First Christmas

Everyone always looks forward to the first Christmas with each child. The experiences, the pictures, the memories. I remember those special moments when our older 4 were babies and when Hanissa came home from Ethiopia. They were all amazed at the lights and just the ambiance of Christmas. Celebrating your first Christmas as an emotionally needy child and at the age of 7 is a bit different…for everyone. In the beginning there is more confusion and even fear, than joy and celebration.

As the weeks went on and the decorations became more familiar, Kylah began to relax and enjoy the season with us. We adjusted our celebration and had a different sort of Christmas. We were still incredibly busy but we chose to stay closer to home instead of attending parties with friends. Shopping excursions and car trips to see lights were shorter. We were busy trying to prepare her for the big day, Christmas. Other than a few meltdowns, we were doing really well…until Christmas Eve.

We almost made it through the entire Christmas Eve candlelight service before the tears came. But, come they did. It wasn’t the defiant “I want to go play right now” cry, but the silent weeping that seems to come from some deep memory triggered by smells, sights, or sounds. A few days earlier, she had the same response to hearing Chinese on someone’s phone. Deep sobs that just wouldn’t stop. I have no idea what started it all this time. But, she let me pull her onto my lap and comfort her a bit.

After a traumatic time at church, we came home and tried to get our girls settled into bed. Hanissa was nothing but excited. She had figured out that the sooner she got to bed, the sooner Christmas morning would come. Kylah was exhausted and often has a hard time getting sleep once her emotions overtake her. Fortunately, the girls’ tradition of sleeping together on Christmas Eve brought peace and comfort to Kylah’s heart and there was no struggle to keep her in bed.

Christmas morning came. All the girls woke up ready to head downstairs. But…tradition says that no one goes into the room with the tree until Mom and Dad give the okay…which comes after coffee and whatever other fun excuses we come up with to delay the onslaught of chaos. This tradition, was not the routine Kylah was used to following. After a few minutes, the balking began and we tossed tradition and headed downstairs. My coffee would have to wait.

There was delight and fear. Laughter and tears. The clutter and wrapping paper completely overwhelmed our sweet girl. The bonus…it was the fastest Christmas clean-up our family has ever experienced.

I am actually in awe of how well little Miss did during the entire season. Concerts, a Christmas play (plus rehearsals), events at our home, people in and out, routines tossed, and sugar in abundance any or all of it could have made life miserable every day. But, we weren’t miserable. Struggles, yes, there were plenty, but there were also moments of peace and beauty.

Most of all, Kylah really connected the story of Jesus with our celebration. She spent hours playing with two different nativity scenes, asking questions, retelling the story. (Ok, she made up some parts, too, and often insisted it was Kylah in the manger NOT baby Jesus.) She went through our Christmas books over and over again. Some fun, but many with bite sized stories of Jesus’ birth and life.

It wasn’t just another first in her life marked off. It was the beginning of traditions, another step in family unity, a time of learning more about Jesus. It may not have been Christmas-card perfect (I’ve actually never had one of those Christmases, I’m not sure they exist), but it was perfect for us.

It is easy to post pictures or just share the good parts that make everyone ooh and ahh…and I’ve included many of those. Below you’ll also see a few pictures thrown in that show a bit of confusion and fear. Learning to walk through those times can be challenging for the whole family, but is part of our everyday life.

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Hanissa pulled Kylah into the decorating with her excitement. We discovered Kylah really likes to decorate the Christmas tree by stacking ten ornaments right on top of each other. But, at least she was engaged.
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In between her moments of smiles and being engaged, she sat in her “safety” position to calm her racing heart. She gets overwhelmed easily and we’ve been teaching a lot of coping strategies.

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There was plenty of playtime thrown into the holiday rush.

There was a visit to Santa, which she seemed to enjoy, but wasn’t getting too close to the big guy in the red suit. She took on her stiff, robot pose that she uses when she’s uncertain of what is happening.

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Christmas baking and craft making. The other girls encouraged her by example to get involved. Sometimes involvement only lasted 2 minutes, but it was better than nothing.

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Kylah knew every word to every song, every motion, and most of the speaking parts (not that everyone could understand what she was saying) in the kid’s Christmas play, but she wasn’t ready to sing or dress up with the kids this year. Hanissa had a few lines and was very proud that she got to speak into a microphone.



The nutcrackers were puppets for her to play with and she often had them singing the songs from the kids’s Christmas play. The nativity sets are perfect for telling the stories of Jesus, even if she gets the stories mixed up a bit. Books have always brought her comfort so it made sense to have plenty available during Christmas.

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Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. She spent much of her day in the tent hiding from the craziness that surrounded her.


Waiting, waiting, waiting…glad we snapped a few pictures while she was happy.

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She did like receiving presents, but would have preferred we opened one, cleaned up, opened another, cleaned up, etc…The tent was the best gift for her emotionally. And, her sisters have been willing to join her in her space when invited.

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With all the craziness that comes naturally with holidays, I am thankful to be moving forward and getting back to routine. Kylah’s first Christmas will always evoke fond memories. I will remember the girl who, while still in the battle to overcome so much, was able to sit and celebrate with us.

~ Regina


About Regina Etter

I’m a daughter of the King, grafted in by grace and trying to walk daily in His truth. I live in Denver with my best friend and hubby where I help others as a Nutritional Cleansing Coach, and we minister together at Mountain States Baptist Church. I’m a homeschooling mom of 4, with two more away at college.

I am not so different from you. There are many things that happen in my life everyday that I have no control over. I can’t determine what will happen, but I can determine how I will think and I how I will act. I choose to take action when I feel like giving up. I choose to make a difference when it doesn’t seem to matter. I choose to love the unlovable. I choose the rough and narrow path, because it strengthens me. I choose to make joy a part of who I am.

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