Sometimes all the planning in the world can still leave us in a situation where we’re left scratching our heads.
Allow me to explain…
A dear friend of mine recently invited us to a special holiday event. Her agency was hosting “milk and cookies” with the most famous bearded man of the holiday season. That’s right – the one and only Santa Clause!
Having had such a positive experience with our first ever “Sensory Santa” last year, we thought this would be fun! The agency even provided families of special needs children the opportunity to meet and greet the big fella before the hustle and bustle of the main event, so we were definitely all in on this!
Let’s make some memories y’all!
I spent the morning digging through drawers and closets looking for the best Christmas themed attire I could find. A red dress, a light up llama sweater, and a Christmas themed Yoda shirtwould be our representation for Christmas 2017.
One Team, One Dream! What could possible go wrong?! Let’s do this!
While driving there in the car, we kept repeating “who we were going to see?”, trying to get you excited. Not gonna lie, I started getting a little deep in thought wondering if you had even understood the “Santa” part of Christmas (or Christmas in general for that matter)?
Clara and Gabe were carrying on the sweetest conversation about what they were going to ask for this year. I looked in the rearview mirror to catch a glimpse of Clara winking back at me. She now knew the truth behind the Christmas magic - but was happily keeping enthusiasm for Gabe who was getting nervous with excitement.
You sat in the back happily repeating “Santa Clause Ho Ho HoHo, Merry Christmas!” again, and again.
As we got closer, the thoughts came back to me again. Did you understand what we were doing? Was this concept weird to you?! Was it magic? Or did you see it as everything we tell you not to do? A stranger dressed in disguise giving you candy. Yup the concept is flawed for the whole stranger danger thing, but there is innocence intended here and a true rite of passage to the holiday magic.
You skipped all the way to the front door chanting “Ho Ho HoMerry Christmas!”
So far so good! We entered the building… and boom! You were frozen. Your shoulders scrunched up towards your ears, your head tipped back, eyes wide open, and starting to shake as if you’re cold. It’s an outward sign of anxiety for you.
Seriously, if you were a turtle, you would’ve retreated to your shell!
We literally just stepped foot in the door…what happened?
Visibly distraught you still managed to jump and stim your way over to Santa who was sitting on a throne of poinsettias. He greeted you and you responded by curiously pushing on his tummy and feeling his long white beard. You didn’t seem tohave any issue with him, but something was off. The more I tried to investigate what was causing you to be agitated, the more upset you got. We managed to get a pic of our party of 5 and started our way passed the white wall partition to where the cookies and milk were set up.
As we turned the corner, it took all of two seconds before you ran for the door as if the zombie apocalypse was upon us!(Spoiler: there were no zombies).
What on earth?! What just happened?!
I literally did a full scan of the room; people, decorations… everything. I was seriously confused. I didn’t see a single “usual” trigger.
Clara and Gabe had made their way to the food and were assembling a plate full of cookies while dad took you outside to calm down.
A few minutes had gone by and then daddy called me on the phone. There was no way you were coming back in and he figured out why… the office reminded you of a doctor’s office, right down to the super clean smell.
It’s true. As soon as he said it, I took a deep breath and understood. When we first walked in something started to trigger an anxiety response. It was the smell. Never under estimate your good ole’ olfactory system Addie!
Now don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t a bad smell. Actually to me it was quite pleasant. It was a new, freshly cleaned smell, but once I thought about it, did kind of remind me of the fragrance in the air at your doctor’s office.
Then I looked around. The layout of the halls and the way the offices were arranged – wow, it did resemble your doctor’s office. Not exactly your favorite place in the world let’s just say…
Everything in your life - experiences good or bad, people, and things all get filed away in that amazing brain of yours. So, the same way smelling brownies make me feel hungry, this smell reminds you of unpleasant “fight or flight” doctor experiences.
As luck would have it, I needed to run errands after anyways, so dad and I drove separate. So home you went for a little Daddy/Addie/Detroit Lion’s date :) and off to the store for me and your brother and sister.
Who knows, maybe next year, you’ll file this experience remembering there wasn’t a doctor (or zombie apocalypse for that matter) in sight!
Although we had to use some super sleuthing to figure out what went awry, we felt blessed for the invitation to have a few minutes with the big guy with the beard!
I love you Addie.