The Day After Christmas and Other Letdowns

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I’m always a little sad when I go to bed on Christmas Eve. Christmas is a melancholy holiday, really–bittersweet at the very least. There’s something about all the anticipation, the expectations, the tradition–and then it abruptly ends. Suddenly, the holiday season is over. The snow turns to slush, the feast turns to self-induced famine as our New Year’s diets kick in.

I can’t help thinking about all this as the holiday approaches. I don’t want to be blindsided, I guess. Plus, now that I have children, the holiday is not nearly as much fun as it used to be. I know that sounds selfish–it’s supposed to be more fun with kids, experiencing the magic through their eyes an all that. And in some ways it it; then again, there are diaper changes, tantrums, rules, more tantrums, sharing, and more tantrums still.

My son experiences the highs and lows of Christmas to the extreme, I think. Possibly his most prominent autistic feature is that of rigid thinking: once he gets an idea in his head, it must turn out like he thought it would or he gets completely discombobulated. Of course, he’s fairly high-functioning, so sometimes it’s a slow burn, like when we built a snowman yesterday: he enjoyed the process of making the snowman, rolling up the balls of snow with his grandma, helping to pat them smooth. It wasn’t until the snowman had a face and arms that things started to go haywire.

“It’s not a real snowman!” he screamed, and yanked the carrot out of its face.

Cue the many explanations about how the world works and that the snowmen he’s seen in books and on TV are the fake snowmen and ours is a real one and that nothing is perfect and that’s part of the fun.

Of course, he didn’t hear most of this over his own screaming.

In some ways, I’m glad he’s dealing with these harsh realities so young: maybe if he learns about disappointment now, he won’t have to feel it later? Not that I want my kid growing up with a bleak perspective on the world, but I also don’t want him to have to feel that holiday disappointment, the Clark Griswold feeling that things should be fantastic! and the inevitable crash when they aren’t.

In some ways, I’m relieved that Christmas is over. I also have a list of things running through my head that I didn’t get to do this year. I didn’t get to make a gingerbread house or try my hand at making Who Pudding. There are about fifteen Christmas specials I never got around to watching and we never went caroling or drove around looking at Christmas lights or even sent out Christmas cards.

Over the next couple of weeks, the twinkle lights will come down and the trees will be trashed and the baubles packed up for next year. We’ll get back to “real life” and though it will be a little sad, it will also feel refreshing. Last week, Rebecca wrote about hygge; maybe this is the anti-hygge, the shock and thrill of stepping into a blizzard after too much time being warm.

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