And as you peruse each and every website, you cross your fingers hoping that the perfect gift will magically appear on your screen believing deep in your festive Christmas heart that THIS is the year you will find THE gift that knocks dear, old Aunt Betty’s socks off! Of course you know that even if your gift is a dud, Aunt Betty will still appreciate your effort because after all, it's the thought that counts right?
Unless of course you have a brutally honest kid with autism who will let you know that your thought does not count AT ALL if you didn't get the right gift. Sorry, no matter how much time you took to painstakingly find a gift for my son, if it sucks, he will tell you even though I asked him not to. At least 350 times in the car on our drive over to your house.
Every year at Christmas, on top of my normal holiday stresses...shopping, decorating, baking (ugh) I also have to add the “OMG what will he say THIS year and to who” stress! Because my son, has in fact, said the wrong thing when the gift was not the right thing. Repeatedly. To lots of people. For years.
Things like, "That's the worst gift ever" and "That was a terrible idea" and let's not forget my own personal favorite, "There isn't enough money on this gift card to buy ANYTHING". Oh. My. God. I can’t tell you how many times I tried to crawl into the Christmas tree or dunk my head in the nearest Christmas punch bowl in an attempt to hide from such brutal honesty that just came out of a kid’s mouth who is old enough to "know better”.
He does “know better”, but that doesn’t mean he still won’t let you know that your gift sucks and that you should have known better not to get him THAT gift. Yeah, such comments may not be mannerly, kind or gracious, but, damn, if it's not admiringly honest. There isn't a single one of us who haven't had to fake our way through an awful gift. And yes, we may know it's the thought that counts but that still doesn't keep us from getting in the car from grandma’s house and saying, "Did you see (insert worst gift you ever got here)? Did she honestly think I would like it?” I don't know that bashing grandma’s gift behind her back is really any worse than telling her straight up, “I'm sorry Grandma but we just don't have wall space anywhere in our house for this lovely 60x80 photo of a whale smiling. Maybe your neighbor would like it?”
Ok, fine, maybe faking it is better, but, what if you can't fake it? What if every neuron firing in your brain screams that you have to be honest ALL THE TIME, that you can't EVER lie and that even though you love Grandma and you know how very much she loves you, the gift grandma just gave you really, truly sucks. Brutal honesty sometimes is a hallmark sign of autism. This honesty is not meant to hurt your feelings, even though it may, it’s just that in the same way individuals with autism struggle to recognize facial cues and body language, they also struggle with lying to someone in order to spare their feelings. To many individuals with autism, lying is more offensive and wrong than sparing your feelings. In fact, your feelings probably don't even enter their mind, not because they don't care about you, but, because in their very literal mind, there is truth and lie, there is no fake it. The truth may hurt, but, their intention is never to hurt you.
This same kid who is “old enough to know better”, who has honesty engrained in him at a cellular level, may bash your sucky gift but they will never lie to you, they will never pretend to like you if they don’t and they will ALWAYS tell it like it is. So if they say your fruitcake is good, than hot damn, you better believe you make a good fruitcake.
I’ve decide that this year, I will continue to remind my son to be kind and be respectful, but, if he can’t, if his need to be brutally honest trumps him “being old enough to know better”, I’m not going to worry and add that stress to my list this year. I’m not going to make excuses for my son being exactly who he is. I will let you know how grateful I am that you tried and that to me, it really is the thought that counts, even though my son will never utter those words to you. His honesty is not meant to hurt you, he just really struggles NOT to tell it like it is.
This Christmas, if you are told that your gift is the wrong color, a terrible choice or that it just plain sucks, hang onto the receipt and if you are quick on your feet, blame the UPS man because I’m not hiding behind the tree or in the punch bowl this year and neither is my kid. It may be the thought that counts, but, scoring THE perfect gift for Aunt Betty and my son, well, that counts for something too. Happy shopping!