Three years ago during the week before Christmas, I survived Hell Week. I don't remember the exact dates. But I know that on the Monday before Christmas, Derek had an MRI. On the Wednesday before Christmas, he had an EEG. And on the Thursday before Christmas, he had his second autism evaluation and was officially diagnosed. Derek was 2 years old. And somehow, I survived the week.
That Friday, I woke up and realized I hadn't done any Christmas shopping. I didn't have a single present for anyone in my family. In a slight panic, I packed my two year old non-verbal autistic son and my 3 year old (very chatty) son into the car and went to Target with one goal in mind--to get Christmas presents for EVERYONE.
I was on a mission. I was throwing things in the cart and trying very hard to be "Christmas-y." You know, full of cheer and what-not.
All of a sudden, something stopped me in my tracks. I saw a woman yelling at her child. He was young. Maybe 4? And sure, he was being naughty. He was telling his mom he wanted something over and over again and tugging on her arm. He was being a typical 4 year old. And I'm sure the mother was frazzled with all of the last-minute Christmas things that had to be done. But what she said haunts me to this day.
She yelled at her child, "Just SHUT UP!!!"
I'm sure my jaw dropped. I couldn't help it. I looked at Derek, who was sitting in the cart, staring up at the lights on the ceiling. My beautiful, son--who at that point had not yet uttered a single word. That woman had NO IDEA how blessed she really was. What I wouldn't do to hear my child speak... The stress of the week hit me all at once, and tears started streaming down my cheeks.
That is why, three years later, I do not get caught up in the holiday hoop-lah. I no longer participate in Black Friday. I do not have an Elf On The Shelf. I make Christmas cookies, but only because my children like to make them with me. If I start to get overwhelmed, I think about that one week and remember what Christmas is REALLY about...
My present this year? Derek started speaking. REALLY speaking. Short sentences even!
NEVER shut up, my child. Ever.