Monday, December 31, 2012
Friday, December 28, 2012
My Christmas cheer is starting to return so I will post some happy Christmas photos. This is especially for Kai’s grandparents. Kai was very excited when he woke up on Christmas morning. Of course he wanted to open his presents right away. I told him he had to wait for Mom to come downstairs, so he happily jumped for joy on the trampoline until Mom arrived.
Wednesday, December 26, 2012
I know that many of you are checking in to see what a glorious Christmas we had. You want to see Kai’s smiling face and the excitement as he opened his presents. We certainly had all that. But I’m not in the mood to talk about that. On Christmas afternoon, after we had opened all of our presents and played with some, we drove over to Kai’s aunt house. We usually see her at Hanukkah, but she did not make it this year, and invited us to her house on Christmas instead. She had recently gotten engaged, and this was to be her first Christmas hosting her fiancé's family. We were the first guests to arrive, but it wasn’t long before the others came. This was our first time meeting most of them, including two kids who were near in age to Kai. My wife and I were amazed at how much Kai wanted to interact with them. We don’t see him with other kids too often, but we remember back when he was in preschool that he was very uncomfortable around unfamiliar children and rarely interacted with them. All was good as they chased each other around the house, especially enjoying going down to the “man cave” that Kai’s aunt’s fiancé set up in the basement. In the midst of all that playing, Kai noticed that the Christmas tree had presents beneath it, and he made sure to check each one to find the one with his name on it. “Mine is a small one,” he noticed. I reassured him that good things can come in small packages and forgot about his concern as dinner was served. Kai sat nicely through dinner, though he ate quickly and asked when it would be time to open presents. But he was surprisingly patient and while everyone was finishing their meals, he went to the living room where I heard him chatting to the other kids, first about Jesus Christ, and then, something about the Maccabees. When everyone had finished eating, his aunt gave the go-ahead to start unwrapping presents. Kai’s present was a game called Spoons that you play with a deck of cards and bunch of spoons. It looked like a cute, fun game. The other young boy unwrapped his present. He received an Angry Birds game. Kai was jealous. He loves Angry Birds, and was disappointed that he did not get that present. As the other boy took out the contents of the game, Kai stomped on the box. I pulled him away and told him to stop that. Before I go on, I must mention that Kai’s aunt had already very generously given Kai several gifts for Hanukkah including those “credit cards” that he is anxious to spend. The other kids at the party do not celebrate Hanukkah, so this was the only occasion for them to receive gifts from her. Kai talked about his dissatisfaction with his present. My wife came over and we both tried to show him what a fun game Spoons is. I gave him the plastic spoons that came in the box, but he threw them on the floor. We pulled him aside once more. We quietly explained how his aunt had already given him great presents for Hanukkah, and how he had received so many other presents just that morning. But instead of understanding, he got angrier. He started shouting. “This is a stupid present!” “I hate this party!” “I’m never going to come here again!” And with that, all of our good cheer on Christmas vanished. We thought it was best to leave. Though we did give Kai one last chance at the door to say he would calm down and have dessert. But when he continued to complain, we said our goodbyes and made an abrupt departure. In the car and even after we got home, Kai continued his rant. It frustrated us to no end that he just could not comprehend what awful things he said. Kai’s disappointment with that Christmas present doesn’t begin to compare with our disappointment over his attitude. How can you teach a child about gratitude when he does not seem to feel any in his own heart? Is any of this due to his autism, or have we just failed miserably as parents? Where do we go from here? We told him that Mom would not be taking him to the Lego store today to spend his gift cards. That is a start at teaching him a lesson, but it feels like it will be a long time before he truly learns to appreciate the things he has. Addendum: I wrote the above on my train ride home from work. When I got home, my wife informed me that Kai talked to his aunt on the phone and apologized. I asked him what he told her, and he said he was "sorry for ruining the party and destroying the boy’s present.” Okay, perhaps he learned a bit of a lesson. Still a long way to go, I’m sure. But perhaps my Christmas cheer is starting to creep back just a bit.
Monday, December 24, 2012
I picked up my dad on Saturday, as he will be staying with us this week and celebrating Christmas with us. For as long as he has been a grandfather, I have never known him to buy any presents for his grandkids. He is generous with cash gifts, but he has never gone to a store and picked out something for my nephews or my son. Heck, I don’t remember him buying things for my sister and I either except for an occasional toolbox or something like that. I think my mom and aunt did all of the Christmas shopping. So I was more than a little surprised when he gave Kai a gift bag with several items inside. Kai’s favorite thing was the box of Hot Wheels cars.
