Last year at this time, I was so nervous. This was not just my son Michael’s first holiday concert at ‘big boy’ school, but the first year he really began to understand and put together all the traditions of the holiday season. Would he be nervous at the big Santa breakfast in the gym? Would he sit on Santa’s lap or run away screaming? At least he would be in his pajamas so he would be comfortable, I remember thinking.

You see, Michael has autism, and though he is considered high functioning and very verbal, the break in routine, the crazy pacing, and all the junk food, generally made him a little nervous and overwhelmed in the past. He has come a long way since his diagnosis at three and a half, and enjoys most of the holiday traditions with us now,  including attending church, but this was a biggie, sitting on Santa’s lap, and I would be there to see it all.

As part of the Parent Committee of Summit School, a school for special needs children like my son, we were in charge of organizing the breakfast, and then making sure Santa had gifts for all the elementary age children who took part. Each child from every class would sit on Santa’s lap. The teachers would take pictures, and then the child would get their gift from Santa.

It didn’t start off so well.

Michael was a little overwhelmed by the noise, and did not want to eat the gargantuan breakfast on the table in front of him. That part was my fault though, as I had insisted he eat breakfast at home, not really believing there would be as much food as there was or that he would be inclined to eat due to nerves. Pancakes, cereal, fruit were plentiful, along with juice, milk and even chocolate milk. Then he spotted me and the teachers were none too happy because he was crying and being clingy. It was only when I got close enough to hear him clearly that I realized he had been trying to get a teacher’s attention to show him where the bathroom was. Once I pointed that out to someone, he calmed down and went with her.

After he came back, he was telling me he was thirsty so another teacher got him some water. When I saw now that his main needs had been met, I quietly removed myself from his sight so that I wouldn’t be in the way. It was then that I got my first glimpse of how far Michael had come. When the breakfast was over, the teachers got all the kids to sit in a circle on the floor (each class on their side of the gym), and the music teacher began playing on her guitar. The volunteers were treated to the children singing carols.

It was great.

Then it was time for all the kids to line up class by class to sit on Santa’s lap. I held my breath and hid behind my friend, who agreed to take a picture of Michael with Santa. I was afraid that if he saw me, he would run to me and not want to try. In the past, the only way I was able to get him anywhere near Santa, was if I sat on Santa’s lap with Michael on my lap. Even then, he would sit on my lap and cry.

Well, the moment finally arrived and up he went on Santa’s lap with a big smile on his face and thanked Santa for his present. I’ll never forget the moment of pride and excitement when I saw him sitting there like any other child would enjoying his magical moment with Santa.

After that the rest of the morning passed in a blur of children laughing, singing, and being kids, because really, even with their differences, in the end all children are alike in their innocence and love of the spirit at this special time of year.

As I was thinking these thoughts, I happened to look over at the corner where Michael’s class was. It was then that I saw them, Michael and his best friend, Jeremy, dancing in a very unique way that only children with autism can. They were rocking forward and back with their legs, almost like they were on a rocking horse. The first time I saw Michael doing as a toddler, I thought to myself how original he was, not knowing what lay behind that movement. Later when I found out that it was part of the disorder he would have for life, it was a very discouraging thought indeed. But watching Michael move like that now along with his friend, I saw the beauty in it for the first time, and how far I had come in truly accepting Michael for who he is.

I had finally made my peace with everything and was seeing what another friend had once told me. “Autism is a gift in an unusual package.”

Those words had proved correct so many times. Michael’s memory for remembering people, events, his quirky sense of humor and way of seeing the world, are all a part of this disorder as well as the challenges he faces on a daily basis. He is unique and I wouldn’t want him to be any different than he is now. So this year as we are approaching another breakfast with Santa, I am eager and excited to be a part of it again, and hopefully catch a glimpse of the magic that is for children of all abilities.

But most importantly, I can’t wait to see Michael dancing.

So God Made a Mother book by Leslie Means

If you liked this, you'll love our new book, SO GOD MADE A MOTHER available now!

Order Now

Joanne Giacomini

Joanne Giacomini is a writer, editor, speaker and parent coach at Exceptional Parenting/Exceptional Balance http://https://creatingexceptionalparenting.com/. She helps special needs parents by offering them tips and tools for their parenting journey, so they and their children can live life happy, whole and in balance. She also blogs about how her son with autism is raising her at Exceptional Mom/Exceptional Child https://exceptionalmomchild.com/. Joanne is very excited to have her articles published on Her View From Home, and loves the support of a community of women helping women achieve greatness. You can follow Joanne on Twitter https://twitter.com/exceptmomchild. Joanne also has a FREE EBOOK available entitled "5 WAYS TO MANAGE EXCEPTIONAL FAMILY ANXIETY" at the following link: http://exceptionalparenting.site88.net/

5 Things Your Child’s Kindergarten Teacher Wants You To Know

In: Kids, Motherhood
Child raising hand in kindergarten class

I am a teacher. I have committed my life to teaching children. Of course, before I began this career, I had visions of standing in front of a group of eager-eyed children and elaborating on history, science, and math lessons. I couldn’t wait to see the “lightbulb” moments when students finally understood a reading passage or wrote their first paper. And then I had my first day. Children are not cut out of a textbook (shocking, I know) but as a young 23-year-old, it knocked me right off my feet. I was thrown into the lion’s den, better known as...

