You know how they say that the quietest moments are the moments you should worry about the most? It seems like statement is tenfold when your child has autism. At night, our house becomes a constant clatter with noise as Squeaker fights to stay awake. He comes out of his room a thousand times–he needs Shredder, or Mig Rig, or Pacer, or a book, or whatever else he can think of. If all else fails, he’ll poop in his pull-up, even though he clearly has access to the bathroom, just so that we have to clean him up. If he can put a toy in it and make a mess in the process, that’s a bonus. It’s never a dull moment. I love him to death, but Mommy needs some quiet time, and when it rolls around to about 11pm and he’s still going, I’m wondering when it’s going to stop. I wonder if I’ll ever get enough sleep!
So, when we have quiet, I should have giant flashing danger signs going off in my head. But, I’m tired and I’m assuming he’s exhausted himself and fallen asleep. Most of the time, I check to make sure he’s out and I close his door and turn off his light to help facilitate continued sleep before I head to bed myself. Usually, he’s closed his own door to keep me out. That’s his new habit. I should, at that point, check for signs of sabotage. Door closing may mean he’s trying to hide something. It’s like when I’m in his room and he’s got a book, and he knows he can’t keep books in his room, so he’ll open up a dresser drawer right in front of me and throw the book in, then quickly close the drawer, thinking he has now hidden the book from me. His methods of deceit are not particularly clever, so I should know. When you’re tired, though, it doesn’t always click. Hindsight is 20/20, right?
Well, two weeks ago, he found my blue metallic nail polish that he’s constantly asking me about to painting his nails with and painted his legs, stomach, chest, toes, fingers, and carpet with it before coming out in a blanket smelling like nail polish. The only way to get nail polish off of a child covered in nail polish is to use nail polish remover. Soap and water does not work. He did not care for that. Do you know how to get nail polish out of a carpet? Well, I don’t. Nail polish remover didn’t work. He has a giant blue spot on his carpet now. Part of me has considered just dumping blue nail polish on the rest of the carpet and going over it with nail polish remover to complete the effect. If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em, right?
A few days before that, we had gotten him up for school to find the walls covered in feces. He had smeared it all over, presumably using his hands. We had to spend extra time that morning bathing him, making sure that all of the clothing he’d thrown on his floor got in the wash just in case it was dirty, and keeping his door closed so that the dog didn’t get in his room while we were gone. When we got home that afternoon, I made him help clean up the mess, scrubbing the walls as hard as he could, and then doing hand-over-hand with him, hoping that he would learn something from it. Unfortunately, he seemed to have fun cleaning the walls. Bummer! No win for mommy.
Two days ago, despite my having put his gummy vitamins in the bathroom and them having a child-proof cap on them, when we got him up the next morning, his entire room had the appearance of a gummy explosion. It appeared as if he had licked every single gummy vitamin and stuck them to everything in his room. They were on his dresser, in his carpet, in his blankets, on his pajamas, in his hair, on his books, on his toys, on the walls–EVERYWHERE. Perhaps he had rolled around in them like Scrooge would roll in money. Either way, it took us an hour to get them out of the carpet. Getting the gummy out of his hair, at least, went a little smoother. We did not buy any more gummy vitamins.
The point is, he does things so quietly, we never know what’s happening until he’s done doing it. He’s gone to bed, presumably. The night he opened the gummy vitamins, he had been loud all night–yelling and laughing and carrying on for hours after bedtime. He kept coming out of his room and asking for things. At one point, he coaxed the dog into his room and I had to come rescue the dog. When it finally got quiet, I assumed he fell asleep from his exertions. Clearly, I was totally wrong. I’m not sure that when he gets in these manic states he ever gets tired. It takes days for it to catch up to him. He’ll go for days on end until finally, he’ll pass out on the couch at 6pm one night, then wake up the next day and start again on a new cycle.
I badly want to just relax and slip into normalcy, but we cannot do that with him. It only takes one slip-up for disaster to happen. We cannot afford to miss one thing. If we leave the bleach spray out after we’re done cleaning, he’ll spray it until it’s gone. If we leave air freshener where he can reach it, he’ll spray it until it’s gone. He can open the child-proof gummy container. He’ll get into nail polish. It seems like every day I learn something new that we have to take precautions about. You see, he didn’t do any of these things at the normal age. He never got into things before, so we never had to worry about it before. He’s now 7 years old and doing things that I guess he would’ve done when he was 2 or 3 years old, except now he’s stronger than a child that age, which makes things harder.
I’m so terrified that he’ll do something dangerous. Forget the messes or the inconveniences, you know? Those suck a lot and I get really annoyed, but one day he might do something dangerous. We do everything we can to keep him safe. We put things away and out of reach, we don’t have any medications that don’t have child-proof caps, most of the doors either have those safety knobs on them or are locked so that he can’t get into rooms that he shouldn’t get into, and the windows are locked. Aside from that, I’m not sure what else we could do to keep him safe. He’s clever, but not developmentally appropriate, which becomes a very dangerous combination, because he’s just clever enough to outsmart all of our little tricks, but doesn’t understand the danger in the things he does.
We just keep on keepin’ on, I guess. It just frustrating as hell to keep cleaning up the messes. But, it is what it is. Just keep swimmin’, right? From sea to shining sea of blue shimmering nail polish… And as we swim along, we’ll continue to come up with new methods of circumventing the potential disasters. We got this. I think.