Friday, December 21, 2012
On past birthdays, my son has sometimes been given gift cards. The cards come enclosed with a birthday card, and Kai has not shown much interest in them. I wonder if he even knew what they were. He usually just tosses them aside and moves on to the next present. My wife makes sure to grab the cards so that they don’t get lost in the frenzy of opening the presents or tossed out with the wrapping paper and boxes. However, and here is where we have a confession to make, we don’t give the cards back to Kai afterward. Oh, it’s not like we use the cards for ourselves. We are not that bad. But after getting so many presents like he usually does on his birthday, it seems excessive to take him to the store with his gift cards and get him more. Instead, we save the cards and use them later in the year when he wants something. And that has worked out fine. Until now.
Tuesday, December 18, 2012
We were all still feeling the great about the Hanukkah party when we awoke on Sunday morning. My wife and I were still aglow about Kai’s interactions, while Kai was excited about his presents. He wanted to get started on one of his new Lego sets right away. Last year he even climbed up the ladder to put the lights and ornaments high up on the tree. But not this year. He was mildly interested when I took out the boxes of decorations and started to string the lights. But soon he wanted to do something else. “Mom, I’m going to work on my Legos.” “Hey, what about the Christmas tree?” I asked. “Dad, you can do that yourself.” Sigh. Hanukkah 1. Christmas 0. He worked on his new Lego diligently with only a short break for lunch.
Monday, December 17, 2012
Saturday was the eighth and final day of Hanukkah, but we started the afternoon off by going to buy our Christmas tree. The rest of our afternoon was busy preparing for the Hanukkah celebration we were hosting that evening. Such is the life of a family that celebrates both holidays. Kai had been looking forward to Hanukkah for the past few weeks. Sometimes it seemed it was just for all the presents he would receive, but I think he really enjoys seeing his grandparents, cousins, uncle and aunt. He asked if his cousins Lucy and Peter were coming, and when I told him that they were, he was very happy. My wife recruited Kai to help with some of the preparations. He and I hung the ‘Happy Hanukkah’ banner. Well, at least he watched me put it up. But he did join me in peeling carrots. He reminded us that he had done this before when his grandmother in Ohio had him help her in the kitchen last summer. He also told us that Uncle Frankie would be proud of him as he told Kai to help out Mom in the kitchen.
Monday, December 10, 2012
Hanukkah started this weekend and Christmas will soon be here. My wife and I both feel like we have way too much to do and not enough time to do it. How I wish I had followed my blog friend Betsy’s lead in starting planning for Christmas back in October. Anyway, this will be just a short post on our weekend. We won’t have our family Hanukkah gathering until next weekend, but we did light the candles on our menorah the first two nights. Kai is looking forward to the presents, and seeing everyone, too!
Tuesday, December 4, 2012
Last Friday evening, my wife told me that Kai really wanted to get a Lego advent calendar. Saturday was the first day of December, so if we were going to get it for him, we needed to decide right then. We sometimes use things that Kai really wants like this as a reward that he can earn for good behavior. Or, we will give him with an unexpected prize when he has done something special that we want to recognize. But there was nothing in particular to recognize at this time. In fact, Kai had a poor month at school throughout November. Our one-time hopes that he might attain the next level at school have all but vanished for now. He is back to having several major incidents per week. So, there was no good excuse to get him the Lego set. It would have been easy for me to just decide that he did not deserve the present right now. But something about that gnawed at me. Between my wife and me, I am more likely to be the one to say that we should not get Kai a present. I am the one to argue that we are spoiling him if we give him things too easily. But when I woke up Saturday morning, knowing it was December 1, I wanted to get that Lego set for him. I didn’t want Mom to get it for him. I wanted him to know that I wanted to get it for him. And for him to know that it would not come with any conditions, but I wanted to give it to him just because it would bring him joy. And so, after he woke up, I told him that we would go to the Lego store and get that advent calendar. I think he could hardly believe it. First, we had our weekly trip to the library. And then I took him to a birthday party. But after that we drove straight to the mall. He picked out the Star Wars calendar. And he was very happy.