Thursday, January 11, 2007

Sleepless Nights with Wild Will

No fun pictures for today's post. Just some whining and complaining. Can't help it. When your head is filled with cotton, you can't help but waanh a little bit.

Autism or not, I know there are parents everywhere who have kids who don't sleep well. You can tell which families have got'em. They're the ones with the heavy bags under the eyes, the shirts that are on inside-out, the permanent coffee cup glued in their palm. They snap too much at their kids, they choose tv over playing at the park and they generally look like hell. I sympathize. We've got one. Sometimes two (and on those days we don't even make it out of the house in the mornings for people to see if we fit the description).

We should have known from their birth that this was going to be a lifelong battle. I remember after the twins were born, listening to other new moms brag how their kids were sleeping through the night at three months old and secretly hating them. I remember trying all the same things I had done with Jake and wondering why it wasn't working with Owen and Will. I'm not saying that there IS a reason for their insomnia, I'm just saying they were different. I assumed it was because they shared a room and woke each other up all night, or because they had some digestive issues that caused feeding issues that caused them to wake up to feed more often that caused our sleep deprivation that caused our insanity........ Okay, I can't go back there. Many of you can remember those days with me and will recall that it was definitely not a memorable experience to be with myself or Jonathan during that first year and a half. 1 to 3 hours of sleep for 18 months would destroy the strongest of men. We somehow survived it.

But that's my point. I thought that those newborn days were long over. I was wrong. Now I don't have a newborn whose mewlings cries may have been annoying at 3am, but are not nearly as anxiety-ridden as when your bedroom door gets slammed open at 3, your lights all get turned on, your taps are running full, your other 2 kids are crying because they were awoken the same way. You follow the trail of lit lights downstairs to find a bag of bread torn open with its slices all over the floor and your water cooler depleted of half of its contents. Oh! Is that your sleeve of newly developed photos floating in that 6 x 6 ft giant puddle on the floor? The Wiggles are blaring full blast from the tv, your back door is wide open - freezing air blowing in and where is the culprit?? He's got one foot on the front steps after having figured out how to unlock the front door. Middle of winter. An Alberta winter. It means cold. And if I hadn't woken when I did, Will would probably be on his way to take a dip in the freezing Bow River.. his runaway destination.

There are periods that can last a couple of months where I think "we are so lucky that our kids don't have sleeping issues". When the world is right. When we get 7 to 8 hours a night and our kids hop into bed happily by 8 o'clock and sleep right through. How could I have forgotten that those times can quickly disappear and turn into this?

We are now going on Week 3 of Will's insomnia. Sometimes it shows its ugly head at bedtime. Hour after hour of listening to Will kick the wall and vocally stimming his "oo-oo's and ee-ee's" all night long that can suddenly turn into screaming or crying. Seeing his light flick from underneath the door. You can't help but laugh when you hear him knock on the door from the inside. The worst of it is, you can't check on him. If you do, he knows that you'll come back again and again. So you try to stay out. But if you don't check, you're running the risk of finding a bed or a heating vent full of poo (sorry for the weak stomachs out there) and that usually means a huge cleanup and a bath. You may also risk missing a near accident like the other night. Jonathan abruptly opened Will's door because he heard that he was making a ruckus. Will panicked and leaped off the 6-drawer dresser he was standing on, smacking his cheek. -We somehow avoided a trip to emerg for that one.

But the worst is definitely the wake-ups in the middle of the night. You think you've escaped it. After a long day, the kids have been in bed since 7 or 8 because they couldn't keep their eyes open and you crawl in around midnight. 1 o'clock and BAM! The lights go on and so goes the rest of your sleep. When Will wakes up in the middle of the night, it's not a situation where you can cuddle with him in bed until he falls back into la-la land. Will is up. It's like his brain thinks it's daytime. You can guarantee that you'll be up with him at least until 4 and maybe you can catch a few more hours before the rest of the house has to get up. Just like the newborn era.. Jonathan and I usually argue every single night about whose turn it is to stay up with Will. It's a miserable time. Being a reader, I wouldn't mind the extra time to sit up with a book if I knew I didn't have to chase Will. But you can't sit still with that boy because he destroys everything. He won't sit still and he won't stay in one room for longer than 5 minutes.

Last night was the worst. And the reason for this complaining session. Jonathan was out of town and Jake was out for a visit at Sally and Greg's for the evening. I was looking forward to spending some quality time with Owen and Will. As soon as their therapy ended, no later than 5 minutes after, Will took a leap off the coffee table and knocked his hip off the wood. He yelled so loud! The poor little man bruised himself (yet again) and I felt pretty bad for him. The upset from his hurt turned into a full eruption of a tantrum that lasted an entire hour. There was a point last night, when I was kneeling on my kitchen floor, trying to keep my balance as Will threw his whole body weight against me, clawing at my eyes and mouth, trying to bite my hand, all while trying to butt his head up under my chin.. all at the same time.. I had a pot of Kraft Dinner overflowing and sizzling on the stove beside me.. Owen sitting at the table - crying because he wanted his dinner (yaay! as an aside- at least he wanted to eat!).. I looked into Will's eyes and it was like he was torn between wanting me to console him while wanting to take out his anger on me at the same time.. I suddenly saw him 10 years from now. 10 years stronger. 10 years bigger. 10 years angrier. It scared me. I am grateful right now that the tantrums at home have significantly decreased since we moved out here. But when they happen, it's a reminder of how strong and aggressive Will can be. Hopefully as the years go on, he'll learn skills to help him cope with his frustration so that I won't be lying flat on my kitchen floor.. 10 years from now.. after being knocked over by him. Or Owen. Or Jake. Scary.

But as I was saying. The tantrum lasted quite a while and after figuring out that a really, really deep pressure hug was doing the trick to subside his sobbing, Will finally got a hold of himself again. He disappeared in a flash and I assumed he was off for some time to myself. By this point, Owen had huge alligator tears rolling because he could see his box of Kraft Dinner sitting on the counter, but couldn't understand why it wasn't in his mouth. I decided to leave Will be and feed Owen. It's always a trade-off. Could Will be doing damage while I'm sitting here with Owen? So after Owen ate (a whole bowl!), I went up to check on him. Couldn't find him anywhere! Finally realized that the pile of bedding on his bed was Will sound asleep. I wish I had taken a picture. He was so peaceful.

Now here presented the real problem. It was only 5 o'clock. I decided to let him sleep. I thought that I could handle a 3 or 4 o'clock wake up if that was going to be our fate. So Jake went to bed, Owen went to bed. I cleaned up and thought I would get myself to bed as well so that I could get some precious hours in before the wake-up when BAM! 9 o'clock and guess who's up?

I realize this story is way too long and boring, so I'll cut it short. As long as you get the gist of what a night in the life of Stacey and Jonathan is like. It's not sexy and it's not glamorous. It's cleaning poop out of heating vents, it's cleaning up minor floods, it's coaxing Will down off of the top of the wall unit and it's staying up with him from 9pm to 3am, only to have Owen wake up for his day at 4am. Nights in this house are hell.

So again.. excuse my whining and complaining. But I'm back in newborn mode. And for those who were around back then, you probably know to steer clear this time as well. :) It's 7 o'clock.. gonna try for a bedtime and a full night sleep. Wish me luck!

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