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Holiday Hibernation

Victoria Tkachuk by Victoria Tkachuk Additional Needs

Victoria Tkachuk

Victoria Tkachuk

I'm from the Midwest region of the United States and I have four children, three neurotypical daughters and one son with dyskinetic cerebral palsy....

Holiday Hibernation

It's perfectly acceptable to bow out of seasonal festivities.

This season brought so many activities and events that don't appear throughout the rest of the year. We had the neighbourhood walking tour of lights. And Aunt Betty's cookie exchange. And the church Christmas brunch. And toys for tots volunteer gift wrapping. And a white elephant gift exchange for kids in our playgroup. And more! Every day of December it felt like another invite was received. Personally, I was happy to receive them.

There was a time when my son was too needy and was emotionally unable to join me at a social gathering or let me go without him. Strangers (even if he had met them several times) startled him, made him nervous. He could sense that they didn't understand his complex needs, however willing to help. For me, having my boy with me meant I could never relax. I don't say that in a selfish way; my primary job and joy is to serve my son. But knowing he was in a new place where he could fall, hit his head, get scared – these possibilities would occupy my mind so much I couldn't enjoy myself. I stopped attending events altogether. It was simply too difficult.

Fast forward a couple of years. My son is now much more intelligible when speaking, and he is adept at using his talker. Our circle of friends has not changed significantly, so he's used to being around my closest group. He attends school, and so interacts with different adults than at home, and his social comfortability has positively increased. As a result, I'm able to both host events and attend others without my son, and he is comfortable either way (as long as I give him enough notice that something is happening).

But you know what? Either of these choices – to accept invites and attend holiday events, or to hibernate through the whole season, because it was too difficult or because you weren't interested – are completely fine. Over a longer timeline, you'll find that the closest and most supportive friends in your (and your child's) life will not be offended by your declining their invitations. They'll keep inviting you, to express their love for you regardless of whether you ever come to their cookie exchange or not. And one day, you might feel up to coming out of holiday hibernation, and those friends will welcome you with sincere hearts.


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