“Slow-down,” I tell my boy.  He is talking fast.  With great animation, he explains the neighborhood that he is drawing, bold marker lines quickly scrawled around and between the houses – Christmas lights!  Our boy’s speech and demeanor mirror the exhilaration of the holiday season.

In years past, I found myself approaching the Christmas season with uneasiness, even a sense of dread.  While the hustle and bustle of the holidays brings out the excitement in the best of us, for a child with autism, the very things that we associate with this joyful time of the year can quickly produce too much stimulation.  And, with too much stimulation,   bouts of wild hyperactivity, anxiety and  intense meltdowns have a way of wreaking havoc on a household throughout the whole season.  As you might guess, these types of behaviors are not conducive to feeling the holiday spirit!

I am learning from my boy, though.  He is teaching ME to slow-down.  I carefully consider my yeses for the season and graciously  say no to the unnecessary.  I say yes to Christmas shopping early and online, affording the gift of more time and less exposure to the frenzied energy of crowded stores.  Slowing-down also means that I enjoy feasting my eyes on the festive lights and greenery donning our neighbor’s homes while being content with keeping things simple at our house –  needle point stockings hung on the mantle, a  pre-lit Christmas tree decorated by my little ones, an heirloom manger scene and a spiral wooden Advent wreath marking Mary’s journey to Bethlehem.  We are also saying yes to a  trip on the Santa train, my husband’s work party, a play (something special just for my husband and me!), a family gathering and the Christmas Eve service at church.  As we make these choices to say yes or no, we are honoring the needs of our family and allowing room to breathe, to be fully present in the moment.

In the act of slowing-down, are the holidays perfect at our house? No.  My boy and girl still fight over whose turn it is to open the doors to our Advent book each evening and who gets to move Mary towards Bethlehem on her donkey.  And, I still have to remind myself to take a deep breath as our boy talks fast and they both romp through the house.  The difference comes in the form of a more relaxed mom – A mom who is better able to respond to her children in a calmer, more rational manner.   In learning how to set the stage for more grace-filled moments and less tension, I am better able to keep the joy in the season!

Thank you, God, for giving me this gift of my son who needs me to slow-down.  For, in the slowing-down, I find the peace and calm where Your Son, Jesus, is born.