There is something about the December month that brings with it a sparkle. With twinkling lights, colder weather, Santa, Christmas trees, and advent calendars. 

Each year I love more and more the quick turnaround from Thanksgiving to the Christmas season, turkeys to Christmas cookies. Maybe it’s the kids getting older, that I am getting older, or that I have just learned to appreciate the special December festivities. A sweet glimpse of time as we reflect on the year past and what it has given us. 

It feels like a season of hope. When I was a child, no matter what the circumstances were, on other days of the week, Christmas felt special. A time to be a kid, wish for that special gift, open stockings filled with candy, and, of course, the token piece of fruit at the bottom: homemade breakfast, cookie trays, and tree toppers. 

When I became a Mother, I was excited to fill our son’s stocking, buy him Christmas pajamas, pick a new holiday book, and share our first holiday. 

On our first Christmas, my husband bought us matching Christmas shirts, and we took our 6-month-old son, Nixon, to see Santa. I have always loved photos of children with Santa, and especially seeing the numerous different adorable reactions to him. We went to the mall, our little lump of a baby in his Christmas shirt in Santa’s arms. We left with our first family, Santa photo. 

A tradition I wanted to keep each year.

Our second year, my husband bought us matching Christmas sweaters, Nixon’s with a gingerbread on it that said, “Oh Snap.” We went to our local train park. Santa was waiting in a train. We got there right when they opened so we wouldn’t have to stand in line. Nixon slowly walked to the back of the train, and with his token half-smile he sat with Santa. The picture was adorable. A success! 

On our third Christmas, I was nine months pregnant with our daughter. I knew this would be our last month as just the three of us. We put on our new Christmas Sweaters and headed back to the train park. This year was different. There was a long line to see Santa. Something special needs parents dread. Asking our children to wait in a line with tons of people, lights to look at, the smell of food in the air, and a toddler was not an ideal situation. They moved Santa to a little house, and several assistants were helping with the photos. Nixon hated it. We got a couple of pictures with Santa. I was dripping sweat and had a flash of guilt that I made both of my boys go through the Santa experience with me. Our daughter was born shortly after that photo. But we left with a Santa photo. 

The fourth year, we had both kids. We were going to try again. The token Christmas sweaters were purchase. I picked out a cute Christmas headband for our daughter. My husband was working overtime that year, so we planned to go a day that he would get off early. We packed everyone up and choose to go back to the quiet mall and sit with Santa. 

It was the last day for photos. When we walked up, the festive person running the front told us that the photo machine was down. That they could not take any more people right now, but if we wanted to wait at the mall, they could call us if the machine came back up. 

My husband saw my defeat. He said, “I’m sorry.” As if he was responsible for what was happening.

He knew this year I needed this photo. It has been a year of medical appointments, diagnosis discussions, calls for services, and waitlists. 

I was sad about it. I held on to this one tradition, something that brought me so much joy each year. A simple photo to some but to us it took a world of planning and navigating to even make it to that mall. I needed the hope of one Christmas photo with Santa in matching Christmas sweaters. 

As special needs parents, we give up so much of the traditional that sometimes we grasp on to a single simple thing, one thing we don’t want to give up on to convince ourselves that we aren’t missing out.

Sometimes we need that hope. We need to know that we can show up even if it takes a mountain of work and leave with a simple Christmas photo. 

This year we went to a sensitive Santa drive-through event. I’m not sure if there will be another photo with Santa with matching Christmas sweaters. I do know our son loved it. The whole experience took 30 minutes, he didn’t have to wait in any lines, he didn’t have to sit with a stranger, and his Mom got her Santa photo. 

If there is something you are holding on to this Christmas season, keep it, carry your hope, and if you find a way to make it easier to accomplish for everyone, even better.

This post originally appeared on Peace of Autism Facebook page.