Released On 13th Jan 2020
Dan's blog: Baffled by boxes
Christmas is a magical time of year for children, when the Big Man in Red wriggles down the chimney to deliver presents to good little boys and girls. I have fond memories of shooting downstairs on Christmas morn to boxes wrapped in colourful paper, just begging to be torn to shreds and reveal the mystery within.
With my son turning 2 on New Year’s Eve this wasn’t technically his first Christmas, but it was the first one he was truly aware of, so I was eagerly anticipating how excited he would be by everything. When the decorations went up his eyes sparkled more than the lights on the tree, and set high expectations for how the day itself would go. But there was one thing I forgot to take into account.
At the end of November we moved out of the only house our son has known. I think most would agree that moving is stressful, but for a young autistic it’s beyond overwhelming. We intended to pack things up gradually over the course of 3 months to make the changes to his environment as minimal as possible, but like all best laid plans this idea was swiftly crushed when our moving date jumped 2 months sooner. He watched as his entire life was crammed into boxes of varying shapes and sizes. With no Annual Leave left to book off work and only one small van, we had to move everything in multiple trips across 2 weekends. So he also watched as the new living room was filled to bursting with those same boxes, which were all moved to different rooms and unpacked, or sequestered into the loft to be forgotten and gather dust. Just as he was beginning to accept his new environment, weekend number 2 came around and yet more boxes invaded, to then go through the same rigmarole of the previous week.
All of this was, of course, far more than he could bear, which left us to futilely try to pacify his unsettled mind. After only a couple weeks (but felt like an eternity) of sleepless nights, meltdowns in private and public, and much hair pulling by all involved, life finally settled back into the Routine and calm was restored. But looming just around the corner was Christmas, and the promised return of Public Enemy Number 1: Boxes.
As I mentioned at the start, I failed to connect the dots and was nothing but excited to see his reaction to his little pile of gifts under the tree. In hindsight I should have been shoring up the defenses and preparing to weather the oncoming storm. I also thank my lucky stars that what came to pass was far calmer and quieter than the potential alternatives.
In short, he didn’t really care about the presents. There’s one still waiting to be unwrapped even now, nearly 3 weeks later. From memory I think he only opened 2 on Christmas Day itself, and had great fun playing with his new toy car park (which still holds pride of place in front of the fireplace) while the remainder sat patiently under the tree for a few more days. His sleep was the most affected, a sure sign that he was bothered by the goings on, even if he didn’t really show his discomfort outwardly.
Thankfully I did have the Xmas period off work, which also served to smooth everything somewhat, as there were two pairs of eyes watching for his telltale signs of a meltdown, and two pairs of hands to offer distractions from anything that he wasn’t happy with.
I don’t know if there’s a lesson to be learned from all this, but I’ll certainly be doing all in my power to avoid moving so close to Christmas again in future.
Dan is a Technical Expert for a financial institution in the City, with a young autistic son, a loving wife, and an indifferent cat.