December 19, 2011
Go to Bed
“Mommy, my bed broke, you must fix it!” my youngest announces so loudly I’m sure he’ll wake his big brother, so I scurry in from the bathroom to his bedroom, hoping he’s greatly exaggerating. I cross the threshold and see one of the guard rails lying half on the floor and half on top of his beloved mega T-Rex, and I know we’re in deep trouble. The rail has come apart once before, but Jeff was sure he jury-rigged it well, and since the bed sits an inch from the floor we weren’t too concerned about it. We also thought if it happened again that my husband could easily repair it, except that he’s currently in Washington. This time, unfortunately, I can see a piece of plastic peeking up from under the blanket on the floor, a small fragment of white that by all rights should still be attached to the bed. That small opaque shard signals disaster. Tonight, the situation is not amenable to repair.
I look at Zach and tell him Mommy can’t fix it right now, but that I’ll get him a new toddler bed tomorrow, and Daddy will put it together for him when he gets home. I am met with a disdainful stare and hands on hips as Zach yells “No Mommy, YOU will put it back on!”, defiance emanating from every pore in his body.
I’d love to fix it for him, but Mommy’s handy-man skills rival that of an infant, and I sense even Daddy would say this bed that’s housed four boys has bit the dust.
For the next ninety minutes I cajole, plead, and downright beg for my little boy to try to go to sleep. I curse myself for not getting a new bed, but do so gently as we’d been using the lure of a “real” big-boy bed to get Zach to make regular poops in the potty. We didn’t want to purchase a toddler bed that wouldn’t get much use, as there will clearly be no more additional children in this household. Zach continues to persist in his protestations, and I even break down and offer to let him sleep on the floor with his megadinosaur. As I pull the mattress off the bed he screams, and makes me put it back into its proper place.
He finally slides back into his imperfect bed, and is literally shaking with fear. His questions and statements to me are breaking my heart. “Mommy, the guard rail protects me from monsters.” “Mommy, can you use the magic words?” “Mommy, can you call Daddy, so I can leave him a message to come home?” “Mommy, please get in your car and drive to the airport and get Daddy.” Then, after a slight pause, there’s this last one, the one which just about kills me. “Mommy, I said please. I’ll be a good boy, I promise.”
Seriously, someone please remove the blunt-edged dagger from my heart.
I extend him an invitation to my bed, even though I know I won’t sleep a wink, a solution which he rejects as it’s not “his” bed. I sing him “his” song at least a dozen times, invoke the “magic words” to ward off evil, lay down as much as I can next to him. He is genuinely distraught, no histrionics here. I offer him all I’ve got.
It’s not enough.
Finally, it’s past nine, and I know this kid is not going to sleep unless I leave, and since he won’t come with me, I know I have to make my exit. His crying ramps up for real as I gently click the door shut, then slump to the opposite wall, slouch down to forgiving carpet, and let my knees cradle my head. After another fifteen minutes his cries decrease in intensity, are finally reduced to sniffles, then silence. I hold my breath as I peek through the tiniest of cracks, and see him wrapped in a blanket cocoon for comfort, one hand outstretched to grasp an extinct animal’s neck. He is completely at peace.
I, however, am not.
The truth is, when my boys are cranky, unhappy, or thwarted in getting a non-critical need met, I handle it perfectly well. A dozen years of classroom teaching comes in handy even when met with crocodile tears, semi-hysterics over a toy being taken, tantrums over a refusal to drive to Disney on a whim so a certain little boy can go on a dinosaur ride. Daily disappointments barely scratch the surface for me, as I’m one of those people who believes life is full of them, and the younger you begin to handle these little losses, the stronger your character will become. I can handle the trivial.
It’s the suffering that gets me every time.
It’s Justin’s pacing up and down the most child-friendly home in existence for thirty-six hours, frantic, because even a hurricane couldn’t deter his desire to return home. It’s listening to his sobs from behind a closed door after we’ve just put him to bed, having just left a seemingly contented, boy, and not being able to ask him why he’s sad. It’s watching my second son melt down about his bed because it’s not perfect, and realizing how vulnerable that makes him feel. It’s the things I can’t control.
And I know they’ll be many more.
I also know I have to begin to make my peace with this, as these events would happen in any household, whether or not autism was a permanent resident. I’m aware that if I don’t get a handle on how emotional these situations make me feel, if I don’t get a grip on the heart-pounding, sweat-inducing aftermath, my health will suffer too.
Sounds like a New Year’s resolution in the making.
I summon the urge to stand, thinking of how very far away both a good glass of pinot grigiot and dark chocolate are at the moment, and my tired body responds. I shuffle down the hall, and make a mental note to add one more task to my 2012 list, along with cutting down on carbs (hah!), putting on a play, and attempting, always, to be a better mom.
I mentally add I must learn how to chill.