The less they get, the happier they are

imageIt is the day after Christmas Day and if social media were to be believed my children have been pretty hard done by. Except they haven’t.

By society’s standard in the country I live in we are considered to have little income. But in actual fact we are very rich indeed.

This Christmas my children received less than many others. Much of what they had yesterday was second hard or given by family. Yet this truly has been our best Christmas ever.

Both of my beautiful twins have a developmental neurological condition called autism. Despite being seven year old my son is unable to speak and has significant communication difficulties. He can not ask or show me what he would like as a gift at any time of year and only plays on rare occasions with toys suitable for infants. My daughter has zero concept of peer pressure or current trends and instead likes to re-enact things she has seen on TV or a DVD. She likes simple, small toys that she can line up.

So I decided this year to give them the Christmas THEY wanted. I was brought up as one of four children with extended family of uncles, aunts and grandparents and a minimum of twelve people at the table for Christmas dinner every year. I loved it! My children would hate this!

So we socialised less. We had less people here; in fact we had no-one around on Christmas Day at all and we all stayed home.

We ate less. The kids had no selection boxes or sweets at all and instead had some fish bites and chips for lunch and sausages and mash with baked beans for dinner later on. We never even had pudding. Not because we could not afford it but because no-one was bothered.

We were at peace. We were content. The less we got and did, the happier we all were.

imageIsaac loved a simple book. And a toy toaster that only just cost marginally more then the wrapping paper I used to wrap it in! A family member bought him a plastic jar of magnetic letters. It brought him huge joy and despite being described by professionals as ‘own agenda’ and ‘in his own world’, he gave me eye contact and smiles and vocalised to get me to tell him the letters and numbers as he showed me them. An inexpensive item bringing priceless moments of love, communication, connection and education.

imageNaomi had a new DVD and some small characters. But one of the things she loved most was a small game of bowling which she used her new characters to play with time and time again. Turn taking, fine motor control, imagination and maths skills all coming into play in a toy that cost just a few pounds. And together we spent some beautiful time together playing a game of dominoes that cost half the price of a roll of sticky tape bought to wrap the gifts in! Gran bought her a tub of Lego and she helped me make a pencil. That pencil became a magic pencil that wrote letters and passwords all over the house.

A few days before Christmas I came back from a meeting at my sons school to a note through my door. All it said was there was a parcel in the bin for me. When I went to retrieve it I discovered two bin bags of wrapped gifts for my children.image I have no idea who did this but it was such a beautiful act. One box was full of second hand transformer type toys. My son has fiddled with these and my daughter is fascinated by the moving parts. Another gift was a craft set my daughter loves and another was some children’s make up which Naomi says will make her even more beautiful. (I don’t believe that is possible!)

It has been a very simple Christmas, by choice rather than need. The children got less but in doing so we ALL got more. More in the way of quality time with them, more peace, more calmness and more appreciation of the things we so often take for granted. For the first time they were not overwhelmed or pressured and neither were we.

I love Christmas; I always have done. But this year my children taught me the true meaning of it all. Baby Jesus was born in the most humble and basic of circumstances and in our humble Christmas this year we found a closeness and a magic we have not had before. My children showed me that the less they get, the happier they are.

Well apart from love that is! You can never ever have too much love!

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They just sat there holding hands

The long summer holidays were coming to an end, it was getting ever closer to the children’s bedtimes and they were having a little time on technology while I tidied up. They were quiet so I turned around to check on them to see them engrossed in their own worlds but yet so closely bonded in each other’s worlds they were sitting holding hands. It was one of those moments you just had to be there. It was sweet, intimate and special. It was beautiful:

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They didn’t need words (which was perfect since one of them is yet to speak) and they didn’t need to look at each other (even better since they both have autism). A powerful image of two people connected against all odds. A moment of love.

I have had five years and nine months to look at their hands. I remember when their hands were so tiny they could curl round a single finger of mine. I remember holding their tiny hands in a gentle fist while I slipped their arms into little baby grows and cardigans. I remember holding their hands when they needed me to balance them as they took their first steps. I remember gripping their little hands as I showed them how to climb stairs, holding their hands as we walked in shops, climbed up hills or along paths. This week I will take one of those precious hands and hold it as I walk my daughter to school for the first time. Precious moments of love, guidance, bonding and closeness. I know one day she won’t want her mummy holding her hand but until that days comes I treasure that intimacy with her.

One of these little hands will learn to write soon. But while her brother may not do this for a long time to come it doesn’t stop them being close. Summer has brought them so much closer to each other. It has given them more shared experiences together and time in each other’s company. They prefer to be together. Education is separating them but love is joining them.

And while one of these little hands will turn pages in a book, paint pictures, thread beads and cut and stick things the other hand is still be used as an essential means of communicating. It is only in the last year that my son has leant to use his hand to point. I still dream that one day he may use his hand to blow me kisses, or wave, or stroke my face. But right now I rejoice he still uses his hand to take mine to what he wants.

Therapists want my son to take my hand less and use other means of communicating. While I see the advantage to this there is something so special about a little child leading you by the hand to show you what he wants. It connects you physically when there is no language. It tells me he loves me without any words leaving his mouth. And as he uses photos and pointing more I miss those moments when he sought me out, pulled at my hand and led me to what he wanted.

I may not always be around for these children, though I pray God sustains my years on earth for many years to come. But seeing them together, knowing that despite all their challenges they have a deep love for one another, that from the moment they were conceived they have been connected. Seeing my daughter put her hand over her brothers to teach him what to do in a new game, watching how she holds a straw in a glass of juice for him to help him have a drink, observing how she tenderly strokes his arm when he gets upset…I just know that they will always have a friend in each other.

I wanted to kiss them both, explain how special this moment was to them, talk to them about the significance of what they were doing… Instead I smiled at them and took a photograph… While they just sat there holding hands.image