Photo: SHP Studio

Christmas is my favorite.

As a little girl, Christmas felt like it lasted forever.

I remember waking up every hour on Christmas eve and sneaking into my living room to see if there were presents yet. I think my parents knew that Santa needed to come to our house last, otherwise we would be opening gifts at midnight.

I can still remember the feeling of peaking my little head around the corner to see the living room full of gifts and squealing with excitement.

I remember running through the house screaming “Santa Came, Santa Came!!”

Don’t get me wrong, I know that Christmas isn’t about gifts.

The thing is, I don’t remember the presents I got.

I remember my dad wrapping my presents with so much tape it was impossible to open them.

I remember that he always said he was doing it to be funny, but I think it was because he wanted Christmas morning to last just a little longer.

I remember the snowy boot prints that I would find from Santa walking down the halls.

I remember the carrot crumbs leading me to special hidden toys.

I remember the magic.

Most of the time people grow up and that Christmas magic fades, but for me it never did.

My parents made Christmas so special for me that the magic lived on forever.

When I found out I was going to be a mom, Christmas was the very first thing I thought of. I could not wait to make that Christmas magic for my baby.

I had dreams of little footsteps running into my room begging me to open presents.

 I had dreams of wish lists for Santa!

For the first few years, I tried really hard to give him all of my Christmas magic.

Despite all my efforts, he never seemed to care much about it.

You see my son is autistic, and I don’t think he knows what Christmas is.

He doesn’t know who Santa is.

He doesn’t care about the reindeer.

He doesn’t even open gifts.

On Christmas eve, he is not excited.

I tried my best to not lose the Christmas magic.

I bought him a million toys that he didn’t care about.

I wrapped them up, even though I knew he wouldn’t open them.

I talked to him about the meaning of Christmas and Santa. I told him about the magic, even though he never said anything back.

I imagined he knew what I was saying. 

I fought my hardest to have all the Christmas joy, but I still cried myself to sleep for many Christmas eves.

Despite the heartbreak, I never gave up on giving him the perfect Christmas.

I tried to adapt to a new kind of Christmas magic.

Last year, I didn’t wrap a single present. Instead, I built a sensory gym in our basement. I put big red bows on all the equipment and covered the hallway entrance in wrapping paper!

Little feet didn’t run into my room on Christmas morning. Instead, just like each Christmas before, I snuck in his room early and woke him up with tickles.

I still told him Santa came, even though he didn’t know what that meant.

We came downstairs and the wrapping paper covering the entrance confused him.

Together we ran through the paper, relieving the surprise.

He froze.

His eyes got wide.

He didn’t jump up and down screaming.

He didn’t talk about Santa.

But he quietly walked around the room, touching each new piece of equipment.  

He studied the room, mesmerized by all the new things to climb and swing and crash on.

When he finished, he walked over to me and gently touched my face.

He didn’t have the words, but I knew he was saying thank you mama.

In that moment, I realized that I never needed to give him the Christmas of my dreams.

I could do better.

I could give him the Christmas of HIS dreams, instead.

The Christmas of his dreams consists of endless car rides and loud Christmas music.

The Christmas of his dreams consists of LOTS of Christmas cookies.

It consists of quiet nights by the fire while he watches Peppa Pig and I watch Hallmark movies.

It consists of chocolate chip pancakes and living room dance parties.

It is not the Christmas I had pictured, but nothing about this life with my sweet boy is as I pictured it would be.

Life doesn’t always go as planned, no one knows that more than a special needs mama.

Things don’t have to be the way we thought they would be to be beautiful.

To the mama who is crying on Christmas eve, I see you.

I know you are trying.

I know it is hard.

I know that it might feel like you are losing Christmas.

This year, my Christmas wish is for you.

Don’t give up on Christmas, mama.

Don’t lose the magic.

Your kids don’t need you to replicate the Christmas of your dreams.

They need you to build the Christmas of their dreams.

And maybe, just maybe, that will be even better!