In some ways, our parents are really lucky they have one kid with autism and one kid without autism.
The place we stay at during vacation only has two bedrooms and two beds. Therefore, the siblings in their mid-20s are forced to share a bed for the duration of the trip.
That wouldn’t fly with typically developing siblings.
But as I see sharing a bed with Dude the lesser of two evils when compared to sleeping on the couch, I grin and bear it.
While Dude has never been a particularly fabulous sleeper, he has gotten better over the years and he normally sleeps quite well on vacation as a result of increased physical activity.
Sadly for me, Dude was unable to take his hour and a half walks for several days because the sand was unbearably hot. The shore is normally on the cooler side when heat waves park themselves over the region, but during this particular wave, we had several days in the 90s. On one of the first days of aforementioned heat wave, we made the mistake of trying to take a family walk and ended up with burnt feet courtesy of the sand. The next few days were spent either hiding under the umbrellas or dragging our chairs down to the water to stay cool.
This lack of expended energy, coupled with Dude’s somewhat new-found stubborn streak led to some late night standoffs.
I’m a light-ish sleeper. As I get older, I’m becoming increasingly sensitive to light and sounds. Sun is peaking through the blinds at 6:00am on a Saturday? My body decides it’s time to wake up! There’s a light tapping sound that I can’t identify? My body refuses to relax until I can identify it.
This would be fine if I was one of those people who doesn’t need a lot of sleep to function or who enjoys staying up late. Alas, I am one of those people who becomes a tall two-year-old when I get less than seven hours of sleep.
I became aware of Dude moving around at 1:23am. I tried to ignore it, hoping he was just shifting around to get comfortable, but I felt his weight leave the mattress a short time later.
I rolled over and blinked my eyes open.
“Dude, what are you doing?” I asked.
Dude looked pensive. He made a dash for the closet, which was on my side of the bed.
“No Maryland shirt,” he said.
“We set out two shirts on the chair over there for you to look at, buddy,” I answered.
Next, Dude pulled open the “door” to our room. “Door” is in quotes because the door on this particular room consists of plastic accordion material that you pull from left to right to close.
He hurried out into the living area and sorted through papers on the table. I trailed after him. The locking system on the room is not as thorough as the locks our parents have in place at their house, so I wasn’t about to go back to bed with Dude on the prowl in the middle of the night.
Dude pulled off two brochures he wanted to look at.
“Ok. Back to bed,” I commanded.
I got Dude back to the room, but he slammed on the brakes at the foot of the bed. He did what we call his “feet in cement” routine. For a kid with low muscle tone, he suddenly becomes quite good at making himself immovable.
I climbed back into bed, hoping to model the appropriate behavior.
“Get in bed, Dude.” I said.
“Dude, come on. It’s 1:45. Time to go back to sleep.”
My patience was wearing thin.
“Get. In. Bed.” I said through gritted teeth.
I got back out of bed and attempted to lightly push him. No dice.
I took a couple steps back and frowned, plotting my next move. Dude must have thought I had given up because he relaxed his stance ever so slightly.
I seized the opportunity of decreased resistance and gave him one solid push. That was enough to get him moving and get him into bed.
Total time out it took to coax him back into bed: 25 minutes
Amount of time I spent trying to fall back asleep: 10 minutes
Before bed, I brought all the papers into the room that Dude had acquired that day. If he woke up the night before because he was obsessing over where his papers were, I was going to eliminate that anxiety by letting him see that ALL the papers were on his bedside table.
At 2am, I realized Dude wasn’t in bed. Again, he was hovering at the end of the bed.
I sighed. “Dude, all of your papers are here. See?”
“Not yet,” Dude responded, rubbing his fingers together, a habit that increases in intensity when he’s anxious.
For the next 15 minutes, I tried to get him back into bed.
At one point I grumbled, “You think you’re stubborn? You’re in the ring with the queen, my friend.”
He gradually worked his way over to the side of the bed, but got “stuck” and couldn’t transition to laying down. I helped him out with a move I like to the call the “Hip Check” (done very gently, of course).
Total time it took to coax him back into bed: 30 minutes
Amount of time I spent trying to fall back asleep: 30 minutes
I was REALLY tired of this game at this point. And this was the night Dude decided to wake up at 3:45AM.
This time, he tried to go out onto our BALCONY. AT 4AM.
“What are you doing?!” I hissed at him, trailing him into the living area as I had done previously.
He found additional papers to bring back with him and got into bed faster than he had the two previous nights. I, however, wasn’t so lucky.
Total time it took to coax him back into bed: 20 minutes
Amount of time I spent trying to fall back asleep: 1 hour and 15 minutes
I can’t even begin to describe how grumpy I was that day. Three nights of interrupted sleep had taken their toll in a big way.
When we arrived at the beach, I had a request.
“Can I not sit next to Dude today? I’m mad at him.”