“Mom, I’ll pay you a dollar if I can sleep with you and Dad tonight.”
That was the offer last night from my daughter. I told her to ask her Dad. He told her to ask ME. We both agreed that we hadn’t realized we were sitting on a gold mine without even knowing it. The kid has a TON of savings bonds she’d be willing to cough up in order to sleep wedged between us every night.
Or maybe not.
I write both from the heart and my experience as a mental health professional and a parent of two nutjob kids who provide me with more material for this nonsense than I could ever use.
The kid comes into our room every night. EVERY. SINGLE. NIGHT. Without fail, at some point she wanders in and wreaks havoc on our peaceful rest. She talks in her sleep, kicks, gets up and wanders, mumbles, thrashes, sometimes cries and ALWAYS ends up making sure that one of us is pinned under one of her appendages in the most awkward way (i.e. crook of her knee around my neck – not uncommon).
This kid slept through the night at 8 weeks, going 8 hours without nursing. At age three, she decided that she was DONE sleeping in a crib, insisted that it be removed from her room and she slept on the floor until we were able to buy her a big girl bed – NOT a toddler bed. This kid went to sleep independently for years, always enjoying and sometimes even DEMANDING to be read to handful of stories and merely tolerating the bedtime hugs.
When she was tired, she wanted us to leave. She’d say, “Bye Mom,” right in the middle of a story and proceed to roll over and be snoring within seconds. We wouldn’t see her again until the morning, although I would hear her futzing around and talking occasionally. Sometimes she’d wander, but I had the mom ear on alert and had a pretty good track record for getting her re-directed back to her bed. This lasted for 3 years.
I’m not sure what triggered the change. For a kid with an ASD, she is pretty easily engaged in conversation and play (as long as it interests her and she is in control of it) and also VERY independent in many other ways. She will seek us out if she needs something or is in acute pain (and not always then), but mostly prefers to be on her own or playing with a single friend, controlling the conversation and activity of course.
About 1 1/2 years ago, this fiercely self-regulating little girl began to change, clinging to me like a squirrel grasping its only nut (yes, I did the nut reference on purpose because I’m a nut and so….). Why?
I WANT TO BE WITH YOU GUUUUUUUUUUUUUUYS!
Her room is either: too dark or too light, too cold or too hot, there are monsters or bad guys and she just cannot seem to get comfy without being ON-TOP-OF-ONE-OF-US. We are exhausted. VERY often she is so completely and totally hyper-aware of us that she bolts straight up when either of us go to the bathroom or sneak away to sleep in another room. “WHERE ARE YOU GOING?” she yelps before grasping onto us or following us into the bathroom.
There are those that say that she will grow out of this and it is just a phase. Maybe.
Some suggest that we should feel lucky since so many ASD kids don’t seem attached to their parents at all. SHUT UP ALREADY! You are clearly ignorant with regard to just how loving and connected kids on the spectrum can be if you ramble on that kind of nonsense.
Beginning with the New Year, we offered her ONE dollar for each night she could stay in her bed. She was so excited, leaping around like a monkey, making lists of what she’d do with her greenbacks. I thought the idea had the potential for big time success, that it would motivate her. She would be able to buy Monster High and Littlest Pet Shop toys for herself EVERY SINGLE MONTH!
Since January she has earned .50 cents for spending half the night in her own bed and I ended up sleeping in there with her the other half of the night, hoping to sneak away. FAIL.
Our anxious little girl with has a sensory system that happens to short circuit hundreds of times per day, causing her confusion, discomfort and sometimes pain. I know that she loves her dad and me as much as she possibly can love anyone in the world and she trusts us. She trusts us to know what she needs, because so often she is being bombarded by too much world-stuff to know herself. Right now she needs to be with us at night.
She is showing us, telling us and kicking us repeatedly in the face, neck, gut and back, night after night.
This too shall pass. I said those words two years ago. I said them last night when my girl offered me her precious cash for a space in my bed that she would inevitably occupy at sometime during the night, regardless of payment.
I am well aware that there are options for us. I’m a professional, one who has worked with many wee kids like my wee kid. We are discussing and considering these options at present. The thing of it all is that I really love having her so near me every night because I know that she is safe and because if I know anything at all about my mysterious little wanderer, it’s that she WOULD if she COULD. Nobody loves money like my girl.
And so, we decided not to make her cash in her savings bonds in order to rent the space between us in our king sized (plenty big enough for all three of us and the dogs if she wouldn’t do a complete gymnastics routine in her sleep) bed. I can’t believe that she offered to fork over her cash. That alone tells me that she is feeling ashamed of needing us and that the enormous amount of stress and she already feels about the situation is increasing. Her offering might be a sign that the winds of change are blowing. Or not.
That is why we are considering options, seeking medical and psychiatric advice. Every family has their own stuff, their own opinions, challenges, rules and methods for handling things A-Z when it comes to raising kids. Sometimes it takes awhile to work out the kinks in a particularly frustrating situation, and that is to be expected. Last night my daughter read me 4 1/2 books. You read that right: 4 1/2. She decided to bookmark, If you take a mouse to the movies, just when it was getting good because, “It was time to settle down now.”
Read more from Nicole at chicagonow.com/moms-who-drink-and-swear