The Picture Does Not Show it

A small girl and boy holding in front of a christmas tree

A boy and a girl stand in front of a Christmas tree, holding hands, smiles beaming. They are dressed smartly, in tartan and check. The boy is in blue and the girl in red. Behind them, the lights of the tree twinkle and glow. Red and gold baubles glint against the green. A perfect scene.

But the picture shows just a moment. The picture hides a million things. The picture does not tell you –

Christmas was hard.

The picture does not show the carol service, where the little boy could not be calmed, clamping his hands to his ears and screaming that it was too loud. It does not show his mother taking him away, away from the vaulted ceilings, away from the stained glass, leaving his father, leaving his grandparents, leaving his little sister. A lady in a fluorescent vest in the door blocks the door to the Abbey, asking if there is a problem.

“No problem. I just need to take him out.”

They leave the candlelight and the raised voices and the shrill organ and go out into the damp, dark, quiet streets. On their walk to get hot chocolate, the boy tells his mother that he is scared of Christmas morning. He is scared he might be on the naughty list.

It does not show Christmas dinner, and the boy screaming and sobbing because he does not understand why crackers should be fun, when the presents are not. He does not understand why everyone wants to pull them. It does not matter that they plead with him, that they promise no one else is sad, that they promise he can pull all the crackers until he finds a prize he likes – he cannot be calmed. And so his mother takes him to his room and lies with him on the bed until his cries fade away.

The picture does not show you the family board game. It does not show the moment when the little boy was convinced that an answer was something else, something not on the card. It does not show him screaming that the game must be lying, distress etched across his face.

But it also does not show the mother and son snuggled in a corner of a nearly empty coffee shop on Christmas Eve, drinking hot chocolate with marshmallows. It does not show the moment when she promises he is not on the naughty list, when she tells him how proud she is of everything he has done that year. It does not show his smile slowly returning.

It does not show mother and son, curled on his bed in the darkness, playing silly word games and telling stories until he is calm. The next day, they find him a cracker with a slinky spring inside and he is fascinated, holding it up to his eyes.

The picture does not show the boy explaining how scared he is to get a question wrong, to not be correct. It does not show his mother hugging him close, telling him that he does not have to be afraid, he does not have to do anything that makes him feel bad.

Christmas was hard. It was full of anxiety and heartbreak. It was full of a million little moments of joy.

A boy and his sister tending to a unicorn’s poorly hoof, lost in their own world. A set of magic tricks that made the boy jump and flap with delight. The smell of baking cookies and the delighted smiles as the boy and girl eat them, still warm from the oven.

Christmas was so, so hard, and so, so cherished and so, so exhausting.

But the picture does not show it.

I wrote a follow-up to this post – The Balancing Act

Boy and girl holding hands in front of a christmas tree

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11 thoughts on “The Picture Does Not Show it

  1. The picture does not tell you that the boy is indoctrinated into his parents’ superstition and forced to attend a crowded and noisy event even though they know how sensitive is to these.
    The picture does not tell you of the constant pressure the boy is exposed to, causing him to fear that he does not live up to his parents’ expectations to suppress his autistic identity.
    The picture does not tell you of how the boy was pushed into a tradition he, rightly, considers as pointless and scary.

    Christmas was hard, both for the boy and his parents. His parents had a choice.

    1. He was not forced into anything. He was asked each time of he wanted to attend, if he wanted to pull a cracker. We only try if it is his choice. He was told the Carol service was busy and noisy – he still wanted to try.

      The boy’s mother is also autistic and so understands the pressures perfectly, thank you very much.

      Please do not make assumptions about things you do not know about.

    2. I don’t understand why you are so incredibly rude to someone you don’t know. I’m sorry your life has left you with such bitterness, but please don’t take it out on people when you don’t know the full story.

      1. If feeling my son’s challenges acutely because I am also autistic and I am his mother is martyrdom then I guess I am. I would read a bit more about us and our situation before you make false assumptions and type comments designed to hurt others from behind a keyboard.

        1. As a mother in similar situation as your own I totally agree with you.
          I have a son aged 55 whom is mentally handicapped and Autistic also
          much of the world including the medical profession does not understand
          them or attempt to try to, although there is whats called showing
          a reasonable adjustments, there is not much of this going about from
          this particular ‘profession’.
          They would rather appease the general public
          and have them taken care of by the health authorities (rather taken out of society altogether),
          some place out of the way, where families cannot easily reach them and play
          advocate, so not trouble ‘their’ system of things, still much like the old asylums run by
          the health authorities.
          Sadly there is more compassion being shown to wild animals, then to
          another human being.
          I appreciate your view on matters and can see where you are coming from, keep it up
          your a very, very good mum and if on the spectrum it’s because of such that you have
          the hindsight but feel the frustration.
          and do not be

    1. I don’t think there’s any need for this. You may not like the comment, but many of those reading this blog share similar views. Young lives played out in public, partnerships with Johnson and Johnson, huge cakes full of e-numbers (sponsored by a food colouring company) and a mother desperate seeking her own diagnosis of autism. it’s uncomfortable. I wish her and her young family all the best though.

      1. My daughter’s birthday cake was not sponsored by anyone. I am sorry my daughter’s joy at her once a year cake is so uncomfortable for you. I really think you are the one with the issue though. If you do not like my blog, kindly do not read it. Thank you.

        1. If you invite comments, you should expect criticism. Personally I find your blog fascinating. There are more contradictions than Prime Minister’s Questions.

  2. Happy New Year, Danielle.

    Thank you for your candid and informative post. The photo of the children is truly fabulous and I am so pleased that there were a million little moments of joy this Christmas in between your anxiety and exhaustion.

    Best wishes to you and your family.

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