My mother-in-law loves Halloween. My husband swears he doesn't remember this love of the black and orange holiday as a child, but it is in full force now. My mother-in-law goes all out celebrating Halloween. She throws the most incredible party for her grandchildren each October. Pumpkins of every size. Bobbing for apples. Front door trick or treating...one stop for Grandma...one stop for Bubba. So many games. So many treats. So many memories. So much fun.
But with so many treats comes a few tricks. The trick for my husband and I is balancing all the joy and excitement of a Halloween party with our son's special needs and his sensory processing issues. Halloween is a rough time for children with sensory processing struggles. Halloween is loud. Halloween is filled with unknowns and unusual activities. Halloween is scary. Masks cover up the familiar. And did I mention the noises?
Halloween, . It is a challenge. An even bigger challenge, is trying to remember it is a time of joy, lasting memories and special moments for my entire family, especially my sweet daughter. I try very hard to make sure an equal part of my focus is on the big sis who sacrifices so much for her little brother, especially when it comes to the holidays. It is a trick, for my husband and I, to find the perfect balance for our two children. It is a challenge to sometimes put on a face that matches my daughter's, which is filled with pure joy and happiness, with the disappointment and sadness I sometimes feel creep up when I see my little boy in a crowd of children his own age and he seems so far away. It is a challenge that keeps appearing at each holiday party. It is one of those unfair challenges of being a special needs parent.
This year the Halloween party was going to get even trickier, because it was being held at my in-laws cottage a few hours away. My husband and I prepared for an evening of some disappointments with Brady, a few meltdowns,and lots of over-stimulation. Our expectations were not high. But we knew how much the party means to our daughter, the grandparents and all the cousins. We hoped it meant something to our little boy too. So we loaded up the car, packed the costumes in the trunk and headed up north to the cottage, with one very excited "snow princess" and one apprehensive little "cow". My husband and I chatted about Halloween parties of the past as we drove up north. In years past, my in-laws had a big party at their house and then the grandkids would sleep over. A night of new Halloween pjs and "The Great Pumpkin" video ended a night of perfection for my daughter. Our little Brady always came home with us and usually the three of us would leave early and let Molly enjoy a night of ghoulish fun with her beloved grandparents and cousins. A night of no worries. But up north, we would be there all evening, there would be no escaping if the night got rough and Brady would have to be a part of the festivities.
As we drove, the rain pounding on the car and the sky a little dark, I promised myself we would have fun. I promised myself to open my mind and trust that my son is getting stronger, in every aspect of his development, each and every day. I promised myself I would not get sad, even if Brady wouldn't put on a costume or trick or treat with his cousins. I promised I would take each little moment and celebrate them. Maybe this was the year Brady smiled when someone yelled Boo and painted pumpkins with a true sense of joy. Maybe this was the year that an extra piece of chromosome stopped getting in the way of our family's love of holidays. Maybe this was the start of something new. Maybe all the ghosts would be greeted by some sweet smiles from my son.
The barn had been transformed into a magical Halloween hideaway. It truly was a sight to see. My little boy escaped into this magical world of friendly ghosts, pumpkins every where you could turn and so many special treats. Despite the children's excited screams, scary music and the rain pounding on the metal rooftop of the barn, Brady hung in there. He didn't want to hold a paintbrush up to his pumpkin and that is ok. He didn't want to play the games and that is ok. We ditched the costume and let Brady be Brady, and that is ok. And when things got a little too overwhelming, Brady's Bubba and his daddy loaded him in the , rain drops and all.
As the evening came to a close and all the grandchildren got into their new orange and black pjs, Brady sat up on the couch next to his big sister for a group picture. The fear and the anxiety about another disappointing holiday party disappeared. Brady made it through. Brady was part of the group. Brady did the party the way he knew how to do it. Brady even shared some smiles and looked straight into our eyes. Brady gave us the look. The look that says thank you. The look that says all he cannot say, but we know he wants to. The look that says thanks for giving me a chance and letting me enjoy Halloween my own special way. It was a night of a few tricks, but they were all worth it when we received the greatest treat...our special little boy all tucked in, up north, surrounded by family after a successful...and fun...Halloween extravaganza.