Thursday, December 27, 2012

I'll have Christmas please. Hold the Autism.

Christmastime is a minefield when you have a kiddo with autism. Routines may change, no school, the anticipation- these are all things that provide a perfect environment for a HUGE meltdown. We were miraculously meltdown free until Christmas Eve when our normal plans were sidelined due to a sick Grandpa. Our big dinner and present opening with Grandma and Grandpa and Auntie was not going to happen. So, Grandma and Auntie came over to drop off gifts and to get hot dinner to take home. Presents were opened while I tried to get everything done in the kitchen. It was loud, and hot, and NOT THE SAME. The Boy was very disappointed that the family wasn't staying. I was disappointed.  But I plastered a smile on my face and kept going, trying to gloss over the fact it was NOT THE SAME.

The calm before the storm
I could see the signs, EXTREME hyperactivity, rude language, flushed cheeks, dilated pupils- meltdown was imminent. I hoped that after eating something he would calm down. Nope. The Boy rushed through dinner, and even though I knew better, I made him stay at the table with the rest of us, it was Christmas Eve dammit!  I had the NORAD Santa tracker going, and kept updating Santa's trip- but The Boy couldn't have cared less.

Dinner ended, and we were cleaning up. Teenzilla and The 20 Something were playing with the Nerf arsenal we get every Christmas. This agitated The Boy even more. "It's not time!" he yelled and frantically picked up the Nerf darts all over the living room.

We prepared for our annual reading of The Night Before Christmas, saying goodbye to Clyde our Elf and setting out the cookies and milk for Santa.  The Mister called everyone together. The Boy reluctantly came, holding his new Nerf gun from Grandma and grumbling about wanting to lay on the couch.  We made it through the reading, with Teenzilla and The 20 Something interjecting their humor into it- much to The Boy's chagrin.  Things were deteriorating fast.  

Then- the MOMENT happened. The Boy had gone upstairs to watch TV in my room. Netflix WASN'T WORKING! He came flying downstairs in a panic, "Netflix isn't working!! Netflix isn't working!!"  I went upstairs and checked it out. I turned the Wii off and on again. Nothing. I came downstairs and checked. Nothing. I went online- Netflix was out for certain people. There was nothing I could do. I calmly explained this to The Boy. That. Was. It.  He screamed, he cried, he threw himself on the couch.  Hoping to pull him out of it, I said "Clyde is still here you know. You don't want a bad report to Santa on Christmas Eve. Let's get Santa's cookies ready." So I dragged him through what is usually a fun ritual, and told him he could lay down in my bed and watch something on the DVR. I led his rigid body upstairs, tucked him in and turned on the TV. "I'm sorry mom"  he said. I hugged him tight and tried not to cry. "It's ok buddy. Time to sleep so Santa will come."  I kissed him and went downstairs.

All of my years with dealing with the dreaded meltdown and I broke every damn rule about avoiding one. The initial disappointment, the rushed dinner, the forced sitting with us, putting him through the  motions of cookies and milk, saying goodbye to our Elf- what the hell was wrong with me?   Things had gone so blessedly smooth, I was lulled into a sense of complacency, a sense of NORMALCY, so much so that I blew off the signs of impending doom and forced a fun Christmas Eve. I felt like crap. I consoled myself with the fact that come morning all of this would be forgotten. And of course, it was.

Christmas Day arrived and everyone was up early and so very excited- of course. The Boy was hyper, but what kid isn't on Christmas? Opening presents was awesome, and Santa had brought just what The Boy had asked for- an Xbox with Kinect.  It was awesome to see his face when he opened it! It was awesome watching all of the kids open their gifts!  The Mister set the Xbox up as I explained to The Boy that we were going to another Aunt's home for the family Christmas brunch, so he only had about an hour and a half for playing. He waved me off- "Ok, ok, I know!"

And we're off!
I got myself ready, cooked the bacon that I was bringing and got more and more tense as the time approached to turn off the Xbox and pile in the car to drive 30 minutes and go have brunch (which he wouldn't eat anyway) with 12 cousins, 9 assorted aunts and uncles, 2 dogs and a house he hadn't been to since he was a baby.  What could possibly go wrong??  More noise, more heat, more craziness- I mean for someone NOT on the spectrum this was sensory overload.
The whole fam damily

Calming himself down!
As everyone arrived and the house got more crowded and noisy, The Boy parked himself in front of the giant fish tank. He zoned out on the peaceful swimming fish. He blinked, looked around and greeted cousins. He even got up and mingled. And as I watched like a hawk, I started seeing the same signs, flushed cheeks, jerky movements and wide eyes.I prepared for the worst and started to go to him. He looked around and made a beeline for the fish tank. He sat in front of it and just watched. You could see the tension start to leave his shoulders, his face relaxed, HE relaxed.  He SELF REGULATED PEOPLE! He KNEW it was all too much, and he KNEW how calming that fish tank was for him AND HE WENT TO IT! No prompting from me or anyone. HE DID IT HIMSELF! This was fantastic! And no other gift could top it. Nobody else noticed, nobody else had any clue what had happened. But The Mister and I did. Merry Christmas to us.

So now here we are, over halfway through the second day after Christmas. The house is mostly put back together,the cookies are gone,  the leftovers are all gone, and life should be getting back to normal after another chaotic holiday. Kids are bickering over the Xbox, we have played outside in the snow, had a Nerf gun battle and things have been fairly relaxed.  Why do I feel like I have been on a month long bender?   Like The Mister said- you don't have to drink too much for Christmas hangover. Ain't that the truth?