Adapting Christmas Traditions for Our Daughter

Fiona Russo by Fiona Russo Additional Needs

Fiona Russo

Fiona Russo

I'm a busy mother of four, wife of one, and doctoral candidate to my ever-patient university colleagues. My passions in life are many, but there ar...

Our local shopping centre has a ‘North Pole Cottage’ set up – quite a sight in the sweltering Australian sun – where children and their parents wait in line for a thirty-second chance to tell Santa what they’d like for Christmas, say “Cheese!”, take a candy cane from the bowl and a glossy photo card from the printer, and be on their merry way.

Can you see this working for you?

Neither could I.

I don’t like to trade on Charlie’s disability for special treatment.

In fact, we’ve only just started using our parking pass because until recently, I didn’t feel that we needed it enough.

We’re lucky that Charlie is still little – we don’t need to negotiate Santa’s grotto with her wheelchair yet – but by the time we got to the front of that line, she would have been beside herself with frustration because she has no idea what we’re waiting for, overwhelmed by the excited crowd, and my arms would have been completely dead from holding her.

I had heard of a shopping centre that dedicated some time specifically to children with special needs, but it was nowhere near home.

So, I decided to ring the shopping centre and ask what arrangement they might have made for the same.

To my surprise, they had nothing in place for this.

However, they were very kind and understanding and offered to make Santa available to us prior to the official opening time.

In this way, we managed to avoid the crowd and take a few extra moments to get Charlie settled and facing the camera etc.

We weren’t able to get a smile, but she wasn’t crying and she was looking in the right direction.

Here’s the result – aren’t they lovely?

​(I may be slightly biased).

This has taught me that sometimes all I need to do is ask.

Charlie doesn’t have to miss out on these traditions just because we need to approach them differently.

Ask, and ye shall receive.

Seems appropriate at this time of year, eh?


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