The holiday season can be a little tricky for families and kids like mine. Schedules are thrown off (something much more challenging than for an average child), the typical sensory overload (also frequently more challenging for special needs children), and exclusion. Yes, I said exclusion. At a time of year that is about togetherness, understanding, celebrating humanity, and love I have read heartbreaking story after story in my support group of children and families being excluded because they are different. To be honest, I have had my own struggles this season with feeling a bit blue when I reflected on the friends that have drifted away since having my daughter.
Then tonight happened.
Keep in mind, tonight is Christmas Eve AND the first night of Hanukkah. In my household we celebrate both holidays because my husband is Jewish.
Tonight dinner was at my aunt and uncle’s place. Let me paint the picture: There is my little unit (hubby, Lyra and I). My divorced parents who have rediscovered friendship in the past 5+ years. My sister and brother-in-law, each with two children from previous marriages (ages 16, 13, 8, and 5). My brother, my cousin, and my nephew’s friend. Add into it that I was raised in a secular, non-religious, household; my husband is Jewish; and my brother-in-law is Episcopalian. Some people in the group are very liberal while others are quite conservative. Sounds like a recipe for disaster, right?
Not so much.
After the the Christmas toast we listened to my husband recite the prayers and watched him light the candles. Before eating, my brother-in-law said grace. In our household,it doesn’t matter what you believe, there is nothing wrong with being grateful for what you have. The 16 year old and his friend sat with the 5 and 8 year old like it was totally normal. And there was a place for my non-eater at the table, and she even ate a little bit.
My point is, my daughter couldn’t have been born into a better family. While I hear again and again about children with tubes being purposely excluded by extended family members, I know that will never happen with my child. I also know that the inclusion extends well beyond my family who lives near us. I could take my daughter to my great aunt and uncle’s house and she would be just another one of the babes crawling around. Not a single one of my cousins would fear her or her medical needs. And they would never prevent their children from playing with her.
My family is a group of people that believes it is okay to be different. It’s okay to have different thoughts, beliefs, interests, etc. It’s okay to take a different path in life or to stumble along the way. It’s okay to need help and it’s okay to have to do things in another way (like eat). We believe in being kind and inclusive. Basically, the only not allowed in my family is being an asshole.
Are we perfect?
Far from it.
We have our own little conflicts. But in the end, we are all family. My daughter is so blessed. She will never know anything but love and inclusion from those closest to her. And I am so lucky to have these people around me.
Lyra, her uncle ,and her daddy