Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Navigating Social Gatherings

If your household is anything like mine at this time of year, you are busy, and social gatherings dominate your calendar. We celebrate three out of five of the birthdays in our house within November and December, as well as Thanksgiving and Christmas. Social gatherings are difficult. There is no way to sneak around that fact. Holidays mean family gatherings, and that means a change in the daily routine as well as seeing many people who we love, but are not completely familiar with. And by we, I am mostly referring to my precious eight-year old: Little Miss M.

Family gatherings and social experiences have never been very easy for Little Miss M. She struggled from the early days, burying her head in my lap or screaming and sobbing until we found a quiet place for her to recenter. We didn't understand it back then; we blamed ourselves. Now, we know better. We know the over-stimulation of these events, the unrealistic expectations we had, and the routine changes were enough to start her spinning. Little Miss M works very hard to keep herself in check when she's outside of the house. I watch her try to control the snapping, the spinning, the chatting with herself, the singing and all the wonderful nuances that are her when we are out in the public eye. She's aware, to a point. However, when the temperature is just a little too warm, or the chatter is too loud, or she's not feeling well or any number of things are not just as she wants or needs it -- her world is literally "out of control". This is when we have meltdowns. We have uncontrollable crying and running away. We will have the moments where all 4'6" of her gets curled in the tightest of balls in the middle of my lap. And, a lot of times we will have seizures or unexplained falling and more scary happenings.

So, what do we do? Do we cancel social experiences? Do we live in isolation in a perfectly controlled environment? No, we don't. Honestly, there are many days when I want to do just that. Instead, we take one day at a time. We graciously accept invitations that come our way, if we can. We try to visualize the situation and discuss exactly how we think Little Miss M is coping on that particular day. We know the importance of doing things as a family. We love being together as a family, but sometimes we have to divide and conquer.

This came up at Thanksgiving this year. The Husband and I alternate holidays between my side of the family and his. This year was a year to go to his side. They live almost three hours away. We already know our children take multiple nights to adjust to a new sleeping location, so we do the trip in one day. The Husband and I talked this particular holiday over for many days. Little Miss M has been in the Emergency Room three times in the last two weeks. She really hasn't seemed well to us, but we cannot seem to pin down why. However, we both agreed that a six-hour round trip was not in her best interest. We were also concerned about how she would handle being with people she rarely sees when she could barely tolerate being in the same room with her sisters. When it came down to it, we asked Little Miss M what she wanted to do. She told us she was not feeling well, and she wanted to stay home. We decided that our two younger daughters deserved to be with family for the holiday, and so we split up. Little Miss M and I stayed home and relaxed. I scrubbed the floor and did laundry and made her the only thing she requested -- sweet potatoes, while the Husband drove the younger two to his family celebration.

We missed being together, but it was the first holiday in a long time where Little Miss M looked completely relaxed. I was sad for much of the day, thinking about missing out and having to change our lives so much. Then, I realized that it was our choice, and we made the right one for our family. I realized I wasn't really sad, but instead intensely grateful that my beautiful little girl was able to sit by my side and share a conversation with me. In the end, I had tears in my eyes because of the love I have for my girl.

There have been times where we've "bitten the bullet" and gone to a social engagement, despite Little Miss M being in a bad place and she's been absolutely fine. However, there have been enough times where this has not been the case, and it has taken Little Miss M weeks to recover. After eight years of experience, I still don't know if we have the right answers, especially since tomorrow can be completely different than today. We take it day by day and event by event. So, if I have to decline your generous invite to a party, please know it was not done in haste. I, along with the Husband, have probably weighed every possibility and outcome and settled on what we think is best for our daughter. If we've had to decline an invite, multiple times -- please don't stop inviting us. We so appreciate being included, but it takes so much for us to just get out the door, we simply cannot make it to every social situation.

Is this true for you? How do you handle social situations and holidays? Please leave suggestions in the comments below.


Amanda is just trying to do what's best for the entire family.

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