This marks the start of yet another holiday season where family and friends ask me what Morgan would like for Christmas. Yet again (6th year in a row!), I get to tell them "Thomas the Tank Engine trains" and send them a run down of the engines he doesn't have. I know to some, writing about this seems silly. To an autism mom, this makes perfect sense.
Auties have obsessions. Well, most of them do. My son does and I've written about his obsession with the demonic blue train before. My best friend and his god mother, Reese, got him started on the peeping train on his second birthday. I love you, girl. But honestly, I could KILL you sometimes. He really got into the Thomas and Friends brigade later that year and the obsession has never stopped. I mean never.
Sure, we've had our dalliances with the Cars characters (but really, unless they were lined up...?), he humored his brother (and, I swear, screwed with us) by sort of liking Optimus Prime, he loves books, and the tablets the boys' Granny gave them last year were probably the best gift ever. One thing always holds true: no Thomas = plenty of tears. Last Christmas, there was not a single Thomas in sight under that tree. No tears... for a little while.
I swear, my husband, mom and step-dad (holidays at the 'rents house) tiptoed around the subject and barely breathed for fear of upsetting the delicate balance established in our cosmos. Okay, maybe that was just me. Then, Morgan pipes up with the 'T" word. None of the engines he'd asked for had been under the tree. CRAP. Mom and I had actually looked for the dang things, but none were to be found in either of our small towns and NO WAY was I ordering online at double the price.
He was so upset, that I think it was his Grampa who finally took him to town and pick out some trains. I'm pretty sure that I hid away and cried that day. I felt like a bad mom for not giving my son the only damned thing he'd asked Santa for and for also feeling almost hateful towards my son and his engines. I think I just wanted for Morgan to appreciate what he had, but in his mind, all he could focus on what was he didn't get- the only thing he'd asked for. Actually, looking back, I'm a horse's ass and expected something that was entirely unreasonable. I put myself into the "those people" category. Even still...I really want to burn those freaking engines.
Then again, I also feel intense toward those that "don't get it." The "those people" category. Let me lay this out for you.
You, there! That box of K'nex you gave my kid? Either his little brother plays with it (the "acceptable" way- actually building things) or Morgan uses it as "cargo" for his trains. That is, after he's done happily running his fingers through the box of pieces over and over again.
That super complicated (by this, I mean over 25 or 35 pieces) jigsaw puzzle you gave Morgan year before last (or hell, the one I gave him for his bday last year- made for age 3+) because it was "cool and age appropriate?" Yeah, the dog or Bailey probably chewed it after Morgan got frustrated and chucked it on the floor or under his bed.
That gazillion piece "age appropriate" mad scientist kit? Oh, well done and seriously awesome. However, my son couldn't read at the time and still has great difficulty with comprehension. I love that your son can. I'm not even jealous anymore about that (well, not most of the time). Morgan has a lot of fine motor skills deficits and handling all those tiny pieces was so frustrating, he threw the damned thing in the trash before I had the chance to do so or to help him set it up and take pictures.
I get that unless you're there, you don't know. So ASK.
My point, all five readers, is that if you have someone on the spectrum in your life, throw the stupid rule book out when it comes to gift giving. Shut your mouth when the child is still into something that he or she was into five years ago. Don't assume, you know what that does.
Ask the parents what their child would want! Please, don't be offended if they ask you for a return receipt. We are raising completely different children than you are and frankly, if it comes down to making our kids happy or catching a sharp object in a foot due to an ill thought out gift, I think you know which we would choose- the same that you would.
I didn't write this to piss anyone off. I am writing this to offer my own experience and perspective. Holidays can be overwhelming for anyone. But when you're on the spectrum or have a kid on the spectrum, and are trying to manage any of the things that go along with the holidays... it gets, well, emotional. At least it does for me.
Remember what the holidays are about for kids. They could give a rat's behind about half the things we do. So, in that light, stop sweating that little "Age *+" down in the corner, buy what the kid likes and put a smile on the child's face. It's freaking Christmas. Oh, and when all else fails? My kid loves gift cards.