This is a picture of Nolan’s bedroom early Sunday morning. As you can see, it’s a tad messy.
Oh, it’s not even close to the destruction Keith Moon, the late drummer for The Who, or the members of Led Zeppelin caused to hotel rooms in the 1970s – no furniture was smashed into tiny pieces, no televisions were tossed out the window. But sometimes I never know what’s going on behind that closed door once I hear the first few loud thumps and bangs. It might be Nolan shifting that 200-pound frame of his and trying to get comfortable on a very wobbly bedframe. It might be him digging for something at the bottom of the toybox, or a fidget on his dresser. Maybe WrestleMania 36 got moved from Tampa to our house and I didn’t get the memo (“Bam – Nolan leaps off the top rope and plants John Cena on the mat!”).
I finally got the courage to peek inside at 5:50 a.m., 95 minutes after Nolan had woken up – as it turned out, for the day. Now, I’ve seen his room in much worse condition, with gross, bodily functions sometimes being involved. Still, it’s never fun to see blankets and pillows tossed hither and yon, step on fidgets that were dropped on the floor and forgotten about, and sometimes see the bed and rocking chair moved far away from where they belong, when I think about what Nolan could have been doing instead – you know, like maybe sleeping?
We’re all zombies right now at the Bey hacienda, with Cindy and I feeling the brunt of the pain. Nolan, the boy who wouldn’t have budged if we’d fired a cannon outside his room not all that long ago, has decided he wants to start his day on the very early side. He was up at 2:25 last Wednesday. He was up at 3:30 last Friday. It was 3:15 on Sunday. We haven’t changed his bedtime routine. He hasn’t eaten anything that is upsetting his stomach. He’s not battling a cold or influenza. He’s just woken up, peed – either in the toilet or on himself, as was the case Friday when I found him standing naked in the bathroom, wet pajamas on the floor – and it’s been go time.
We have no idea why insomnia has suddenly decided to pay our son a very unwelcome visit. It could be the shortage of daylight in January and quality time outside, puberty, or demonic possession (one could argue the last two go hand-in-hand). We just know that we don’t like it one bit.
Nolan is one of the more than 50 percent of children on the Autism spectrum who struggle with sleep. I still remember sleeping four, maybe five hours a night shortly before and after Nolan’s diagnosis in 2008. At least I think that’s how much I slept. Forget beer – sleep deprivation kills more brain cells than Miller time. We were ecstatic to learn from a doctor at one of the local hospitals there was a drug called risperidone to help Nolan sleep better. To be honest, I didn’t like – and still don’t like – drugging my kid to help him sleep. He’s still had his moments over the years – part of me is still impressed he stayed awake for nearly 24 hours the first day of summer last June – but on average he’ll sleep anywhere from seven to up to 10 hours a night. Risperidone works.
Except when it doesn’t and I wish it was legal to use a tranquilizer dart on your children.
It isn’t enough that Nolan hasn’t been sleeping well. He’s reached a new level of hyperactivity that, in addition to rearranging his bedroom, includes yelling at the top of his lungs and rocking hard enough in his rocking chair to put a hole in the floor. It’s his body’s way of saying something is not quite right. My way of responding when I’m exhausted is to start talking to Nolan in rapid-fire motion (“Go to the bathroom, Nolan. Gogogogogo!”). I also get louder the more frustrated I get, like when I opened Nolan’s bedroom door Wednesday, or maybe Friday – lost brain cells again – and slammed it right into his toybox. I let him know I was not happy. Cindy let me know she wasn’t happy by sending me back to bed.
Even Cindy, my teammate and the love of my life, has been on the receiving end of my crankiness even though she’s been sick and still done more than her fair share with helping with Nolan. I bristled Saturday when she told me she was going to try to go back to a charity event at which she’d fulfilled the two hours of volunteer time to which she’d committed and help with cleanup. My fuse got a little short when she made a mistake with our Domino’s order and I got a cheese pizza instead of pepperoni (the horror!). We even had a brief fight when I told her I thought she was being insincere when she told me she appreciated something I said or did. I mean, if you’re going to fight about something, make it over a worthwhile topic, like Coke versus Pepsi (Coke all the way).
Vince Lombardi once said, “Fatigue makes cowards of us all.” I guess I’d qualify as a yellow-bellied wimp right now in his eyes.
I remember a time in my life when that wasn’t the case. I remember working second shift 30-plus hours a week when I was in college, going to bed at 2 a.m. and getting up at 6:30 because I always had a 7:40 class on my schedule. I worked a handful of double shifts at one of my jobs as a sportswriter at a daily newspaper in west-central Wisconsin. I covered Green Bay Packers games at Lambeau Field for the last newspaper I worked for. Eighteen-hour days, which included drive time, covering the game, and writing three or four stories, didn’t faze me much.
But now, here I am, 3½ months from turning 49, and everything has gotten a little more difficult than it was 20, 30 years ago. I get fatigued more easily and notice every little ache and pain on my body. I now work from home and sometimes have to stay up late to meet deadlines. I can still function on a few hours sleep, but I sure don’t feel great the next day.
I’d like to believe whatever is hampering Nolan’s ability to sleep well will go away and we all will return to a more normal sleep pattern sooner than later. I’d like to believe that all of us will feel more refreshed today by the time you’ve read this.
The only sound I want to hear coming from Nolan’s room is the sound of silence – no wrestling matches, please.