This thanksgiving was unlike any other in my life. Our governor asked is to slow the spread of COVID-19 by celebrating in our own individual family units. I have usually hosted in the past, and this week I didn’t spend 3 days cleaning and pulling out extra furniture to accommodate everyone.
I do miss everyone, but most of our family lives in the same area. And we have been talking on the phone and text, so it’s not so bad. And I know I will see them when this is over. But the extra time I gained got me a head start on Christmas cards, and I loved that. And fortunately, ZOOM has made sure we all still get to visit.
Overeating on Thanksgiving
Almost without fail I overeat at Thanksgiving. But this year I didn’t! Well, a little bit. But when we gather each family brings a dish to add to the huge variety.
And everyone takes a little of everything, which means that I eat more than I would usually. This year I made everything for our small family. And without the extra dishes, we didn’t make ourselves sick.
This thanksgiving was also different because it gave me a chance to explain to my husband some of the things he usually misses about autism and holidays. My sweet son has meals at the same time every day. So, having thanksgiving dinner early, like many families do, won’t work for him.
I did manage to get him to eat 30 minutes early, but that was a major thing! My son also doesn’t do “special” foods. He had the same thing he has had every dinner for months for thanksgiving, because that is what he enjoys, and he doesn’t like turkey, or new foods.
Usually I have to help my son, or explain my son’s behavior to every one sitting close by. But my husband is across the room with other nieces and nephews and completely misses what we are going through. So, it was nice to have just the 3 of us together at dinner tonight.
It was peaceful in a new way too. I love our extended family, but there is always a lot of drama when we get together.
Someone has to complain about their in-laws or their exes. Then without fail someone doesn’t understand autism and causes a meltdown which is really disruptive.
And of course, someone feels like the holiday has to be totally controlled by them or the day isn’t complete. It’s hard having the extra stress of extra people.
We have had to prep my son to handle the influx of family the holidays bring. His younger cousins love him a lot and tend to mob him. It overwhelms him every time. So, we developed an understanding that when he needs space, he can take his iPad into a quiet room.
Or he can ask me to have a break, so we leave for a walk and come back when he feels calmer. Sometimes there is nothing I can do for him except leave early. And we have just had to adjust to that. Today he was happy to have his usual routine. I was happy to have a little less stress.
Dinner my way
The final part of Thanksgiving that was different, was I got to make dinner my way. My family has a tradition about breaking the wish bone.
But I prefer not to have to deal with a turkey carcass. So, I did a turkey roast, and it was much faster to prepare.
I have a sister in law who hates onions, and a brother in law who won’t touch potatoes. But I got to make mashed potatoes with chives and not worry that someone was going to be grossed out. Honestly, I love these people, but I am looking for all the good differences we had this year. And I really loved loading bananas into the fruit salad even thought my sister can’t eat them. Having dinner prepared to my tastes was a small treat that made 2020 different.
Next Thanksgiving will be better
I’m looking forward to things going back to “normal”. But this year, seeing how much less stress I had, I have learned a few things. Like next year I may not insist on hosting. And I’m going to make an effort not to overeat. That was a wonderful change that has to stay.
And I have learned that I have too many unreasonable expectations of myself. In years past I had to clean every bathroom, every bedroom, and every inch of the house for company.
Clearly, I can handle some changes to my house preparing routine. I miss everyone but learning how to do things differently is a growing experience that will make all the following years better.
About Abby Christianson
Abby is capable and caring. She is learning more about Autism and parenthood every day. Having completed training to be an RBT (Registered Behavior Technician) for ABA therapy she is beginning to understand her son. And even though she is the first to admit she makes a lot of mistakes, she is so grateful to be on this journey. She comes from a family with many autistic members. She invites us to join her, as she shares her adventures. She wishes to emphasize that Autism is a difference not a defect. If you or a family member have autism, Abby wants you to know that the challenges can be overcome, and there are blessings in autism. You or your loved one are not sick or broken. Together we will teach the world this new language.