Yesterday I was leafing through Oliver's communication log and was pleasantly reminded about what a lovely, good-tempered little guy I've got. Almost every entry goes like this: "Oliver slept well last night, woke up at 6am and is in a good mood." Now here's the thing: aside from the fact that he wakes up a touch on the early side, this simple statement marks how far we've come in the past year. For the first two and a half years of Oliver's life, there was no such thing as a good night's sleep. There were bad nights and awful nights and some even worse than that. Most weeks were punctuated several times with episodic night terrors that left me a limp and soggy puddle by morning. Now there are occassional bad nights but they seem few and far between. Mostly he sleeps.
And the good mood part? Given everything our little guy has to deal with -- all the demands we place on him daily -- he seems to be remarkably easy-going. This is no doubt a testament to his father's genes. And it is true that he is virtually always smiling, quick to laugh and displays his own, quiet brand of humor. But once upon a time there was the little matter of those tantrums. Those really blow-out, nuclear melt-downs that seemed to fuel themselves and leave the whole sorry house sagging in their wake. Those have all but disappeared, too.
Having more good days than bad make you almost forget what it used to be like -- which made the writhing, sobbing mess that I held in my arms on Saturday evening all the more wrenching. The issue at hand was Oliver's insistance that he be allowed to wear his banana smoothie soiled shirt to bed. Nine times out of ten changing clothes is no problem at all and if it is then I can sucessfully divert his attention. But on this particular night it started with: "I want shirt!" and ended with a nuclear explosion. Most ironic was that I had just remarked at dinner time about how it had been a great day with lots of successful outings: first bowling, then the library and finally to the livestock auction (it's purely a spectator's sport for us. Oh, and the animals are interesting, too).
After Oliver was at last in bed he fell asleep almost instantly leaving Nik and I to finally exhale. Since the diagnosis last August we've gotten pretty good at reading, predicting, forecasting, compensating, adjusting, and well, just parenting. We haven't had a tantrum since early November. But I didn't see this one coming and once I could see that it was getting ugly I just wasn't flexible enough to change strategies. After a long day of successfully dealing with all kinds of stimuli I should have just let him wear the shirt or anything else his little heart desired.
Parenting Oliver, I've learned, isn't so different from parenting any other child. And navigating this mother-son relationship isn't that different from navigating any other relationship. We all have good days and bad days, we all have silly days and sad days. And we all get tired from time to time and just want what we want.
Nobody keeps a communication log charting my daily moods and cycles, but if they did I am fairly confident the majority of the entries wouldn't mirror Oliver's. Yes, it is true that sometimes Oliver's autism makes things a bit ugly. Once in awhile we have a bad day. But mostly they are pretty darn good.