I remember sitting in a horseshoe of chairs at our first National Autistic Society Early Bird course. It was the introductory session and we were going around the room giving an insight into each of our children.
Questions were asked to each couple in turn, with each question starting with someone different each time to allow us all to share.
“What is sleep like?” said the lady to my husband. He was first in the small group to answer the question.
“It’s hard” he said, “Rhys goes to sleep happily in the evenings at 7pm, but is then up really early around 04:30am”. We are constantly tired.
The question was then posed to the next couple who shared their struggles with sleep. How their son didn’t fall asleep until ten or eleven o’clock at night, and would then be up at about two am.
The answers from the group continued with responses including the need to lie down with their children for hours till they finally fell asleep, only to be up after a few hours.
As the responses were shared, me and my husband looked at each other from the corners of our eyes. Our sleep difficulties seamed miniscule to these other parents. We were always guaranteed an evening of peace, even though it was often an exhausted one due to being awake since four or four-thirty.
My husband held his head in his hands, embarrassed at his honesty of our son’s challenging sleep pattern. Wishing he could wind back the clock and not be the first to have answered that question.
We laugh about it now. We laugh because even though we are lucky with sleep (in the autism world) every couple of weeks Rhys does start the day at 2am. On those days we just trudge on and go to bed early.
I do however have a little laugh to myself when I overhear other parents sharing their early morning wakeups of six-thirty or having to wake their kids up who are still asleep at eight-thirty.
The thing is, you can take a child to their bed, but you can’t make them sleep (unless you have some magic melatonin!). I have however learnt over the years to just go with it. When Rhys wakes up he is ready to start the day. One day that may be five, other days it will be two in the morning!
Some days I snooze through the demand for the Gruffalo. Other days I get up and use the time to my advantage, because clocking up a few hours house work or a few chapters of my book puts me on the front foot for the day.
If I mope around in a half awake mess for the rest of the day, I don’t feel like the day has been totally wasted. I will have done my bit.
Other days we get lucky and Rhys sleeps late.
Oh how I love a lie in untill 05:30am 😁