This time of year it is easy to find online lists like Gifts for Children with CVI or Sensory Gifts Your Child Will Love. In reality, these lists are hit or miss. Some sensory kids will like them, others will not. Just like all children, our kids with CVI are individuals, with their own preferences. Often their preferences make no sense with regard to CVI: the gift that makes too much noise, the gift with too many colors, the gift that’s too flashy. This year the holiday isn’t so much about what to put under the tree for my son with CVI, but what to put in his stocking?
Last year’s stocking was used thoughtfully.
Belief in Santa is strong in this one. Simply the proximity of Santa makes him giddy. One time, maybe four or five years old, he spotted Santa in an empty corner of our favorite outdoor garden store. Spotted too soon in the holiday season, I should say, well before our carefully planned, carefully timed and calculated, official Santa visit. And yes, my child with CVI can recognize the man himself in that head to toe, familiar red outfit. “Mommy – MOMMY!!” he gushed, breathless “- it’s SAAAN-ta!!!” He was hyperventilating by the time he got the words out. Those were the days.
This year he casually suggested “I’ll just write a letter to Santa, we don’t have to go see him.” “We don’t have to do that” has become his comfortable refrain during COVID. Yet when we arrived to deliver his letter to Santa’s mailbox at “Santa’s Village,” he responded, “Santa’s – HERE???” Belief in Santa is strong in this one.
(Let me add, I was not ready to be done with the tradition of Santa visits. If not for COVID, we would still be seeing Santa, who we haven’t visited in person since 2019. Whatever it might take: masks, socially distanced, brief. I won’t forgive COVID for taking away one more piece of his childhood, which is gone too soon to begin with.)
Last Christmas ten years old was around the corner, how did that even happen? With his sensory aversions piling up, the stocking tradition became more intentional. Double digits awaited him, and along with that, changes. Even in winter, it was apparent that soon he might benefit from using deodorant from time to time.
Deodorant would be a whole new multisensory experience, with its weird smell, weird texture, and you put it where on your body? Especially for a sensory kid who is still highly ticklish. How to introduce deodorant into his well established, familiar routine?
Maybe Santa could slip it into his stocking?
That Christmas morning, Tom’s deodorant was the first gift he plucked from the stocking. “Santa gave me deodorant?!! Cool!” Wicked cool.
What could Santa put in his stocking this year? Would an Xlerator hand dryer fit inside a stocking? A dog? Hot cocoa? Pants that are not jeans? Noise reducing headphones?
His sensory experience is different, all his own. What could Santa possibly leave in that stocking this year? What one thing could Santa leave behind that might make his life, his experience, a little easier.