For The Mom Who Won’t Be Sending A Holiday Letter This Year
I opened the first one last week.
A sweet holiday card with a folded up piece of themed paper tucked inside.
Before unfolding, I took a deep breath. These letters are tough sometimes.
I love hearing the updates. I enjoy seeing what everyone’s been up to. This year, it’s interesting to see how 2020 has changed some holiday letters.
I read them with joy, and always, a little gnawing sense of unease that is difficult to name.
It’s not jealousy. It’s not sadness. No, it’s more like a dull, aching acceptance.
I have never written a holiday letter. Not one.
I always thought I might. I did send Christmas cards for a few years, but even that felt forced, like I was trying to live someone else’s life.
The last Christmas card we sent was the December after we received my son’s autism diagnosis. The stack of envelopes didn’t even get mailed until after New Years, and included a farewell to 2012 as likely one of the most challenging years of my life.
It wasn’t. Looking back, that year doesn’t even rank in the top 5 most challenging years of my life.
For The Mom Who Won’t Be Sending A Holiday Letter This Year
I am not sad that we don’t participate in this tradition. The truth is, I’ve learned that our holidays will look necessarily different. I have also learned to love them, with all their messy goodness and lack of requirement.
In 2020, I know who we are now, and who we are not.
I know what we want to be about, and what we need to let go.
This year feels like a year I can publish a holiday letter, and maybe, just maybe, be understood a little. Everyone struggled in one way or another this year. Most families didn’t get to have their normal vacations and holiday celebrations. Even school milestones looked different.
A “normal life” in 2020 looked a lot more like my life than usual.
2020 has been a great equalizer when it comes to dealing with uncertainty, a lack of tradition, and loss.
My Holiday Letter This Year
Dear Sweet Friends and Family,
It’s hard to believe that the longest year of our collective lives is coming to a close, and yet here we are. 2021 is just around the corner and I still feel like it’s March.
It’s been a wild year for the Wingerts.
As the world has had to learn about immunological protections, we, for the first time, were ahead of the curve! Because my youngest has Common Variable Immunodeficiency, we are accustomed to taking extra safety precautions to protect him from viruses. In fact, the last three flu seasons have looked a lot like this year’s quarantine for us. It was odd to feel like we knew what to do, when everyone else was struggling. I’m so sorry for your anxiety around all of this. I know it deep and wouldn’t wish it on anyone.
The odd thing is, because of both of my sons’ specific immune diagnoses and therapies, we have likely been better protected than most.
A wonderful example of this is the subcutaneous infusions my youngest began in June. After years of fighting, we finally received authorization, strangely enough, because of the threat of COVID. We are perhaps one of the only families to benefit significantly from this pandemic. Because, you see, these weekly infusions have given my son his life back. They’ve given all of us a little piece of our lives back.
He rock climbs and plays with his dog. He reads now, little by little. He’s witty and fun. I am so proud to be his mom.
2020 turned out to be the best year yet for him.
My oldest is getting ready to graduate high school this spring. It’s strange just typing that and yet, here we are.
He still struggles in many ways. In others, not at all. He’s brilliant and kind. He’s funny and sarcastic. I am so proud to be his mom.
As we navigate our way towards independence and adulthood, I need to protect his privacy, now more than ever. I won’t be sharing much about his transition, but please know, it is a mix of awe, anxiety, terror, paperwork, beauty, satisfaction and a gnawing sense that I may have totally failed him. Only time will tell.
My husband and I have come to a sort of pinky swear agreement that has become almost iron-clad as the year has gone on. We need to do what is right for our family, no matter how unusual it may seem. This is true for how we live our daily lives, how we worship, how we budget, and even how we eat dinner.
It’s been a good year for him to see what it’s really like, being here every day. Seeing what it takes. I thank the shut down and quarantine for increasing his awareness and understanding.
We lived this year together, every single day since March.
It wasn’t easy, but it never is.
The four of us celebrated Thanksgiving together last week. The boys were in charge of all of it. The recipe selection and planning, the grocery shopping and the cooking.
It was one of our best.
You see, this family of mine knows how to take something hard and find ways to make it easier. It’s kind-of our thing. A Thanksgiving Meal was no match for my boys.
And so, as the year comes to a close and we head into our Christmas, I want you to know that we are thinking of you and yours. I know this year has been unkind in so many ways for so many of you. It makes my heart ache.
