An Autism Dad reader, Rachel, responded to my post, “Sleep with me, Daddy!” Rachel’s perspective is well articulated and, I thought, deserving of a wider audience. So it follows…along with a few new pics of the boys!
Dear Autism Dad:
First, I wish to thank you for blogging your inner-most thoughts and experiences. It is so refreshing to hear how a divorced dad can have such a nurturing attitude with his children, special needs or not! I’m a re-married woman of a 10-year-old son with asperger’s, which he wasn’t diagnosed with until he was 4.
When I was married to Kenny’s father, I took the time to research the pros and cons of sleeping with your baby. We decided to use the “shared family bed” approach for a few reasons.
First, because we cherished the closeness of family, just like many other cultures do. Second, I was breastfeeding, and it was so much easier to nurse him in his own bed than to have him wake up during the night crying until I was able to get to him in a different room. (I’m a sucker for a crying baby!) Third, as Kenny was born in August, by the time he out-grew his bassinet, it became cold in our two-bedroom house; living on one income, we didn’t have the nicest house, and the heat didn’t work in our upstairs. We had an electric heater in our bedroom, and we often stayed in our king-sized bed, playing peek-a-boo with our happy and beautiful son. Of course we will never regret this special bonding time we were able to share with our son.
As Kenny grew, and my husband’s job took us to a new town, we lived in a two-bedroom apartment. Kenny had his own room, which I had decorated in “Blue’s Clues.” He enjoyed this room as his “playroom”; however, I was still nursing him (until he was 22 months!) and he still slept with us. Later, as our marriage deteriorated, not at all because of our son, we divorced. Kenny continued to have his bedroom, but he still slept in bed with me. It was normal for us. It made him feel safe, especially after the divorce had changed his routine. It made me feel like I was his whole world, and we both slept better!
When Kenny was 9, I had to have back surgery to fuse my lower back. Kenny was staying with his dad during most summers by this time. I knew it was getting to be the time when I needed to “wean” him from sleeping with me. It was the hardest thing I had gone through with him! Even though his bedroom was right next to mine, I had explained now that he was older, he needed to sleep in his own bed. I even told him the doctors said I needed to sleep alone after my surgery, as this was literally the only way Kenny would believe me. We would have conversations across our apartment during the night, just so he knew I was there.
Now I am re-married. My new husband has been in Kenny’s life many years now, and most of the time they get along well. Even if they butt heads during the day, Kenny still requires my husband to be in his bedroom when we say prayers together. Kenny needs this sense of order, that everything is okay and “normal” to him. Thank God my husband gets this! But there were a few nights in which Kenny wanted to sleep with me when my husband was out of town, and to tell you the truth, I was just as glad as Kenny! I have always noticed his breathing was more calm and his body was more relaxed when he slept with me. He slept better during the entire night, never waking up and staying awake for hours (like he often does when he sleeps alone.)
Kenny’s soul is so sweet yet naive, even though he is almost 11 and entering puberty. We have discussed social puberty issues. I explained that he could talk about his body with me, my husband, his father, and his doctor. Kenny’s reply to me was, “I will only talk to you about it mom.” I know he feels so close to me and trusts me because we have always had that special bond. Some children with asperger’s have trouble showing intimacy and affection (Kenny won’t let me kiss him on the head, or let his grandparents hug or kiss him either) Kenny has always loved to snuggle in bed. Maybe that is why it took us so long to make the transition, and why it hurt so badly when he was being “weaned” from my bed…it was the only time he was completely calm, happy for 8 hours at a stretch, and wanted me near him. I know there will be a time in the not-too-distant future when he won’t want his mom anywhere near him, but for now, I savor the time I get with him each day.
“Sleep with me, Daddy”
“Sleep with me, Daddy (Follow-up)”