Or otherwise entitled…
It’s probably best just to ASK, really.
Oh crikey, it’s coming!
I don’t know about you, but Christmas seems to start earlier each year!
Call me Ebenezer, but the ‘countdown to Christmas’ posts on social media (which may, for some, start in January *deep, tired sigh*) make me grit my teeth a little bit too hard.
I like Christmas, but I don’t want to join in the countdown and nowadays I much prefer to avoid the monotony of it all and opt for the simple stuff: Being with the ones I love. Watching Hannah; her beautiful blue eyes as big as saucers, gazing fascinatedly at the twinkly lights. Walking on a blustery beach on Christmas Day whilst happy damp dogs scamper around excitedly in their reindeer ears/christmas dog outfit combo, wishing random strangers Happy Christmas and maybe having a chat too. Taking Hannah to church and being entertained at the family Nativity – some kids went to extremes last year, you’d think they were auditioning for RADA! Bless!
Now, Gentle Reader, please humour me. Before I get to the real purpose of this post, allow me first to share some of the things that I dislike about Christmas (this may sound a bit moany…it’s not really. Well, okay, it is a little)…
The adverts – Oh, the adverts. No. Just NO! I still don’t want a half price sofa delivered by Christmas Eve so that Auntie Doris can slop her eggnog on it the following day. I don’t want a discount (solid) oak table for ‘entertaining’ purposes…I actually have no desire whatsoever to ‘entertain’. I don’t want a sixty inch HD all-singing-all-dancing telly to watch a load of films that I don’t have the time to watch on the SKY box/Netflix/whatever that I don’t possess. I don’t want to wear perfume that makes it possible for me to walk on water, whilst looking all gorgeous and skinny in a sexy frock (well, not much); nor do I want Hannah’s daddy to slap aftershave on his professionally manicured stubble; a fragrance which necessitates he ride a motorbike over a desert plain, whilst wearing a leather jacket that offers just a sneaky peek underneath of his naked, bronzed, muscular torso….Um, well, actually, I …..*slaps own face*. Apologies, I got caught up in the hype for a minute there. I’m back now. Honest!
The food – “What? You don’t eat turkey? What DO you have then?” they ask in horror. As if there’s nothing else pleasurable to eat on Christmas day! And, oh, the gluttony! The waste! *tuts in tutty, judgemental manner*
The expectation of conformity – If you don’t have a tree up (we still can’t, Hannah would eat it/pull it over!); the inflatable Santas, those stupid prancing reindeers dangling off the guttering, nuts and chocolates in a bowl for the visitors or all the other stuff, then you’re not conforming (I don’t wish to offend if you do, each to their own and all that…with the exception of stupid prancing reindeers!). The presents (I’ll get to that in a minute!); the jostling in the shops – most problematic throughout December with a child in a wheelchair/special buggy as careless swinging of metal baskets clutched by ignorant shoppers and my child’s face, are not a good combo!; the “MUST buy, GOT to have” attitude. The competition. The pressure that some parents feel – be that the cost of Christmas or ‘performing’ for the visitors or the schlep to others’ houses – you know, those people you may hardly see from year to year. Pretending to enjoy it. Desperate to get home, get your bra off and relax in your PJ’s in front of the telly with half a chocolate orange resting on your podge and a glass of wine. Mmmmm…lovely!
So, where’s this post going, you may justifiably ask? (I do ramble, I know!)
Well, I wanted to write a post about Christmas (you don’t say!), as Christmas has the potential to get a bit tricky for many of us SEND parent/carers, for many reasons. Reasons of which I’ve mentioned in previous posts. Things still go on – the dashes to the hospital, the waiting in the hospice, the aspirating, the tube feeds, the routines, the turning and lifting and carrying, the nappy (diaper) changes, the soothing of a child in meltdown or counting the minutes of a seizure whilst anxiously awaiting the arrival of an ambulance. The list is endless. Sometimes, it’s just another day and maybe, sometimes, not a day of celebration. Daily life doesn’t stop just because it’s Christmas.
That all sounds a bit glum, doesn’t it? But, in case you didn’t know, it happens…to many, many families.