But just the same, I want you to know that no matter how hard it has been, or how bad it seems, there is always, always, always a way through. It might be found in the most unexpected place, at the most inopportune time, but it’s there.
I wish you and yours a wonderful holiday season and a very Merry Christmas.
More Holiday Posts To Encourage And Support:
Navigating The Holidays With Special Needs
How Our Holidays Have Changed Since My Son’s Diagnosis
5 Fun and Easy Ways to Homeschool Through The Holidays
To The Single Mom At Christmas
Take A Peek Inside Our Daily Life During The Holidays:
How We Homeschool Through December And Stay Sane
10 Things We Don’t Do To Celebrate Christmas
The Holidays, Extended Family And Children With Special Needs
Shawna Wingert is a former training and development professional turned education specialist, and has homeschooled her two children for the last ten years.Shawna has written four books about homeschooling unique learners and has been featured in homeschooling discussions on Today.com, The Mighty, Simple Homeschool, My Little Poppies and Raising Lifelong Leaners.
You can find her online here at DifferentByDesignLearning.com.
I love this post. Thank you for being so open. My daily is hard too with 4 kids, two of which have behavioral and sensorimotor challenges, and it’s a comfort to know that I am not alone and that it’s ok to do things differently. Things like being able to write more than 3 sentences without having a meltdown and making it through one night without 2-3 accidents are a major success for some of my children, age 10 and up. “Normal” activities like riding a bike or tying shoes were years in the making. I don’t have your struggles, but I can see and understand some of what you struggle with too because of my own struggles. I thank God for your blog and your courage, your fierce love and determination to be the mom that your boys need. Thank you for that…it encourages me to keep trying every day!
Thank YOU for your kind words.
I am sure you are doing an amazing job even though it may not feel that way. The awareness of the feelings you just revealed is liberating and empowering. We all feel the expectation of a “normal” life and it is hard to avoid the feeling of regret or sadness that our lives don’t fit that mold. It is really important to understand that we are ok and maybe great the way we do things. Once we adjust our expectations and enjoy what we have we can hopefully be happier. Thank you for sharing your story. I’m excited for the future of your children.
This brought tears to my eyes. Thank you, Amanda. I am excited for their future too!
Thank you, as always, for sharing your big, warm, open heart with us.
It is easy to feel sad when reading families’ holiday letters. Christmas cards—sent by professing Christians—because they glorify their kids and their achievements rather than share the glory of Christ. That is the true crux of the issue.
In these end-of-year missives, I read more about families’ “doings” than what God has been healing, pruning, redeeming in their lives.
Photos of families, kids or pets have replaced Jesus’ majesty and place in our lives.
I am not surprised that the only cards I’ve received this season do not even mention “Christmas,” “Jesus,” or “God.” They are only photo cards of the ones they truly love, adore and worship—themselves.
If we do not call this out for what it is—idolatry—we are all lost.
Ok, sermon over :))) ❤️❤️❤️
It is my pleasure to share. Thank you for reading!
I can relate to a lot of this. I always thought I was a germ freak until this year. Apparently I was not! Not much has changed in the way I try to prevent germs.
Even before becoming a special needs mom, I often stood in awe of the amount of money other people seem to spend on all the extras in life. The time spent on vacations, etc…
Thank you for reminding us to follow the path that God has for our families, rather than trying to keep up with the Joneses. There is peace in His individual path. I am seeing fruit in my older children…even if our lives look very different from everyone else’s. Our family has a special needs child *and* a grandpa with dementia. My children are involved with the care of both of them. It has been such a blessing.
So well said, Lisa. Thank you.
Oh-my-goodness, thank you for sharing your heart with us. You always provide such warmth and compassion – never doubt for a second what a tremendous impact it has on all of us who are fortunate enough to read your words. Your boys are so, so lucky to have you as their mama and no doubt, you are lucky to mother such wonderful young men. Your family is brave, kind, humble, and resilient. The world has much to learn from your family. Wishing the four of you a peaceful and cozy holiday season.
Wow. Sarah, thank you so much for your kind words and encouragement! I can’t tell you how much it means to me.
I don’t know you and you don’t know me.
I’m sobbing after reading this. You are beautiful person. thank you
Well now I’m in tears too. Thank you so much for taking the time to let me know.
With so much love,
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