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The Santa Job is Sometimes Hard…

The Santa Job is Sometimes Hard…

As the mom of a daughter with pretty significant disabilities, the holidays have always been challenging. We’d go to see Santa and take the annual picture. Positioning her on his lap took some time, wiping any drool away and maybe even getting her to smile meant we had to find the really patient Santa and go when there wasn’t a whole line of other kids waiting. I knew exactly which mall had that good Santa. She wasn’t verbal, so at least she didn’t have a long list to tell Santa.

Let’s talk about that Christmas list for a bit. Most kids, by the time they are 3 or 4 years old, have this whole presents thing mastered. They are able to rattle off an amazing variety of toys with very specific requirements. Even if they won’t sit on Santa’s lap and tell him, lists are made and letters to the North Pole are sent. Most families have pretty clear ideas what toys waiting under the tree on Christmas morning will be a hit.  

When you have a child with a disability, especially one who scores well below the norm in expressive language skills, my little homage to testing and assessments, it is hard to know what to shop for at Christmas. Should we focus on age-appropriate toys? That’s much tougher as the child gets older and the options decrease. Should we look at toys or activities that promote development? Can I just get her a stupid Barbie doll? Afterall, that’s what her sister wanted at that age. I clearly remember several trips to several toy stores at Christmas, walking up and down the aisles, trying to find something different, something that might make her eyes light up when she saw it, just like my other kids, on Christmas morning. There were many times I left those stores in tears, with another stuffed animal to add to her ridiculously enormous collection or another silly toy that could be adapted to have a switch she could hit to activate some light and sounds. Batteries were always included, so the $7.95 toy wound up costing $49.95, by the time it was adapted and fed four D-cell batteries on practically a daily basis. Did she enjoy those toys? I guess so. Did they make her holiday bright? I have no idea.

And let’s say that we did come up with an amazing idea and found the absolute best gift. Her grandparents, aunts and uncles and siblings always came to us, hopeful that we could provide really nice gift ideas. Not so much…another wrinkle was that Kate’s birthday was in mid November, so if we scored on her birthday, Christmas was that much harder.

Spoiler alert! This is not one of those inspirational holiday posts where I eventually found the true meaning of family and Christmas. I stand here (or sit and type here) to tell you that this was a hard time. I know in the grand scheme of things, gifts are not what make a good Christmas or a crummy one. I also know that my daughter was well and truly loved. But as a parent, being Santa and watching your children open presents that make them squeal is one of those benchmarks (a little IEP humor) that is rewarding.

For most families, after the flurry of wrapping paper being ripped apart, the squeals, the missing instructions or the really important tiny piece that accidently got wadded up with the wrapping paper, many of those toys come to sit in the corner, ignored or forgotten once the newness wears off.  I guess we just skipped a few of those steps with Kate.

Kate passed away at the age of 26 almost 4 years ago. I miss her terribly everyday. Do I miss the frustration and challenge of finding the perfect Christmas present? You bet I do…

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