So, in order to aid this post and see what other families thought of Christmas, I decided I ought to consult with our gorgeous Facebook family on My Kid Loves Broccoli, who kindly provided the following responses:
- What would you – that’s if you’re a parent of a child with additional needs – like for Christmas?
“I would like a total pamper session. Massage, facials, nails etc”
“ A pamper day for me and my husband to have a rest for a few hours”
“An unhideous and un-ageing nightdress/nightshirt. This does not appear to exist”
“To just be as a family”
Lovely! Pampering, being together and a nice nightie all sounds good to me.
It’s often hard to know what to buy people isn’t it? Choccies, tiny home-made food hamper type thing, a little tipple perhaps? Although maybe it’s not such a good idea if someone’s a dieting tee-totaller! Whatever you buy, it doesn’t have to cost a fortune.
Over the years, I’ve deduced what many SEND parents would like (and not just for Christmas!)…but rarely get:
A couple of worry-free (ish) hours to do something just for themselves; be it pampering, sleeping, going out for something to eat or whatever. So a really nice gift someone could give is their time…for baby/child/young person sitting. It’s really easy to knock up a gift certificate on a word document (and it’s free!) offering your services. If you’d like to do it for a friend/relative, why don’t you pop round sometime and suggest they show you (and maybe write down) the routine/what to do/what not to do etc so you and they feel confident if they do want to venture out somewhere.
Your time is probably more precious than anything money can buy!
(btw, just to be clear, this is not a sneaky hint to my friends to offer this service…honest!)
- What would be a really good present for someone to buy your child?
“Portable fibre optic lights”
“Something related to his special interests”
“Thundering great Lego vehicle for one and felt pens that never dry out even though the lids will NEVER BE PUT BACK ON”
“Clothes that are suitable for 12 year old but small enough to fit (cause she fits in 7 to 8 she doesn’t want my little pony”
“Something that doesn’t under estimate her or clothes she can wear”
Parents often know best.
I’d suggest the best thing to do if you’re thinking of buying a present for a child with additional needs, is ask, ask, ASK! Don’t buy something you think is a good idea…because it might not be. You’re not spoiling the surprise by asking a parent. But you’ll probably be saving yourself money by not buying a completely useless present: chocolates for a child who can’t eat chocolate (bit cruel…happened/still happens to us! *sigh*); a toy that’ll easily break for a rather active little person (been there too); small, fiddly or non-edible stuff that’ll be popped into a little sensory seeking poppet’s mouth as quickly as you can say “Ho, ho, ho” (yes, also been there…many times!). Oh, and clothes. Clothes are tricky at Broccoli HQ. Hannah’s always been tiny and as she’s aged I’ve not wanted her to wear babyish clothes. Her arms are a little shorter, so long sleeves often drown her and whilst she has lovely long legs, she hasn’t got any ‘padding’ to keep her trousers/skirts up…so everything needs elasticated/adjustable waistbands. See? Told you it was tricky.
That said, pyjamas are always a winner at Broccoli HQ!
Some people mistakenly believe that giving money instead of a gift is lazy or a ‘cop out’. Trust me, it’s not. Not at all! It’s nice to give (and receive) a little gift, however, often, I can’t suggest a present someone could buy for Hannah, so rather than buying something inappropriate or that’ll get put in the charity shop bag/broken/is useless/quickly grown out of, money (or appropriate gift voucher) can be saved and put towards something really useful…a therapy session, a much needed piece of equipment, a fab sensory toy…something that’ll really benefit a child with additional needs.
- …and what would be a really rubbish one?
“Something that shows their lack of understanding of her conditions, wants and needs”
“When (child’s name) gets something that is ridiculously too young and boring for him, He is 5 years old but does struggle to access some toys for a 5 year old. I get the frustration of trying to find something that is old enough for him but he is still able to use or play with but equally, finding something he is able to use/play with but isn’t aimed at a baby and is going to bore him after 2 minutes and insult his intelligence. It can be difficult to decide but with a little thought and watching what he enjoys doing, you can easily find something”
“Not to buy purfumey soap/glittery bath stuff cld child can’t tolerate strong smells (doesn’t matter ahh but the set was so pretty)
“Something he won’t eat and that is not green…he is off green. Something to do with making his brain itchy”
“Hate all the chocs and sweets and when people guess sizes badly…just ask and don’t waste your money”
See above. Please ask, just ASK. It’s that simple. You don’t want a kid to have an itchy brain on Christmas Day, now do you?
