The following is a guest post submitted by Xeniphia.
Dear Autism Expert who thinks I’m coddling my likely autistic children by still lying down with them each night until they fall asleep,
I know that look that you get on your face, and the irritation in your eyes, and what it means when you look away when I mention this. I know what the ‘subtle’ “oh you *still* lay down with them?” question you ask me really means. And I can *feel* the emotions of judgement, confusion, impatience, and more in your poorly disguised tone of voice. But I wonder … I wonder if you know …
I wonder if you know how it feels to be a small child with big emotions, bigger senses, and a small ability to manage them. I wonder if you know how it feels to lie down in the evenings after a normal ‘uneventful’ day with a brain so overstrained that it hurts but can’t turn off.
I wonder if you know how it feels to climb under blankets that feel like bugs invading your every pore, but it’s winter and your parents can only afford to keep the heat up so high, so you have to stay under the blankets. I wonder if you know how it feels to have arms and legs that ache, not just from running, but from the feel of your shirt sleeves, and your pants, your socks and your coat, and to have to ignore those feelings because it is bedtime.
I wonder if you know how it feels to be able to hear the cat walking in the next room, the dog barking 3 blocks away, and the cars, not just a dull hum but an uneven rhythm of individual cars as they drive by on the streets around you. I wonder if you know what it’s like when the process necessary to shut off your brain to sleep first shuts off all the cognitive tools you have built up over the years to process these overwhelming sensations in your life.
So those moments between that cognitive shut down and actually being asleep are the ones in which you are the most vulnerable to all the things.
I wonder if then you may understand how it feels to have a big loving set of arms wrap around you, separating you from the blankets and applying gentle pressure to your aches. I wonder if you might understand how it feels to have the steady rhythm of your parent’s breathing and heartbeat replace the unorganized sounds of the cats, dogs, and cars.I wonder if then you might understand what it’s like to have such a need for this feeling that you miss your favorite movie of all time by pretending to fall asleep just so your parent will carry you to bed, knowing somehow in the back of your 7 year old mind that this will be the last time, ever. And I wonder if you might understand then why, when your child is brain tired but it won’t turn off, is squirming under blankets and unable to wear pajamas because they don’t feel right, and is asking you at night “what’s that sound” when things go bump far enough away that they shouldn’t be heard … you react by wrapping your arms around them and just BEING THERE until the sweet release of sleep takes over.
Because the pain of wanting to sleep, and not being able to, is enough reason to need my mommy; and for my babies to need theirs … even if they’re not babies anymore.