Saturday, June 12, 2010

Celebrations: Meanings and Purpose

Tomorrow is my wedding anniversary and it brings to mind a very real reality for both of my boys. Neither one really seems to get or care about personal holidays. Now I know they may not care about my wedding anniversary. After all what mom and dad did 28 years ago hardly affects them, well in a direct sort of way. Truthfully it didn’t take marriage to conceive them, but without it I am sure they would not be here, at least as far as I was concerned at the time. If I was starting out today, I am not so sure that I would be so adamant in my views and I definitely would be more open to others reality. I suppose that is what come with age. The more we age, the more we learn and the less judgmental we tend to become. Well at least, I think I have become.

Now neither boy seems to really care about any celebration. They know it’s their birthdays when they happen, but if we didn’t do anything special I am not sure they would really notice. I am sure though that if they didn’t have a birthday cake they would be upset, but even presents don’t seem to be very important to them. They do ask for things if I ask them what they want. However, they never make a list or even think about material items. Perhaps it’s because we do buy them what they need throughout the year, but the truth of the matter is, that they really don’t seem to want too many things. Oh yeah, a video game here and there is important to them, but nothing else really matters. Well, spending money on their education and on books is something they seem to want to do but fancy clothes or shoes or cars is not important.

In fact the only reason they have an iphone is because I bought it for them. HSB did want an iphone, but that comes from him being a computer geek. It has nothing to do with status or what someone else finds important. If the phone he wanted only cost 10 dollars that would be what was important to him. It is not about cost at all. Of course on the other hand, he doesn’t think about cost of an item as yet. I have started to make him keep track of his allowance and if he wants some more Microsoft points or Wii points, I make him check his allowance board to see if he has any money left. I tell him that he has to pay for it and if his allowance is gone he has to wait until the next Sunday.

Interestingly, I did give him some extra allowance because he did so well on his College Board scores. It was a gift for a job well done and an acknowledgement of how hard he worked for over a year until the test was taken. So when he wanted a game from Amazon, I had him research the amount plus tax (need to remember the tax) and the cost of shipping. Well it turned out that we had a credit on our account, so big shot got to order a game without it costing anything except having it sent. Of course he did one-day shipping. He knows that we have Amazon Prime which makes one-day shipping only 4 dollars so it was a big no deal for him. So the stinker got a video game, plus tax, plus shipping for four bucks. You can’t really beat that. Wish I could find deals like that at the grocery store. (Coupons be damned, they are never for food that we eat)

But back to holidays and celebrations. I don’t know if it’s because the boys were never invited to other people’s parties or celebrations that they just don’t care or if it’s part of their aspergers. I do know that when we went to their cousin’s Bar/Bat Mitzvahs they are very edgy and do bring their video game handhelds with them. It keeps them calm and I think helps them process the auditory information with which they are being bombarded. Now they have done well at these parties to a point. But we always leave early and they do never dance or participate in anyway. It really is a little too much noise or too young or too girly. We will have to wait and see what happens with their male cousin’s Bar Mitzvahs to see what the real overall issue has been and how they process the situation.

It seems though that they do not understand how important some celebrations are. They understand Thanksgiving, but it is more about the familiarity of having family around at that time. If we had never been with family they would not think too much about it. In fact when we stayed by ourselves this past holiday they didn’t seem to worry about Thanksgiving as much as they were a little confused about the lack of family. But the truth is that they didn’t mind staying home and just being quiet the entire day. Not being taken out of their comfort zone is not such a terrible thing for them.

Another indication that I don’t think they get the celebratory part of life comes from collegeman’s reaction to weddings. Collegeman watches the wedding channel with me at times. He watches the shows about wedding planning because that is what I have on TV. He seems mystified by the reason for the hoopla. Not that finding a life-partner would not be something he would possibly like some day, but he just doesn’t get the need for the party and as he puts it- the debt. He thinks the extravagance is ridiculous. Truth be told, I have to agree with him to some extent, but then again I did make some really nice Bar Mitzvah parties myself. I also told him if that one day he gets married that the party really wasn’t up to him. Some girls spend a lot of time thinking and planning their wedding day. Your’s truly did not. It didn’t even matter to me. My mom planned my wedding while I finished college. I really couldn’t’ care less at the time. I told him that if his bride-to-be wants a party that he was to keep quiet and let her have it. The requisite response is “Yes, dear, anything you want.” I told him to practice and he thought I was nuts.

I try to teach the boys the importance of holidays and that they should be celebrated. I try to teach them that birthdays are important. That people around you should celebrate that you are here and that that is the purpose and meaning of birthdays. People don’t have to buy you presents but a “Happy Birthday” is nice. It’s just an acknowledgment that someone is important. That is why you recognize special days. That is why you give mom a hug on Mother’s Day and you spend time with dad on Father’s Day. It’s why I try to get them to call their grandparents on special days and not hang up when their aunt, brilliant-computer-sis calls.

I make a point of celebrating religious and national holidays as well. It’s not even so much about getting and receiving presents. It’s not so much about parties and barbecues. It’s not so much about costumes and large meals. It is about having a basis on which to base your life. It is the use of holidays and celebrations to make someone grounded in reality and to understand what is important in life. Our celebrations tell us something about who we are and where we are going. It points us in a direction and reminds us what more we have left to do as a nation and a people. I think it also teaches respect to our children about those that sacrificed so much for them to be where they are today. This I know my children have taken to heart. They understand their obligations that come with each holiday and celebration. I think that is why both boys understand the emphasis on charity and they both have the desire to do well by society.

But I wonder if the emotional aspect of every holiday is understood? I know they can think of it intellectually. I know that they get the ideas behind every celebration, but I just don’t know if the emotional piece is ignored or not. I know there is an intellectual understanding of the obligations of citizenship. It’s why “duty, honor, country” means so much in this house. Collegeman thinks in terms of human and civil rights. It’s all academic for him. Perhaps that is why religion is so hard. There is more faith in religion and less academics involved, even though I have pointed out to him the historical significance of each Jewish religious holiday.

HSB seems different in that regard. He doesn’t need an intellectual exercise in order to participate in a celebration. He understands and accepts the religious version of events. He knows who he is and why we do things. He did get invited to a new friend’s birthday party and wanted to leave early because he was bored. I yelled at him on the phone that he was to stay and honor his friend and not be a jerk.(Yes a delicate parenting moment) He did do what he was told, but hubby went and sat in the driveway just to make sure there was no problem. Luckily the mom of the birthday boy understood as her son is an aspie as well. Thankfully HSB stayed and I think all went fairly smoothly. When I told him he was to stay the entire time and do what his friend wanted because it was his birthday, he didn’t understand really, as they had already had eaten the birthday cake. This time it was definitely an aspie outbreak. It was HSB not understanding that it wasn’t about him at the moment that it was about his friend. He really didn’t understand how after the social convention was done why he couldn’t come home. He had even brought a present.

So holiday and celebrations are an interesting phenomenon in our house. They really don’t matter much from an emotional point of view. Everything is academic and is part of the social routine. They do things because they have to and because it is expected of them. Truthfully if that is what gets them through life and they are accepted into society that is fine. They do not have to have a full blown emotional attachment to birthdays and holidays, just as long as they respect the social convention and make the other person feel wanted, needed and loved. Of course, I am hoping too, that in their endeavor to show attachment, that being needed and loved is also returned and showed towards them.