What drives you completely potty about Christmas?
“The social pressure on mums to create a joyous family Christmas when all you want to do is stay in your jamas and eat cheese on toast”
“The wait – it’s hard for kids with ASC to wait and manage Christmas anxiety when it bloody starts in September in the shops”
“Shop music. I love a good carol but Maria Carey et al make me want to destroy something”
“Hate the must have all the everything”
Oh, I’m with you, Mama’s! *high fives all round!*
Another top tip is don’t bother with the expensive wrapping paper. Kids probably won’t be impressed that you bought your paper from a posh shop. Often, they’re more interested in what’s inside (but may then proceed to spend most of the day playing with the box and paper rather than the content!) Go for the cheap, easily rippable stuff. And as for sellotape, using fifty thousand miles of it to secure that gift you bought makes it extremely difficult for a little person (like Hannah) to open. Her focus is often fleeting and her ability to open something is limited, so your gift may well be cast aside (a polite way of saying thrown in frustration with force against a wall!) if she can’t open it. You may’ve spent time carefully wrapping and making it all look pretty with ribbons and bows and bells and all, but she won’t notice any of that. She’s not being awkward or ungrateful, she’s just being Hannah. So, save the fancy wrapping stuff for others who’ll appreciate it more and remember, cheap paper, easy on the sellotape. Winner, winner, Christmas turkey dinner!
And so we conclude the top tips with the visitors. Oh, the visitors! As much as it’s (probably) nice to see people from time to time, please don’t just turn up because it’s Christmas/it’s convenient for you. Quite frankly, whilst your intentions may be honourable, it’s a bit thoughtless. As I mentioned earlier, life still goes on in SEND households and some of us may not want to (or can) drop what we’re doing to entertain you. A rather brilliant idea is to ASK if it’s okay to come round! We’d (probably) be delighted to see you!
Equally, I know that many SEND families feel left out from ‘gatherings’. Please don’t exclude us…even if we’ve had to decline your invitations a billion times previously. ASK us. Involve us. Even if we can’t make it, for whatever reason, just ASK. It gives us the warm fuzzies…like we’ve not been forgotten.
So, let’s finally (phew!) wrap this up, shall we?
If you’re struggling to know what to buy this Christmas (and don’t need to ASK!), here’s some links to some ideas (n.b. I’m not paid to endorse any of these products):
Firefly: LOVE Firefly, we do! They make products for children with additional needs. We’ve got the Go To seat…and we think it’s GREAT! Firefly do gift e-cards too! https://www.fireflyfriends.com/uk/gift-card
Rainbows are too beautiful: http://www.rainbowsaretoobeautiful.com/2017/11/super-sensory-gift-guide.html
Mum on a mission: https://mumoam.co.uk/christmas-gift-disabled-child/
National Autistic Society: http://www.autism.org.uk/about/family-life/toys-books-play.aspx
…Oh, and Cerebra (LOVE Cerebra!) provide a lending library, so if there’s any parent/carers of children with neurological conditions reading this who’re wishing to try out some sensory equipment first, here’s the link: https://www.cerebra.org.uk/help-and-information/library/
I guess that’s all for now my lovelies.
Another long post, I know. I could’ve just said – Christmas = please ASK! – and left it at that, but that’s not my style, is it?
Thanks, as always, for stopping by. Oh, and just in case I don’t get around to writing a post in December…from all of us at Broccoli HQ, have a very Happy Christmas!
Until next time
This post is dedicated to Jo, Edina, Kate, Kayleigh, Martha, Sarah and Joanne. Thanks SO much for your contributions, you wonderful women, you! *blows kisses*