Prior to having a child, I thought that Christmas toy shopping would be a wonderful and fun experience. I imagined going to a toy store and purchasing a large number of toys for my child. Afterward, I would go home and gift wrap them, before placing them at the bottom of the Christmas Tree. I then envisioned my child waking up bright and early on Christmas Day, happily running to the living room and seeing the bottom of the tree filled to capacity with wrapped toys. They would grab each gift with excitement, as they tore open the wrapping paper. Yet, that is not what happened.
Since Nate has special needs my dreams of Christmas being a spectacular time of opening gifts never happened. Shopping for him was not easy, but rather difficult.
Whenever it was time to look for the right toy for my son, I became overwhelmed and miserable. I would walk through each aisle, feeling lost, as I looked for toys. Each one I came upon, from little racing cars, to plastic green army men, or board games weren’t for him. These toys were for children that didn’t have special needs. They were for children that played appropriately with racing cars, green army men, and understood how to strategize while playing board game. This was not Nate. So, I walked out empty-handed, feeling frustrated and disappointed that I couldn’t locate the perfect toy for my child.
Each holiday season, I continued to find difficulty when the shopping season approached. I would go through the Sunday morning circular to find something that would make my son happy. When I didn’t locate that toy I became annoyed, as I wished toy companies could see this as a need.
I often hoped that toy companies could create an aisle in the store, specifically for children with “play differences.” Perhaps they could have suggestions of what toys were right for a child with intellectual disabilities, a child that was deaf, blind, autistic, and more. Maybe there could be suggestions by professionals, therapists, teachers, or even parents who gave their thoughts based on what their children liked. This would be great. Yet, it didn’t happen.
As the holiday came and the shopping season started, I continued to feel dread. It wasn’t until later that I realized that I had to stop seeking toys for Nate in the aisles of toys stores. Instead I had to look at my child to show me what he liked. When I did this, I learned that my son had his own choice of things that he loved. One of the things that he enjoyed was lighted toys. Nate had a glowworm and a mirror ball that would circulate around his room at night. He also enjoyed blocks and puzzles, and a car-wagon we pulled him in around the neighborhood. These toys made Nate happy, and after a while it made me happy too.
These toys may not have been what I thought would be a great holiday toy gift, but it was. Each one made our Christmas, what I wanted the most…..a blessing for my son.