We had a 3 day Christmas this year – I love Christmas for seeing family and spending time together but I’ve read a lot about how difficult and overwhelming it can be for neurodiverse people (not just autistics). This year we spent Christmas Day with my mum and step dad, stayed the night at their house and then saw my sister and her family on Boxing Day, and yesterday we had my in laws over to us. Thankfully Katie has never seemed to find Christmas too stressful. She looks forward to it and seems excited by it, and she’s tended to get stuck in with it all. This year is the first year there have been any signs of stress on her part (although I wonder if that’s just because we weren’t looking for them before) but they were fairly minimal.
I’m pretty sure Katie’s favourite part of Christmas Day was in the evening when Alice and Matthew had gone to bed, and she stayed up and played the board game ‘Sorry’ with my mum, step dad and my mum’s friend who was also staying with them. She definitely seems more comfortable in adult company than with other children and doesn’t get irritated with them in the same way. I really enjoyed just watching her playing – there was genuine enjoyment there on her part, confidence in handling herself, and a fair bit of banter going on where she was giving as good as she got. She’s also not massively competitive, so she’ll try to win but it won’t cause a meltdown if she doesn’t. She just had a good laugh and it was great to see her relaxed and happy.
At bedtime at my mum’s Katie started off in her own room (with John staying in with her until she was asleep) but only for a couple of hours, at which point she came into our room because she was scared of something being in the wardrobe. We’ve pretty much given up trying to reason with Katie when she’s worrying in the middle of the night because it never gets anywhere other than everyone getting stressed and no one getting any sleep, so she just came into bed with me and John went and slept in the other room.
Boxing Day was no problem because my sister also has three kids (also two girls and a boy), and they tend to all pair off together – the two older girls, the two younger girls, and the two boys. Luckily they all get on well because we see a lot of them and they’d end up getting lumped together anyway whether they liked it or not! Alice and my niece Charlotte only have 4 months in age between them and had a bit of a love / hate relationship to start off with which has grown into love as they’ve got older. Matthew is 2 years older than Brandon so it’s fairly recent that Brandon has been old enough to play and chat with him but they rub along together pretty happily. But Katie and Cara (9 months in age between them) have loved each other and been in each other’s pockets since they first met, which was pretty infrequent for their first couple of years as my sister lived in America. They tend to hole themselves up together and ignore the rest of us, so Boxing Day was fine and probably a pretty easy day for Katie as that’s exactly what they did.
Yesterday was possibly the day Katie started feeling the stress a bit where it came straight on the back of two other full on days. We had John’s parents, brother and wife, and nephew to us for the day. Katie managed things pretty well and I was pleasantly surprised when she came and ate at the table with us because she’d told me that she wasn’t going to (which would have been fine). She ate her roast dinner but then suddenly disappeared upstairs and didn’t want to come down for pudding. I’m not aware of anything ‘setting her off’ as such so I think it was just getting a bit much being at the table with all of us. We had to move the table round to fit everyone in and it was a bit of a squash. After a while she came back downstairs and had pudding on her own in the conservatory.
Before we opened presents Katie went and put on a Halloween mask which covered her face except for eye holes. This isn’t something she’s done before but she told me she didn’t want to open presents without wearing the mask. I’m not sure what was different than any of the other times she’s opened presents. I guess she felt a bit exposed for some reason and just needed something to hide behind, so it will be interesting to see if she uses that again. She just kept it on for opening presents and maybe half an hour or so afterwards and that was it.
Overall a fun few days which whizzed by, but it’s easy to forget that Christmas can be full on for any children regardless of their neurotype. Matthew spent Christmas morning alternating between being totally hyperactive and announcing it was the best day ever, to bursting into tears about the smallest thing, to settling down slightly in the afternoon and being just hyperactive but not emotional! Alice was fine over Christmas but today we’ve had a quiet day and it’s just been the 5 of us at home. We went out for a walk and the kids have had a chance to just do whatever while we’ve tried to get the house straight, and she’s been really grumpy so I guess she’s on a bit of a come down after a few crazy exciting days!
We’ll mostly just be pottering around now until 5th January when the kids go back to school and I go back to work. Katie has already started worrying about going back and saying that she doesn’t want to so I’m not sure how that’s going to go when the time comes.