Christmas Day has come and gone, but we still have two more family Christmas dinners to attend. While the time spent with family and friends has been nice, I am looking forward to the season being over because of it's effect on Hannah. Every single holiday gathering we have attended-including Christmas Day at our house has caused her to become seriously over stimulated and resulted in meltdowns. All the people, changes in routines, disruptions to her sensory diet, and other folks' houses have been a recipe for disaster and have definitely limited the enjoyment we have been able to glean from our various family gatherings. It has just been too much for her (and very stressful for Kyle and I). I know there are some who would say that we are over reactive and that it's not a big deal, but it really is. Well over an hour straight of screaming in the van on the way home after an event (Hannah is normally quite happy to either sleep or read a book or just zone out in the car) is not OK if it can be prevented. At the risk of making people angry or hurting their feelings, I think we are going to have to seriously cut back on what we attend as far as holiday gatherings go next year. I just can see absolutely no sense in putting her through that anxiety for my benefit. One thing that has been difficult this season of holiday parties is parenting while in the midst of those who for whatever reason disagree with our parenting decisions or who believe Hannah's challenges are either non existent or at the most a result of faulty parenting practices. For some reason others genuinely believe it is ok to try to override our parenting while in group situations. While their intentions may be innocent, I'm sure they genuinely believe they are right, it seems so hard for others to accept our place as competent parents who actually know a thing or two about parenting our particular child and her specific challenges. Just because the work we do behind the scenes before events is not apparent since it's done it's job and allowed Hannah to cope much more successfully than she would otherwise, does not mean that those added steps we take to maintain control and a successful visit are unnecessary. UGH! I seem to run into this all the time with well meaning friends, acquaintances, and especially preschool. If I had a dollar for every time someone pointed out to me that something I've mentioned is a problem for Hannah was not a problem for them with her while I was away then I would be a very rich woman. Something we've learned is that not all reactions are immediate. While Hannah might not react at the time, especially in a place where she may be uncomfortable, she will most likely fall apart later when she feels safe and can let her guard down. Apparently this is fairly common with kids with sensory problems. I see this EVERY SINGLE day she is at preschool and every time she spends the night at someone else's house. She is fine at school (she's never once had a meltdown there) or with my parents, but almost immediately upon returning to the safety of our house she finally lets go. It's like she just can't hold it in any longer. People don't see that, so they assume it doesn't exist. There are days when that makes me so angry. I get angry at the world for making me feel like I'm crazy or imagining things when I know I'm not.
Ok, enough of my soapbox. Christmas really was a very nice time for us this year. Hannah was totally into both the secular and religious aspects of the season. She loved the thought of Christmas being Jesus' birthday. She adored her Nativity and reenacting scenes from the first Christmas with it. She also really got into Santa even though I never did get around to taking her to talk to Santa. We read lots of stories about Santa and she saw him from afar at the mall. We talked about what he does and watched NORAD's Santa tracker on Christmas Eve. We made cookies and set them out with milk and carrots for Santa's reindeer before we went to bed. The first words out of her mouth when we opened her door Christmas morning were, "Are the reindeer here? Is Santa still here?" While she was very disappointed to not get to see Santa at our house, she was slightly consoled by the fact that he left her a thank you note for the cookies and milk and with the thought that he must be very tired after working all night and he needed a vacation. As hard as we tried to prevent it from happening, Hannah (as well as Kyle and I) was spoiled rotten by the generosity of our family and friends. She got many wonderful gifts, however I am pleased to report that the biggest hit of all has been the Little People house and carnival that Santa scored at the second hand kids' store for $10! :) Even Santa's bargain shopping in this economy! She has been playing with that thing like crazy. I knew she'd like it, but I had no idea it would be quite as big of a hit as it has been.