Keep Reading

To the Extended Family That Shows Up: We Couldn’t Do This Without You

In: Kids, Living, Motherhood
Family visiting new baby in a hospital room

This picture—my heart all but bursts every time I see it.  It was taken five years ago on the day our daughter was born. In it, my husband is giving her her very first bath while our proud extended family looks on. It was a sweet moment on a hugely special day, but gosh–what was captured in this photo is so much more than that. This photo represents everything I could have ever hoped for my kids: That they would have an extended family who shows up in their lives and loves them so deeply.  That they would have grandparents,...

Keep Reading

You’re Almost Grown, But You’re Always Welcome Back Home

In: Kids, Motherhood
Teen in room studying with computer and smartphone

Dear child, In the days before you could walk or talk, there were times when you would wail—when my rocking and shushing and bouncing were seemingly futile—but it didn’t matter. Each day and night, multiple times, I always picked you up and welcomed you back into my arms. As a toddler and a preschooler, you had some pretty epic meltdowns. There were times when you would thrash and scream, and all I could do was stand by and wait for the storm to blow over. Eventually, you would run to me, and I would welcome you back with a warm embrace....

Keep Reading

No One Warned Me About the Last Baby

In: Baby, Kids, Motherhood
Mother holding newborn baby, black-and-white photo

No one warned me about the last baby. When I had my first, my second, and my third, those first years were blurry from sleep deprivation and chaos from juggling multiple itty-bitties. But the last baby? There’s a desperation in that newborn fog to soak it up because there won’t be another. No one warned me about the last baby. Selling the baby swing and donating old toys because we wouldn’t need them crushed me. I cried selling our double jogger and thought my heart would split in two when I dropped off newborn clothes. Throwing out pacifiers and bottles...

Keep Reading

Parents Are Terrible Salespeople for Parenting

In: Kids, Motherhood
Tired mother with coffee cup on table, child sitting next to her

As the years of fertility start to wane, many of my childless peers are confronted with the question, “Should I have kids?” With hesitation, they turn to us parents who, frankly, seem overwhelmingly unhappy. They ask sheepishly, “Is it worth it?” We lift our heads up, bedraggled, bags under our eyes, covered in boogers and sweat and spit up, we mutter, “Of course! It’s so fulfilling!” It’s like asking a hostage if they like their captor. Sure, it’s great. We love them. But our eyes are begging for liberation. Save me, please. I haven’t slept through the night in years....

Keep Reading

Soak in the Moments because Babies Don’t Keep

In: Kids, Motherhood, Tween
Roller coaster photo, color photo

I love marking the moments, the ones that count—making a note and storing them for memory. But I often miss out on them when it comes to our oldest. ⁣ ⁣The day he wanted to be baptized, I was at home with another kiddo who was sick. He called me from church excitedly, emphasizing he was ready and didn’t want to wait. I couldn’t argue with that, so I watched him go underwater through videos my husband and sweet friends in the congregation took. ⁣ ⁣On the day of his fifth-grade graduation, we found ourselves at the pediatrician’s office. Instead...

Keep Reading

Sometimes a Kid Just Needs a Sick Day

In: Kids, Motherhood
Little boy outside, color photo

My middle son stayed home from school today. He said he was sick. I’m not sure that is the truth. I was lucky enough to have a mom who was an amazing caretaker, especially when you were sick. She pulled out all the stops. A cozy clean space to be, a thermos with ice cold juice by your side, Mrs. Grass’s soup, and Days of Our Lives on the screen while she tidied up the house. It was the best feeling in the world to be home and cozy with my mom when I was sick. It felt cozy and...

Keep Reading

Sometimes We Need Someone to Just Sit With Us in Our Struggle

In: Kids, Motherhood
Sad woman sits on floor, black and white image

Early this morning, I told (yelled is more accurate) my sons to get up with the same furious ferocity I use every morning when I realize they should be ready to go, but are still unconsciously snoozing away. One son lazily said, “I’m up, Mom” (even though he was very much not up). The other son, who typically has no problems getting up, had overslept and immediately freaked out, thinking he would be late to school. He proceeded to have a mini-meltdown from the dark recesses of his bedroom. That overflowed into the hallway where I found him lying face-down,...

Keep Reading

Daughter of Mine, Do Not Let the World Extinguish Your Fire

In: Kids, Motherhood
Mother and young daughter, color photo

Daughter of mine, I see the fire behind your eyes. Do not let it die. Daughter of mine who runs wildly and loves freely and whose anger is always whipping silently just under the surface like a pilot light, ready to ignite with one tiny spark. Do not let it die. RELATED: There is Wild Beauty in This Spirited Child of Mine Daughter of mine, one day you will become a woman, and the world will try to steal you and mold you and tell you who to become. Do not let it. It will try to fit you in...

Keep Reading

God Chose Me to Be the Mother of a Wild One

In: Kids, Motherhood
Woman holding child on the beach, black-and-white photo

It was just another typical fall morning. There was a time change so you were a little extra sleepy (also known as grouchy) but nothing too out of the ordinary. In a split second, that all changed, and the reality of what it is like to live with an unbelievably relentless little human set in like never before. I sat on your bedroom floor, laundry scattered all around, and literally watched my tears fall to the ground. I was on my knees. Physically on my knees just begging you to stop or begging God to give me patience. I don’t...

Keep Reading