Once in a while Boo has a bout with insomnia. I have never been certain what triggered it, but when it happens he wakes in the middle of the night confused and restless and can't seem to get back to sleep and can't express himself. Recently he had such a night but was unusually communicative. He woke me up by asking "Mommy, are there no monsters on the earth?" I assured him there weren't, but we were up for the next 2 hours. Several times in the day he asked me the same question again. Finally, he began to talk about the monster. He said it was a big monster that ate all the energy and make the lights not work. I recognized this as coming from an episode of the PBS Kids show Word Girl. I tried to reassure him that the monster on the tv is just pretend.
Enter the autistic brain! They think sooooo differently, and that is often a wonderful asset but frequently a difficulty also. I never previously realized how he understands the term "pretend." You see, when we tell him to pretend, or comment on his pretending, it usually involves him imagining the existence of things not seen, or imagining that one thing is actually another thing. For example, pretending his best friend is here and talking to him or pretending that his hand is a mouse. But things that are seen are NOT pretend, they are real. By Boo's definition, visible equals real. Thus, the monster on Word Girl is NOT pretend, it's REAL. There is no dissuading him in this certainty. I tucked that one in my Mommy processor, knowing we would come back to it again.
Today we had a long and wonderful day at the zoo. He was much more tired than he has been in a long while. He slept in the car on the way home, then I carried him to bed when we got home. He slept about another hour, then came out of his room in another stupor, seeming confused as to why he was up, distressed, and unable to articulate what the matter was. He laid down on the couch and fell back to sleep. He slept a long time, and when he awoke, we were talking and reviewing our day. I got out the zoo map to look at. Boo LOVES maps! We reviewed all the things we had seen and done at the zoo, talked about where we had gone after, and that he had come home and slept afterward. Then he gave me some incredible insight!
He began telling me about the "story" that he saw. He said that he was in a story and that when he opened his eyes, the story went away. AHA! I sat with him and began asking questions. I learned that he was in the story and that there were two things that were scary in the story. He said he couldn't remember what the scary stuff was. I asked him what else was in the story and he said there was a monster and a bug. I asked what they were doing and he said that the bug was scared of the monster. He then told me that I was in the story also. I asked him what did I do in the story and he said that I made him scared of the monster and the bug. I asked him if I kept him safe and he said no. He said that he couldn't remember anything else from the story.
So, we had a chat and I told him that sometimes when we sleep, our mind tells us stories and these stories are called dreams. Usually we have good dreams, but sometimes something scary happens and we call that a bad dream. I told him that when he wakes up from a bad dream if he still feels scared he can come to Mommy and tell me "I had a bad dream." He then told me that we don't have any bad dreams, only good ones. We talked about it just a little bit more, and then he wanted to watch a movie. I will be discussing the matter again in the future, namely bed times. I feel very encouraged. Boo's ability to articulate and my ability to listen and think through things his way are both improving and it's giving us much better insight into his mind. It must be tough at times to live in that brain. The more I learn about my sweet boy, the more he amazes me and inspires me. This little bundle of sweetness is one of the smartest and bravest people I know. I work hard every day to be the mom he deserves. I sit now in tears and in awe of the gift God has given me. This little man has the power and potential to impact this world greatly. I pray that God gives me the wisdom to help guide my son to be the best he can be.