Picture the scene. It’s the end of a long tiring day. Kiddo has very successfully expended all his energy (impressive) and is now overtired and hyperactive as a result. Verbal communication is attempted with minimal success which results in a full on wrestling match to get him off the trampoline, which he obviously thinks it’s the best game EVER.
Eventually I successfully hustle him up the stairs, encouraging him to take himself and not need physical support or guidance. Bath time is attempted. I use the word “attempt” very purposefully as you never quite know how it’s going to go… Is he too over stimulated to cope with the feel of the bath water? Has the day taken it’s toll on his sensory systems so much that one drop of water can feel like a jab with a poison blade from Lord of the Rings? Nope, he’s in! What a trooper! Bath time is managed and soon enough the child is in his pjs.
The medication is administered (self induced sleep is a very rare occurance) and the clock is ticking. We have a half an hour window to get him settled, into bed and ready for when the medication hits his system and sends him off to the land of nod. So far, this military operation is a success. The kiddo heads to bed.
Where is Thomas? Where on earth is Thomas the tank? He’s no where to be seen. This is more than just a hiccup, this is a huge blooming great big bloody nightmare. Now you may be thinking that lots of children have a comforter. Lots of children are very attached to one particular toy. But when a child with autism has an obsession, it takes things to a whole new level. They can’t eat, drink, sleep or function on pretty much any level without their most desired object.
The race is on. Where is that train? And not just any Thomas (because of course we have at least 50 of these things), the one with the faded eyebrows that used to have a battery but now doesn’t. The one we actually have an exact replica of, but we are unable to use because it doesn’t have that scratch on the left hand corner or the faded grip on the back wheels. I run round the house like a woman possessed. I’m up against the clock, I just can’t miss the window of opportunity. That section of time where the medication has the chance to send him off into a world of pleasant dreams.
The alternative? My whole night comes crashing down around me because the medication will fail and I will be made to sit at the end of kiddos bed listening to the Sesame Street theme tune on repeat whilst kiddo plays on a completely different iPad, thus making the musical mix absolute torture for my very tired ears. And why would I put up with that do you ask? Because the alternative is a full blown autistic meltdown lasting several hours where I attempt to prevent any injury from self harm or a visit from the police because the neighbours have complained. I have to find this train. Right now I would exchange a winning lottery ticket for this train.
I frantically retrace my steps. Where did I last see that train? Outside. The windowsill. In the toy crane on the patio steps. Where’s the crane? In the tent? Under the books? And suddenly it clicks. I turn the corner and there, in amongst toy carnage I see it. The one object in the entire house which just may allow me to sleep tonight.
I pounce, grab the train and head straight for the stairs, perfectly navigating a room of trains, feral Rice Krispies and of course a picnic blanket (kiddo would only eat if he could have an indoor picnic today).
I sprint up the stairs and hand the train to my child. I look up at my husband and we hold our breath. Will this train be accepted? Is it the object of desire by which we can achieve a night of heavenly slumber? The train is examined by kiddo. First the front, then the sides. He looks up, gives me a smile and I know we have won. My husband gives me a knowing look.
We’ve done it.
And whilst I write this, Daddy is tucking his son into bed and drifting off to sleep….