A Christmas Gift for You

–by Laura Dennis [NOTE: this post references this author’s faith as an aspect of her own experience. It is not meant in any way to proselytize, nor does it represent the beliefs of everyone at ATN.]



I was crying. Again. I never know when secondary traumatic stress will rear its ugly head. I do know it can get awfully old.

“It’s just that I hate Christmas,” I blurted out, trying unsuccessfully to stifle my sobs.

Turns out this is a really good way to shock those you love. Thankfully, the ones who love you back, they take it as it comes.

“Why do you hate Christmas?”

It all came gushing out. How I hate the commercialism and the greed. How that greed is a thousand times worse when you’re raising a child with Reactive Attachment Disorder. That I hate obsessively counting gifts to make sure this child gets what he considers enough. How I dread facing his rage if I fail. Which I could. It feels like I usually do.

Plus wait, the ads say, there’s more. Most of my worst memories stem from this time of year. The time the school believed his lies, the pain and chaos that ensued. Or the time he got hold of a knife and I realized things would have to change if we were to stay safe in our home.

And that’s just the RAD-related stuff. It’d take another crying jag or ten to cover all the rest. Things like the holiday fights with my now-ex-husband. My father in the ICU. Not that these are truly non-RAD memories, mind you. Truth is, when a family lives day-in, day-out with early childhood trauma, pretty much all the hard moments of life get disproportionately harder, no matter the time of year.And yet… There is… Wait for it… There’s more.

“The thing is,” I said, “I love the Christmas story. I mean have you ever heard anything so beautiful? It’s freaking extraordinary!” (I may have said something stronger than freaking…) “And the music. I absolutely love the music. The church music, anyway. Did you know that ‘Away in the Manger’ is the first song anyone ever told me I could kinda sort of sing?”

Silence. Then it dawns on us. I don’t hate Christmas. Not really.

Yes, I hate shopping and unbridled greed, and yes, a lot of bad things have happened in my life at this particular time of year, but above and underneath it all, I see a star and a baby, I hear angels and a song.

That doesn’t mean everyone does, though. Nor should they. There are other beliefs, other needs, and wounds that grow too big to bear. So let’s try starting small, share silliness instead:

  • A gigantic cutout of Michael Waltrip in my parents’ living room, perfect for pranking the unsuspecting. Ever found a NASCAR driver in the shower? You should.
  • Raucous laughter as McDonald’s messes up our order yet again. Who knew that chicken tenders and lemonade could be as rare as frankincense and myrrh?
  • A black-capped kitten thieving tiny silver Christmas bows. I’ve found three so far, still have one to go. Maybe it’ll turn up next year. Then again, maybe it won’t. He’s sneaky in that way that only kittens can be.

Still nothing? That’s okay. When you’re ready, I’d love to see you smile. But only when you’re ready. Meanwhile, I’ll leave you with what I have – my presence, not my presents. Remember, you are not alone.



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