I wanted Ronan to join us for the Christmas festivities, but I knew not to get my hopes up. In the past, he's preferred to stay away from everything that makes Christmas special - the family gathering, the feast, the presents. Those are the things that make Christmas so exciting for me. But Ronan isn't interested in any of them. He’d rather shy away from the noise, the crowd, and the excitement to do his own thing.
Past Christmases have been overwhelming for Ronan. This past Christmas was no different. Ronan kept to himself for a majority of the day. I kept hoping that he'd emerge, but he preferred solitude. He found that in another room on the other side of the house.
Ronan had had some seizures right before Christmas. He was not sleeping well. And he was completely off of his routine. Ronan needed space, he needed quiet, and he required no expectations to join us. I longed for Ronan to be a part of our family Christmas, but he only wanted peace and quiet.
Peace and quiet was what Ronan got.
Ronan stayed upstairs while we gathered around the tree. He played Wii while the rest of us exchanged presents. He looked at his Dr. Seuss books while we cooked the feast. He stayed a safe distance that he determined was ideal. He was happy with his activities and with the peace and quiet.
As much as we would have liked for Ronan to join in the fun we were having, we knew and respected that that wasn’t going to happen. Our day was full of wonder and delight - the family gathering, the feast, the presents, and knowing that Ronan was safe and he was happy. We enjoyed our day, and Ronan enjoyed his. It was perfect.
If I've learned anything from my experience as Ronan's mom, it's that I am the one who places expectations where they’re not required. Expectations can serve a purpose. They can motivate, and they can certainly bring a great amount of hope, but on Christmas morning, which to Ronan was just another morning, expectations were not required
Expectations may not be required on Christmas, but on the morning after Christmas when I saw Ronan coming down the stairs with his headphones on - with just his headphones on - I reminded Ronan that some expectations are necessary. We need to be dressed for breakfast, or at the very least, wearing a diaper. With a quick change, Ronan once again emerged. This time he wanted to join us. At the table, comfortably dressed, and ready to eat like a king.
Things don't always work out as we'd hope they would. But we can still create joy. We can find still find happiness. And we can always remember to hope.
Cathy Jameson is a Contributing Editor for Age of Autism.