Dylan’s teacher told me a wonderful story yesterday afternoon. At school, they read aloud a book called “Where Does The Butterfly Go When It Rains?” It was a thinking book, she told me. The book didn’t actually answer the question; rather it made the students think about all of the possibilities. After they finished reading the book, the kids were asked individually (for their journals) where they thought the butterfly went when it rained. Dylan’s answer was: “Someplace safe.”
Can you say Proud Mama? His teachers were impressed at the thoughtfulness of his answer, too. Feeling safe, or more precisely, feeling afraid, is at the core of many of Dylan’s challenges, including wearing certain clothes, eating particular foods, and trying new activities. In fact, when we started occupational therapy, the words our therapist used to describe how Dylan felt inside his body were: uncomfortable, confused, insecure, and unsafe.
In my last post, I wrote about how I rearranged the furniture in the boys’ room over the weekend. Now, Dylan and Riley are sleeping in twin beds. Before this new arrangement, Dylan slept in a bunk bed with a tent attached. Before that, he slept on an aerobed bed on the floor inside a tent. And before that, he slept on an aerobed on the floor surrounded by a fort of giant foam tiles. All of the different (and strange) bed arrangements he created throughout his toddler years gave him a sense of safety and security.
The good news is that Dylan is adjusting to the new bedroom arrangement and sleeping beautifully. The bad news is that Riley, on the other hand, is making a strong case for locking the bedroom door from the outside…but more on that another time.
Yesterday morning, Dylan was still fast asleep when the little rooster woke up to have his morning dose of crack, I mean, Kefir. I turned the monitor on in the kitchen so I could hear Dylan when he woke up. If Dylan has to go to the bathroom or he has a bad dream, and when he wakes up each morning, he calls out for us. He doesn’t get out of his bed on his own. When I share this tidbit with other parents, they usually say something like, “Oh, you’re so lucky. My kid wanders around the house in the middle of the night,” or, “My kid ends up in my bed every night.” They’re sort of right, except I’m not that lucky fortunate because (1) Riley wanders around the house and/or ends up in my bed all the time, and (2) the reason Dylan doesn’t leave his bed is because he’s afraid and that stinks.
About fifteen minutes into the morning and after a few sips of precious coffee, I heard quick footsteps coming from the bedroom end of the house. The next thing I saw was Dylan flying through the kitchen and into the family room. “Dylan,” I shouted. “Did you just get out of bed all by yourself?” He had no response, just an enormous grin and the best bed head I’ve ever seen.
Have we conquered food? No. Does he still fear transitions? Yes. Does he have anxiety about being alone? You betcha. But when I think about how desperate I felt when this journey began and how far he’s come since then, I have to pause and take it all in. These seemly insignificant actions – like sleeping in an bed without a tent or getting out of his bed on his own – are truly monumental and evidence that he’s starting to feel safe. Just like the butterfly in the rain.