We had a truly wonderful holiday. At the age when most children are discovering the truth about Santa, the Prince is still a believer. This is only the second year that he “got” the idea of Santa and the overall meaning of Christmas--at least the understanding that it is the season of giving and that giving is good. The religious aspects are beyond him, but that’s ok for now. For once, I am actually kind of happy that the Prince is socially and emotionally delayed, it means I can enjoy the Santa experience longer!
The Professor and I cherished every minute and made up for the lost years when the holidays were hard, when the Prince didn’t understand what was going on at all, when the changes in routine were upsetting to him, when we would think back to the year before and wish there had been more progress, when we would look to the future and feel despair.
Christmas is not like that anymore, and so it is finally a joyful time for us. Still, I know for many of my friends with children on the spectrum the holidays are still very painful. Living with autism is hard all the time, but it is even harder when everyone around you is so darned happy because it is the holidays. You feel like you are on Autism Island, which is a lot like the Island of Misfit Toys in Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.
I had thought that I was sensitive to those feelings, but the Prince taught me something the other day. Our niece came and stayed with us for a few days last week. She is 5 and the Prince adores her. I have referred to her before here as the Princess. They had a blast and the best Christmas present of all for me was watching the Prince play with her. Sure, he still has some scripting and echolalia, but he has conversational speech too. He is a little eccentric and probably always will be, but that is part of his charm. She loves him anyway.
The Princess had received a doll’s tea set for Christmas. She didn’t bring it to our house, but the Prince knew she had it. He said to me, after the Princess went home, “maybe we can have a tea party. Then we can be a normal family, just like you wanted.”
I don’t know exactly why having a tea party would make us a normal family in the Prince’s mind, but I felt ashamed of myself and so sad. I know I have complained to the Professor at times when I thought the Prince was not listening, because he was scripting or engrossed in the computer, that I wished we could do more social things together “like a normal family.” Little people, even those on the spectrum, are always listening.
I tried to explain that I had been wrong to suggest that we are not a normal family. I talked about all the fun things we had done over the winter break and he seemed fine. But I felt just terrible. Two of my favorite TV shows are Modern Family and The Middle because they send the message that families come in all shapes and sizes and that it’s ok to be different. In the case of The Middle, I almost believe that one of the writers must have a child with Asperger’s, due to several of the story lines involving the youngest son, Brick.
I will have to be more sensitive to my little boy and to try to show him that I do have the family that I wanted. Because being “normal” is relative, after all. The only thing that really matters is the love.