When Christmas Isn’t Exactly Merry

The holidays can be a tiring, stressful, hectic time set smack in the midst of dreary winter. Unless you’re a child filled with wonder, Christmas can become more of a chore than a joy. But as parents we do our best to ensure our kids have a happy and memorable holiday, filled with the excitement we experienced in our own childhoods.

Christmas morning at our house this year was filled with amazement and legitimate joy. For the first time, Avery “got” Christmas. She was in awe of each present and her brother was floored by his gifts. It was, dare I say, magical.

It wasn’t until Christmas night that mummy unraveled, just a little. Fa la la la la, sob, sob, sob wah.

Avery did well sitting at the kids’ table at my in-laws’ and I actually got to eat my entire turkey dinner. Pretty much. Come dessert however, she was overtired, overstimulated and overwhelmed. In lieu of dessert and conversation, Avery and I went home so the rest of the family could have a proper visit. 

Getting her into her car seat was a struggle and a flailing arm made contact with my eye. I *may* have growled slightly. FYI: A sickly and exhausted mummy closely resembles a bear. On the short ride home (my father in-law drove us) I started to cry. He put his hand over mine and said, “It’s okay pet. We’re proud of you. You’re so patient.” That made me cry harder.

He dropped us at home and upon coming in the door, the dog was begging to go out, the phone was ringing and Avery started pulling ornaments off the Christmas tree. I just wanted to take my boots off. I was sweating and dizzy. Avery made a break for it up the stairs. She knows she can’t climb the stairs alone. When I asked her to come down, she growled at me. Apparently a tired and overstimulated child also resembles a bear. I plucked her off the stairs, let the dog out and picked up the phone to check the message. I must have hit ‘redial’ because I inadvertently called my brother back. He asked me what was wrong and all I could say was, “Why does it have to be so hard?”

Nothing out of the ordinary happened. Avery didn’t have a seizure. Dinner was nice. So why the tears? I blame that fat bastard Santa and the expectations of perfection we force upon ourselves at Christmas. (It didn’t help matters I was severely sleep deprived and sick). My biggest downfall however was me….making comparisons. It kills me every time. At dinner, I found myself watching the three year old seated at the table with Avery. I was literally studying her. She was so independent and chatty and aware. And then Avery, my sweet girl. A year older than the three year old, but developmentally, years her junior. Some days it just stings.

I’m not saying Christmas was a bust. My children were indeed filled with wonder. But for me, there were mixed emotions. Happy, then sad. Hopeful, then regretful. Grateful, then guilt ridden. Parenting can be a nauseating roller coaster ride.


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  • Awww…this made me cry….not because I feel bad for you, but because this IS ME….You are not alone. I compare and compare….and my children (as far as I know) don't have any developmental delays…but I still compare. Everyone does. It's ok. My Little Man is on steroids and inhalers following a bout with pneumonia over Christmas, and he's OUT OF HIS MIND becuz of the medication….but I am still comparing…why can't he listen? Why do I have to chase him down to get his boots on? Why won't he sit down at the table….and on and on I go. It's frustrating….I'm wondering if it ever gets easier….
    Hang in there. I think you sound like an awesome mom!!

  • I have news for ya – I think most of us do the comparison thing. When Addie was about 7months old she didn't babble. Ever. Her best bud babbled non-stop, and in multi-consonants. It totally stressed me out, and I'm now embarrassed to admit I worked VERY hard that month on "Goo Goo" and "Da Da" sounds with her. She just wasn't ready to chat yet…and now I can't get her to stop! LOL.
    You are so patient, and so giving. I'm in awe of you, really. And I'm not just saying that to make you feel better, or to be cliche. It's really, really (really) the truth.
    Here's to Easter!

  • You're not alone, and you're not different than any of us in the comparing department. We can't help it, we do it all the time. You adore your precious girl and that's all that matters. I heart you.

  • Christmas does set us all up with unrealistic expectations of a perfect time with extended family.

    And we all compare our kids even though we know each of our children are perfect to us. And we worry what other people will think. Other people can suck it.

    You are a fantastic mom and I have learned so much about being a great parent from you. And I love Avery like the daughter I never had. xoxo

  • I don't know about the comparison thing, but I can say this to put a different perspective on it.

    My child passed away. Yours is here. I'd kill to do the seizures, outbursts, etc….all over again.

    I guess I just compared.

  • I just reread what I wrote and I want to be sure to say I do NOT mean that in any mean or nasty way. I think it might sound like that??

    I hope you hear what my heart is trying to say.

  • Oh Won, I feel horrible. I read your first comment and just cried. My husband told me to "step away from the computer." I am so sorry for your loss. We nearly lost Avery twice. I know how heart wrenching that was, and I can't even fathom what you must be going through. I am so truly sorry. I don't mean to complain. Avery is a blessing. I mean it when I say she is a miracle. She is. She's in a textbook even. She is amazing. I feel blessed to be her mother. I don't mean to complain. When I compare, I should keep in mind, how lucky we really are.

  • oh fraser. needed to hear your voice tonight so i went here to catch up. wish i was closer, wish i knew avery, wish i could have given u just the biggest ol' hug ever. u are the best. truly. the best. love smillie 🙂

  • I just came across your blog and was reading through it. This post caught me, because it sounds exactly like what we are going through with our 3 year old!! I also left our family gathering early with Faith because the overstimulation was overwhelming her. She spent Christmas eve admitted to the hospital because of recurring seizures. She had to have a procedure that we did not like much. Just 2 days ago we were back in the hospital with her. Faith also had GDD and is at least 1 year delayed (if not more) but she has also beaten may medical odds. The ped neurologist called her bizarre…which is kinda cool. She is number 5 and I think I compare her more then I compared my other kids. I don't know why we do that, it just seems that it is automatic. In the end, I am glad for where we are and this amazing child who has changed our perspective on life. I will definitely be back to read more:-)

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