I have been having some weird dreams lately. What’s even worse is that I know why.
My son, Lucas, has been getting up between five and six in the morning every day. While that isn’t such a big deal to most parents, it’s the manner in which he goes about it that changes my sleep patterns.
Lucas has autism and is non-verbal. So there is no, “Yo Daddy. I am up.” Instead, he takes his large plastic music player, which he cherishes and would never want broken, and heaves it over the gate of his room to the hardwood hallway floor. It lets out a shockingly loud crash that I have become shockingly used to.
Keep in mind, I try to tell him all the time that this isn’t the way things are done. I make him repeat “no, no, no” and wag my finger at the items he vaults onto our soon-to-be cratered floors. He knows he’s not supposed to do it, but he does it anyway. Lucas marches to the beat of his own drummer. And that drummer is Dave Grohl in Nirvana smashing his drums into oblivion every morning.
I try not to get him up at five because there are other people in our house and no one wants him running around clapping and screaming before the roosters crow. So, if coaxing him back to sleep doesn’t work, especially when the sun is out in the warmer months, I will usually put on a video of Raffi in his room. That’s when I try to get squeeze out some more sleep for myself.
As I collapse back into my bed, I will check my phone, like I did during yesterday’s morning craziness. It was there where I read things about President Donald Trump cutting a press conference short or the results of the latest wrestling matches that I didn’t see. Then I drift off to dream land…
…and have dreams about meeting Donald Trump and him refusing to talk to me. Then about a wrestling match happening in my backyard. Then, finally, pulling my car out of a parking lot, smashing into another car, and then having that car flip in the air before smashing into another car…causing a major explosion. It’s mass chaos as flames rain down. That’s when I open my eyes and realize what is really happening.
My boy is throwing the contents of his room into the hallway. It sounds like a demolition derby.
I’m not exaggerating about the abundance of items either. By the time I get up – less than twenty minutes after putting his show on – I can’t even make it to the gate. There is literally every single thing from his room that he’s capable of lifting with his little hands, laying in front of it.
The pile included: five picture books, three pillows, a cup, a remote control, two pairs of pants, a jack in the box, a bead toy, a Grover doll, a pack of wet wipes, two pairs of shoes, and his entire comforter. I stared at it, but not in shock, because that would imply that this scene is a surprise. It’s not. Still, it’s a sight to behold. I look at it more like you look at the Grand Canyon. I’m not blown away by the fact that it exists, but I still stand in awe of the visual.
I shove some of it out of the way with my foot so the gate can open. Oblivious to how angry I should be, he claps as I enter and tries to push past me for his breakfast. With one hand, I stop him.
Lukey, what the hell? No, no, no. We don’t throw things. Now you have to pick them up.
And, with that, the pointing begins. I gesture to the book, he picks it up, and then I point to the toy box. He wobbles over and drops it in. He’s very good about it all and, truth be told, he’s adorable. The process continues on. It takes a while as I stand there, groggy and longing-to-be-caffeinated, pointing at objects and then pointing to where they belong.
It would take 1/100th of the time to just pick them all up myself in both arms and chuck them back into his room. I mean, they would eventually end up scattered about anyway. When it comes to organizing his area, it’s like polishing the brass on the Titanic. He’s going to hurricane it all up within the hour anyway.
The obvious thought here is, “Yeah. But he is learning. That way he doesn’t do it again.”
My response to that is, “Yeah. But be he will totally do it again. Probably tomorrow.”
That’s the thing with Lucas’s lessons. They take constant repetition and constant reminders. He won’t understand right away. He won’t even understand fairly soon. Eventually, though, he usually gets it. It’s about patience, not just on his part, but on mine.
The worst part about it all is also the best part. I can’t be mad at him, but not just for the reason that, again, seems obvious. My anger isn’t squashed just because he doesn’t fully understand what he did wrong.
No. My anger is squashed because the minute I enter his room after the prolonged clean-up, he wraps his arms around me, hangs back while grasping my neck, and makes me kiss him on the neck while he giggles uncontrollably. He continues this laughing and hugging until I lead him from the room for his breakfast. My day may begin with a crash but it’s pure joy after that. Both are courtesy of my favorite boy in the world.
The bottom line is that I know he might not learn even if I repeat these actions every day. But I also know that he definitely will not learn if I don’t. So, I do. It’s happened before with other skills and it could very well happen with this. One day, a light will go off and he’ll know not to do it. One day.
On that day, I’ll sleep well. Until then, those morning hugs are a welcome trade off and all the incentive I need to endure the crashes for another day.