The sleeping silence of our home was broken last night at about 1:30am -- earlier than usual -- by the sound of Oliver screaming. It was the kind of scream that every parent is familiar with, it is the scream that usually means "I've fallen off the couch and broken my arm." Or, "I fell down the stairs and now I probably have a concussion." But with Oliver the scream comes in the dead of the night, usually around 3am, and we have grown accustomed to bolting out of bed, rushing to comfort him. So at 1:30 last night I sat rocking my boy while sitting on the edge of his toddler bear-bed, making soothing sounds, while also trying to restrain flailing arms and legs that hit out at me and escape his lunging bite. It is hard not to be upset by these episodes because it is both difficult to witness and because emotion comes more quickly to the surface when you are jarred from the deepest part of sleep.
Nik and I feel as though we are night-time veterans. Oliver never slept through the night until he was 2.5 years old, often waking two, three, or more times in the night. For awhile we went through these particularly intense screaming episodes almost every night. But then he started sleeping; miraculously sleeping. As week after week went by we allowed ourselves to relax a little bit more into a full night of sleep. This week, however, he has awoken in screams four nights out of six.
Is it a coincidence that we changed his diet at the same time he started waking in the night again? What else has changed? I can't think of a single thing. But last week also saw a few wonderful "firsts" -- on Wednesday at school Oliver initiatied play with other children 5 different times. On Thursday night Oliver initiated and sustained play with his baby brother for the first time ever. For more than seven months we had waited for him to acknowledge Sam and on Thursday suddenly there he was cooing at the baby and lavishing him with hugs and tickles. That same night he seemed to focus on his play activities and at one point he looked up from his building blocks and said: "I'm happy." I wasn't certain I heard right but then I asked him "What?" and he repeated himself: "I'm happy." So I told him, "I'm happy, too, Oliver." And I'm not sure I ever uttered a statement that was more true.
This whole theraputic program -- the ABA, the diet, the bio-medical approaches -- feels like a giant experiment. We add a little of this, a little of that and then watch for changes, good and bad. But unlike a proper scientific study nothing with our children happens in isolation. Oliver wakes up screaming or has a burst of language and there is no way to know for sure if it is related, and how, to any other event. Maybe it is all just coincidence.
After the incident in the night, Oliver slept soundly until 7am and then went on to have a fantastic day. We played and laughed, spent a lot of time outdoors in the unseasonably warm weather and even went swimming. Oliver also did many PECs exchanges, all of the independant and most of them without a fuss. And at meal times I marveled at what a good eater he is. I know that many parents of children like Oliver struggle to get their children to eat a variety of foods but that has never been the case with him and it makes implementing this diet much more bearable.
As the evening fell I could tell our little one was exhausted by his rosey cheeks and red ears.
Around 7:00 Oliver led the way, "I want to go to sleep." My attempt to read Green Eggs and Ham was unceremoniously halted when the boy closed the book saying: "The End!" and rolled over to face the wall. And he was asleep before the lights were out.