Samantha Enjoys Christmas in a Different Way

(Guest post by Monica McDivitt – Monica blogs at Like a Butterfly)

Samantha is running back and forth in the front hallway. She is flapping her arms and giggling. I watch, smile and walk into the kitchen to prepare breakfast. Suddenly, I hear bells jingling on the Christmas tree. I look over and see the top of the tree moving from side to side. I stop what I am doing and walk over to the family room to see what Sam is up to. Is she pulling an ornament off of the tree? Trying to sit on or tackle the tree? I enter the room. She is wearing her pink and gray leopard print gown. Her hair is messy but it is pulled back into a ponytail. She is sitting quietly in front of the tree, admiring the lights and trinkets. I know she was probably trying to sit on the tree but all is good. She is safe and happy and that is all that matters.

John and I carefully purchased a new tree this year because Sam had mangled the old tree. After 4 years of being leaned on, sat on and knocked over, half of the lights were no longer operating and the bottom branches were touching the floor. It only took one day before this new tree began to look like the old one, except this one has the multicolored lights instead of the clear ones. John and I figured Sam would enjoy the different colors.

The truth is that Sam doesn’t understand Christmas or any other holiday. She is usually quite easygoing but will run and look for a quiet place to hide if there are too many people around. She will refuse to eat in a large social environment, even if she is at home. For this reason, we miss out on many extended family gatherings. If we do attend, John and/or I have to chase Sam around to make sure she doesn’t grab and eat dirt from houseplants, play with toilet water, break something or go into meltdown mode. I then find myself explaining her behavior(s) to family and/or friends. Though I do not mind educating others about Sam, the ‘chasing around’ and meltdowns are not fun and the only solution to this type stress and chaos is to have holiday events at our own home where Sam can feel safe and disappear into her room if she feels the need to do so.

Sam is sweet, smart, funny and craves her routine. She recognizes that many things are different this time of year so we continue to follow a routine throughout the holidays. I know it sounds dull and boring but John and I must do what is beneficial for Sam. When change does occur we do our best to get her through it successfully. Since Sam is nonverbal and still does not understand how to use communication devices, I often wonder what goes on in her mind. How does she feel? What is she thinking? Is she afraid? I am not sure if these are things I will ever truly know but I have much faith and hope and continue to work with her daily.

For the time being, I know she likes Christmas trees, lights and ornaments. She picks one ornament off of our tree each time she passes and by the end of the night several ornaments are scattered throughout the house and I find myself picking up the same ones every night. I also know that she doesn’t care about presents and never demands anything (except her baths or snacks). It can take several days after Christmas before she is interested in opening a single gift. Tissue paper, bows, tulle, wrapping paper, gift bags are often more interesting than the gifts themselves and this is okay. As long as I see a smile on Sam’s face I know she is content. This is Sam. She is easy to please and John and I are blessed.

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