Santa brought goodies for Calvin and Henry and there were more presents to exchange among the family. Lots of new toys and books and other fun stuff for everybody.
Cousins came over. Yummy holiday food was served. Our little home was abuzz with laughter and voices... smells of sweets and casseroles and fried turkey... Christmas music playing in the background... and toys and gifts and wrapping paper all over the place! Your typical Christmas day scene.
And it was wonderful and happy :) But it wasn't easy for our non-typical little Henry.
Henry is sensitive to loud noises and noisy places. He is ok with meeting new people or being around people we don't see often - but only if I am nearby. He is NOT ok with being left with unfamiliar people and if there are lots and lots of unfamiliar people, it is overwhelming for him. Even if they are people who love him very much and try very hard to calm him down and make him happy.
Sorry guys, it's not you... it's Henry :/
This is not news to James or me. We know these things about Henry. We have learned what upsets him and what calms him. Or, rather we are learning. Because, of course, as Henry grows and develops he changes little by little. But I don't think he will grow out of these sensitivities. On the contrary, I think he is becoming more sensitive as he becomes more aware of the world around him.
And it's ok. He is who he is. We can't change him, we can only try to help him. Help him deal with a busy and noisy world full of new and unfamiliar things. And not just deal with it, but hopefully find ways to enjoy it. And be happy! Because many busy and noisy and unfamiliar things are also wonderful things! Like Christmas day in a cozy apartment full of family and food and love.
So when I needed to be in the kitchen cooking and Henry cried and fussed at being left with anybody else besides Mama, I did what I needed to do for the both of us. I strapped him into the Ergo and did all my cooking with him right there under my nose. I delegated any tasks that I couldn't do with Henry in the Ergo, like moving dishes in and out of the hot oven, and my parents and cousins were happy to help. Henry calmed down and watched the rest of us from his cozy spot, safely snuggled up next to me. When it was time to sit down for dinner, I sat with Henry and fed him and myself. Other people served me food because if I tried to get up, Henry would cry. Henry spent just about the entire day attached to me until finally, it was time for him and Calvin to go to bed.
When Henry was asleep in his crib at last, I was so relieved. It had been exhausting keeping him close, keeping him calm, giving him my energy to help him feel safe and happy amid a very unfamiliar and noisy and busy day on top of chatting with cousins and cooking the food and trying to enjoy the day myself.
After Calvin and Henry went to bed, more cousins came over for more food and gifting. And tired as I was, it was nice to have more party to enjoy without my babies to worry about.
This is the first time that I really felt like a Special Needs Parent at a family gathering. It was the first family party where Henry's different needs were really apparent and in need of attention. What will I do next year when Henry is too big to be toted around in the Ergo?? I will probably need to make sure I'm not responsible for anything else besides Henry!
Parents with sensory sensitive kiddos, what do you do to help them through holidays and family parties?
Hard as it was, I really am not complaining. I'm just reflecting on the experience. I don't mean to imply that it was a bad one. I mean, it's not a bad way to spend Christmas - with your youngest baby snuggled up with you all day.
Parenting is hard work for all of us, after all, isn't it? And so is hosting a family party on Christmas day! Maybe it's a different kind of hard for parents with different kinds of kids, but it's also a different kind of happy :)
Henry and Calvin were thrilled with their new toys! Henry has come a long way with how well he is able to manipulate and enjoy toys and books and it was wonderful to see him pick up a big rattle-y ball - how strong he is getting! And grab little dinosaurs - how well he is grasping! And even stand at the table, with help, to see and touch the train set! And, as long as he was in my familiar arms, he shared his sweet smile and laugh with his grandparents and cousins. Friendly in his own way. And actually, he did let his great-grandmother Lola Coring hold him for a little while earlier in the day (before things became just too overwhelming for him). He loves Lola and she is more familiar to him than most other relatives because she lives upstairs and he spends time with her often. It is lovely to see Henry with Lola.
Calvin, of course, was the life of the party. He spent the day wildly playing with all his cousins and having a blast. He partied right through his naptime, and ended up crashing for a late nap just before dinner. He woke up grumpy, like he usually does, but his grumpyness didn't last long and soon he was back to being the life of the party and loving every second of playing with his cousins!
There was lots and lots to give thanks for. Lots and lots to enjoy. And we did.
I refuse to feel sorry for myself or Henry even when things are hard. He is who he is, and I'm his mama and we'll figure it out. Rejoice always. Pray continually. Give thanks in all circumstances.
For unto us a child is born.