Monday, 5 December 2011

The Evil Elf

Some families are able to decorate their homes for Christmas sometime in November.  Some families are able to expect that the ever watchful eyes of Santa will ensure the good behaviour of their offspring.  Some may even call it the "most wonderful time of the year".  Not the Rottens!  In our house all that flashy tinsel and coloured lights cause our ADHD to go into maximum overdrive.  And I say "our" ADHD because when you live in a house with ADHD it is everyone's ADHD.

It would begin right around the time stores started decorating for the Holidays.  There would be more commercials on TV and music on the radio and sugarplum fairies would begin buzzing chaotically inside Frick's head.  Right around the same time his typical symptomatic behaviours would intensify.  That would mean more interruptions, more incessant chatter, more knee-jerk lies*, more "forgetting", and more of the stuff that got notes sent home from teachers.  (In fact my favourite all time parent teacher meeting took place right before the Christmas break.)

(*Note: A "knee-jerk lie" is a term I made up to describe Frick's almost knee-jerk response to just about any question ever.  I had to develop an entire new system of inquiry in an elaborate effort to avoid his need to lie about everything.  It is imperfect at best.)  

But it wasn't until we invited the Christmas Spirit directly into our homes via Christmas trees and hot chocolate (a Devil's Liquor!) that a demonic presence I nick-named "The Evil Elf" would enter and take possession of my exasperatingly wonderful little boy.

It was under his influence that Frick took up finger-painting in a most questionable medium one frosty December morning.  It was under his influence that Frick got up before us one Christmas and opened every single present (his only sign of restraint being that he only opened the ones with his name on them.)  It is under his influence that Frick occasionally cracks and throws grand-mal toddler-style tantrums that can last for roughly three days at a time.  And if I so much as dare to ask for the odd chore around the house I can be sure that I will pay for it in some kind of passive aggressive act of vandalism instigated by this little fiend.

I think the best year we had before we got wise to the Evil Elf, was the year Frick was sick with the flu and therefore too listless to really do anything other than spew purple, grape-flavoured cough syrup into Daddy's face and all over the shirt he wanted to wear to Christmas Dinner because he "didn't like the taste".

It took us a while but we finally clued in: Christmas has adverse effects on ADHD.  Frick knows he can't possibly live up to the expectation of "being good" and so he lets go of all self-control in an act of self-defeat.  He is set up to fail in this environment because of Christmas music and cartoons and cookies and egg nog and the promise of presents and the constant talk about Christmas and presents and Santa and Omigod it's coming I'm so excited Yay Christmas!  It's probably a lot like trying to write a thesis in the middle of a rave.

On meth.

I developed a few coping mechanisms that helped.  1) Lots of wine.  2) Tell Frick that he'll get a present from Santa no matter what he does and 3) Delay decorating as long as humanly possible.  In fact try not to mention Christmas at all.  And the last couple of years this worked reasonably well.

I should have stuck to the plan.  I really fucked it up this year.

There's a Christmas party we go to every year as one of our traditions and this year it was early.  Still, it seemed like a good opportunity to decorate for Christmas as a family activity.  I felt safe because 1) Frick knows the truth about Santa this year and 2) He's been remarkably good lately.  He really seems to be maturing a lot which makes handling his ADHD much easier than it used to be.  Also he's been going out of his way to help out around the house without even being asked!  The last two weeks he's been getting up for the early morning dog walk even though that's my time to do it, so I could get a little extra sleep.  Maybe Frick had outgrown the Evil Elf.  I dared to hope.

He was fine at the party but by the time we got home the damage had been done.  The Evil Elf was back.

My efforts to resist the Elf were futile.  I knew that as long as those lights were twinkling in my home every minute of every day was going to be a tearful and frustrating struggle.  There was nothing for it but to take everything down.  I sent Frick out to walk the dog and I was able to swiftly hide all evidence of Christmas before his return.

A few minutes after he entered the Christmas-free environment Frick was back to normal.  He even said he felt much better.  I consoled him with the fact that at least we would have the fun of decorating for Christmas twice this year.  We think we'll all be much happier if we put things on hold for a couple more weeks.


  1. So.... I have a friend, in whose family, Santa brings the Christmas tree and all of the accoutrements that go with it, on top of presents. Tree shows up Christmas morning, stays for exactly one week, and then *SANTA COMES BACK TO GET IT.* Or some such complete nonsense.

    Might work for you?

  2. I love that idea! Unfortunately I think we might be past the age where that would have worked (he knows there's no Santa). Might come in handy for Frack though ;)