking out the window at the elves and Santa!
When it was time for Santa to come on board Jake wanted to hide. We were in the first seats on the car and the first to see Santa. Jake watched as Ella talked to Santa and then he tried to hide behind his aunt and older cousin. Santa came to our seats and Jake tried to take off and climb over the seats to get away from him. As Jake was getting upset I told Santa that Jake was autistic and seriously as corny as this sounds, there was a twinkle in Santa’s eye!! He nodded his head and asked if he could sit down. John was able to get Jake on his lap and Santa gently and quietly started talking to Jake. I have no clue what he was saying as I was crying at the sweetness of Santa and the smile on my boys face!!! Jake sat there and looked at Santa and then took the sleigh bell Santa gave him. Jake smiled as Santa walked away and looked at his prized possession. My sister and I cried as we watched Jake and listened to him talk about his shiny new bell. A little while later as Santa was about leave he stopped back by our seats and said “Merry Christmas, Jake!”; Jake smiled and gave Santa a fist bump and a high-five!
Such a fun night with lots of firsts for Jake. I wouldn’t trade a moment of this night for anything! Jake tried something new, saw Santa and talked to him in Jake’s own way. Santa got that Jake needed a minute and even though there were so many other kids to see on the train he sat down and gave Jake the time he needed to process everything going on!
I have a feeling this will be a Christmas we will never forget!!
'And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don't believe in magic will never find it.' Roald Dahl