The one question I can’t answer as a special needs mom during the holidays

an open Christmas present with a question mark inside

I hate the holidays! Do you still want to keep reading?

I’m one of those people who would happily seek out a hole and live in it from late October to mid-January. I’ve never been someone who loves the holidays. Yes, having young kids and watching their excitement has helped a little, but it hasn’t taken away how I really feel.

Having this already wired through my brain makes what I’m about to share next even harder to wrestle with. It’s an innocuous question, but it hurts: “What toys or gifts can we get the girls this year?”

It hurts because my child with special needs is on her own developmental schedule. Shelby is three, but developmentally she is closer to twelve months. Factor in her sensory issues (deafblindness and tactile defensiveness) and it is hard to think of things she would touch let alone enjoy. So no, I don’t want any toys or gifts for Shelby because it is too tough to think about!

Last year I sent around WonderBaby’s great toy list and told people what they could get Shelby. Fast forward twelve months and Shelby is finally playing with the toys she received last year. So what’s a mom to do? What do I tell people to get Shelby? I don’t have an answer. I’d rather people just give us a gift card and say, “We know you know Shelby best so here is a gift card for you to pick her up something fun.”

There is pain watching a child open a gift you know isn’t appropriate for them, and I don’t want to deny loved ones the joy of giving a gift. How do I channel the happiness of the season when things are just so hard? Can both pain and happiness live in my head and heart?

Shelby and her sisters in front of the Christmas tree

Here are Shelby and her sisters in front of the Christmas tree in Shelby’s room. Letting the girls have their own tree in their bedrooms helps combat my holiday blues.

Over the last year I started brain integration as a means to help me deal with the trauma that comes with having a child with complex medical and sensory needs. Brain integration is a “hands-on technique that reconnects neural pathways in the brain that have shut down under stress.” And for me this has been one of the most beneficial things I have ever done. During one session I talked about the joy and sadness I experience thinking about what my life was, is and will be. My practitioner listened to me, affirmed me, and told me something that I have been telling myself a lot, “It is OK to feel both things and it is possible to feel both things, you don’t have to choose a feeling.”

So as I sit and think about the holidays and all they bring, especially the feelings stirred up about Shelby and gift giving, I will tell myself, “It is OK to feel the sadness, but remember to let the joy of the holidays in too. It is better for my soul to feel both things, it doesn’t matter if it is the sadness or the joy, experiencing one and pushing the other away isn’t healthy, experience both Nicole.”

Wishing you and your family a (fill in the blank) _______________ holiday season! (I’ll fill mine in with not sucky.)

Nicole Feeney writes about how God grew the Feeney family from two to four to five in two quick years… and the subsequent adventures on her blog, Fab Feeney Five.

The one question I can't answer as a special needs mom during the holidays

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