We saw Santa the other night. Seeing Santa has always come with mixed feelings for me. Don't get me wrong, I love Santa. But Jake does not. Jake, my sweet boy who has struggled with sensory/behavioral issues since birth, Jake who is not comfortable in new situations or with strangers, has always cut and run when he saw Santa.
Sometimes he would cry. Sometimes he would back up and hide behind us and sometimes it was "holy-epic-sensory-meltdown." There was no way he would ever approach Santa. He would talk about Santa when we were at home, he would tell us he was going to sit on his lap, but when it came down to it, he just couldn't. And it was okay.
This year we prepped the kids before we left for the Fire Station (where we see Santa every year) We told them it was okay if they didn't want to sit on his lap, but we talked it up big about getting to tell him exactly what they wanted for Christmas.
Joey thought long and hard about what he was going to ask for, and he decided on the Diary of A Wimpy Kid Do-It-Yourself Journal. Lily out of the blue decided she had to have "Bullseye" the horse from Toy Story. And Jake went on and on and on about Mr. Potato Head from Toy Story.
So we left to go see Santa and we talked about seeing him some more, all the kids were excited. We pulled up to the Fire Station, got in the big line and we waited.
The kids danced to the carols and as we inched closer and closer to Santa, and I started to hold my breath and prepare for the freak out.
There was none.
When it was our turn, Lily ran up and plopped down on Santa's knee, and Joey sat on the other. Jake tenatively made his way toward Santa and his siblings, smiling shyly. I held my breath some more.
He stood next to Lily, not quite touching Santa, but definitely taking it all in.
Joey and Lily told Santa what they wanted for Christmas, and they smiled and talked to him as if they saw him every day.
Santa turned to look at Jake. "What do you want for Christmas?" Santa asked him.
Jake smiled his gapped tooth smile and I waited for him to tell Santa about the Mr. Potato Head, he just had to have.
Jake opened his mouth and spoke. "A guitar. I want a guitar." He told Santa.
Santa laughed heartlily and looked over to me. "Ummmm, mom?" He said.
I chuckled and said, "Jake, is there something else you wanted to tell Santa?"
Jake said. "Oh yeah, and uh...a Potato Head. That would be cool too."
Santa gave them all a candy cane, and he told them to be good. They alll waved goodbye and Lily shouted "BYE SANTA! MERRY KISSMAS!" And we walked out.
I could not stop beaming.
He did it. It may seem silly to be overjoyed because your kid sat on Santa's lap, but if you knew how many ways Jake has grown in the last 8 months since he started therapy, you would be overjoyed too. My dear friend Nicole, who is Mom to an autistic boy told me, "I get it. Every little milestone is a big deal."
And she's right. It's the small victories that add up to a whole. It's the tiny baby steps that take us closer to Jake being comfortable in his own skin.
I am so proud of Jake for taking the leap, for putting himself out there. It's not an easy thing to do.
Way to go buddy.