A year ago, we could have never pulled off what we did this year. A 6 day vacation followed by 3 days of holiday celebration, each with varying degrees of over-stimulation. Tate would have been writhing on the floor in tears, screaming, and throwing whatever he could get his hands on. Jake would have covered his ears and fled the scene as fast as possible. Cole would have looked around in a daze. Hubz and I would have gone between tears, frustration, anger, and exasperation.
But this year? 2011? We.did.it. Yes we did. Thanks to a combination of maturity, therapy, and better living through chemistry, we have been able to enjoy not only a vacation to Disney World, but days of Christmas celebrations without significant tantrums! (Yes, you read that correctly.)
Was it all rainbows and puppy dogs? Oh, hell no. But, and a big BUT (and not just mine), Tate and the rest of us held it together. Hubz and I recognized the signs. We could read Tate, Jake and Cole so much better. We intervened. We removed ourselves and the kids when necessary. We didn’t worry about making a scene leaving, because really, that was better than making a scene by trying to stay put.
On the 23rd we celebrated Christmas with my family. My dad has a relatively small house, and there were 11 of us crammed in there. I give my dad props…he planned ahead and cleared out several areas to allow the kids to roam and play. He not only allowed Tate to play with the kitchen sink to calm himself, but got the stool ready for him, too. He had kid-friendly foods like french fries and chicken nuggets. The boys ate quite a bit. Ya-hoo!!!
When Tate showed anxiety over opening gifts, we took the lead. We let him roam a bit, then coaxed him back into the room. We would start a corner or two for him, and he’d do the rest. He’d appropriately show off a gift, before retreating into the kitchen for more water play. He got a helicopter from my sister and brother-in-law, and he spent quite a while spinning the propellers on it. No one objected. No one fought over who should go with him. We all took turns. Jake and Cole got showered with attention from Hubz and me, as well as their aunts and uncles and grandpa. Everyone got to feel involved.
On Christmas Eve we were fortunate to spend most of the day at home. Our main celebration was going to be to go to Mass at 4:00. There were 3 Masses being offered. We waited as late as we could go before not getting turned away. We ended up in the school gym. Hubz and I shared trepidatious glances. Would this work? Would it bomb? We chose to sit on the bleachers, and got the end seat. Tate loved it. There was a railing he hung onto, and loved being able to see from our vantage point. There was plenty of background noise, as well as a few fans going around on the ceiling. He had built in stims ready for the next hour. He was better behaved than Cole, which was amazing. We did relent and give him a phone for Angry Birds because he started to shout out about diapers, underwear, and poop, but once he had a phone in hand, he quietly tried to “Scoop the pigs!”
We came home, had a nice dinner, watched a little tv, and put the boys to bed. Tate actually went to sleep pretty easily (better than Jake, who was bouncing-off-the-walls-excited), and we had to wake him up at 6:45!!! We came downstairs to find that Santa had been incredibly generous. He was more than ready to open gifts with his brothers. He stimmed a bit with a stick of his, but overall, did a great job unwrapping and sharing with the family.
He got a bit anxious while we waited to go to Hubz’s sister’s house. He did some flapping and self-wedgy-ing. I tried my best to keep him calm. He handled the ride to their house just fine, and did well with the transition into their house. Everyone was there waiting for us.
My sister-in-law had the house decorated magnificently. She is so artful when it comes to decorating for Christmas! I started to set up my appetizers, and Tate found comfort in watching the fish in our brother-in-law’s salt-water tank. While the family socialized upstairs, Tate sat there watching the fish. He eventually tried to seek the attention of Jake and our nephew, B. They came downstairs, and some wrestling ensued. But Tate was engaged. It was awesome.
Tate didn’t want to come up for dinner, so we told him he could take his time. When he noticed that everyone was upstairs, he joined the other kids at the card table that my SIL had set up for them. He did great. He may or may not have eaten off of everyone else’s plate (oops!), but he had a little to eat, some lemonade to drink, and kept busy with Angry Birds on Hubz’s phone. It beats prior years where one of us was sitting with Tate in another room because he couldn’t handle the hustle and bustle of the dinner action.
During gift opening, Tate did disappear a few times into my nephew’s bedroom to play with the fan. However, he did come sit next to me on the couch. Kind of on top of me…sensory seeking, and all. I got him to open his gifts by starting the corners. I did have to open a couple of them, but he did say thank you to the giver. That was a big accomplishment.
At the end of the night, he gave hugs to his grandparents, aunt, uncle, and cousins. All this from a kid who 8 months ago had no idea how to say goodbye to family. It was our little Christmas miracle.
Today we are dealing with a few arguments with Cole and Tate over a couple of gifts, but I’ll take it. As I finish this blog entry, Tate, who has emerged from his ABA session, JUST ASKED ME TO LOOK AT HIS ANGRY BIRD GAME. Oh.Em.Gee….I LOVE when he exhibits joint attention!!! LOVE IT!
Hope this progress continues….