Skip navigation

Calls to Action

Why I stopped caring about having a 'perfect' family Christmas

Tina is mom to a 9 year old boy with autism. She recently won the Bloody Awesome Parents (BAPS) SEND Newcomer blogger award. She blogs at

Almost twelve months ago I wrote a piece that gave a taste of what Christmas was like for a family like ours. I spoke about the harsh reality of a media fuelled Christmas of all the smiley happy faces that were Instagram worthy. It’s a Christmas we’ve all come to expect where people are telling you how happy they are (surely if that happy they wouldn’t be on social media describing it they would be getting on with actually enjoying it!!) and how blessed they are to have such a happy life (#soblessed). For us, the reality was very much different and I felt the need to shed the load.

What I didn’t expect was the solidarity of so many autism parents who shared pretty much the same feeling as myself. Weighed down with expectations of what Christmas should look like according to our fairytale ending that we’ve built up in our head since being young children ourselves. Many parents were faced with sensory overloaded children who had no festive spirit and wanted the whole period to be over and done with so normality could resume.

This year I’ve reflected on what we’ve experienced over the years with Joseph whilst trying to fulfil the needs of the other children within our blended family and how we manage a period that I once loved and now grown to dread.

I remembered the advice I was given so long ago, soon after Joseph’s autism diagnosis... “pick your battles”.

Does it really matter if Joseph doesn’t want to write a letter to Santa?

Does it really matter if he doesn’t want to help decorate the tree?

Does it really matter that the presents I have spent hours over deciding what he would actually like, he has no care for and goes back to the faithful iPad?

No, it doesn’t.

My expectations of Christmas are completely different to those of Joseph. He’s more than happy to have two weeks off school, time with his family and bonus time on the iPad. Given he doesn’t understand the concept of Christmas, it’s hardly surprising that he doesn’t want to go full throttle on everything that surrounds it.

I’d fallen in love with how Christmas should be according to my own imagination and what I have been subjected to courtesy of social media. Don’t get me wrong, it would be wonderful if he fell in love with it, but now I’m at a stage where we’ll just go with the flow.

So forgive me if I don’t participate with the Elf on the Shelf, leave a carrot out for the Reindeer or a mince pie for Santa. Our Very Spectrum Christmas may not be the same as everyone else’s but we are blessed to be sharing it with one another.

And don’t worry, my photos will be Instagram worthy if it’s the last thing I do!

The Autism Speaks blog features opinions from people throughout the autism community. Each blog represents the point of view of the author and does not necessarily reflect Autism Speaks' beliefs or point of view.