It’s 1:30 am and my son climbs into my bed.
It’s not all that unusual for this to happen. In fact, we’re batting about .500 with him sleeping through the night. At age six. Sometimes he does, sometimes he doesn’t. I’m sure there’s a pattern and explanation to why but I really don’t know.
It’s usually around three or four am. So 1:30 is a bit early.
Normally he’ll climb into bed, settle in and go back to sleep fairly quickly. And by setting in I mean smash himself up against me with my arm wrapped underneath him.
This time, he was incredibly restless. Flipping from side to side. Spinning *in* in the bed. Head on the pillow then feet on the pillow. I was also sick with a bad cold and I couldn’t take it.
I asked him what was going on.
“I need a warmed up yogurt.” he replied.
A “warmed up yogurt” is Howie’s go-to drink when his body isn’t feeling right. It’s a Stonyfield yogurt smoothie warmed up in the microwave for 30 seconds. He then drinks it through a straw in his favorite chair. The combination of the just right temperature plus the sucking through the straw plus the comfort of the chair helps him regulate himself.
“It’s 1:30 in the morning. I’m not getting you a yogurt.”
“But my foot hurts! I need to go downstairs and have a WARMED UP YOGURT!” And he started to cry.
Out of fear of waking my other two kids and my husband, I begrudgingly took him downstairs. He settled in his chair and drank his smoothie.
“Can I snuggle with you?” he asked.
Without waiting for my response, he climbed onto the couch next to me. Within two minutes, he was back to sleep again.
Of course, I was there wide awake. Playing sensory detective.
Maybe he’s getting sick too? I thought. It would make sense. His sleep and behavior change about two to three days before he’s actually showing signs of illness. Could this be why he needed his yogurt?
But something wasn’t quite right. It was the “my foot hurts” part.
I thought back to right before he fell asleep earlier in the night. At his actual bedtime.
He had asked for a yogurt then too. And said his foot hurt.
And I had said no. It was bedtime and we were done with food and drink.
I remember that as he fell asleep I heard his stomach rumbling and had a little pang of guilt that I didn’t let him have the yogurt.
Could it be that he was just hungry? And instead of knowing that his stomach was the one that hurt, he said it was his foot?
He can tell me when something smells bad or feels wrong or tastes weird in his mouth. He’s learned to cover his ears or wear his headphones when the world is too loud. He’s beginning to ask for sensory breaks in school to go jump on the trampoline or spin outside when needed, and he’s sitting on his weighted lap pad at circle time because the floor is too hard.
But knowing when he’s actually hungry or tired or needing to use the bathroom…he’s still struggling to learn those signs from his body. As verbal as he is, we used PECS for toilet training when he was younger because he couldn’t put the words together fast enough to tell us what he needed.
Hunger is just not a feeling that motivates him or connects with him. It’s pretty rare that I actually hear him say “I’m hungry”. It’s usually “I need a warmed up yogurt.” We follow it up with statements like “you need to eat something that you can chew.” Which is followed by ten minutes of moaning and complaining until he eats a fruit bar. Or a few pretzels.
He woke up this morning in a decent mood. As I write, he’s sitting back in his favorite chair drinking his before school warmed up yogurt. No complaints about his foot hurting, no signs of illness.
In about a day or two, I’ll know if he was actually getting sick or if he was just hungry.
I just wish he could tell me now.
I know just what you’re saying
So please stop explaining
Don’t tell me cause it hurts
I know what you’re thinking
I don’t need your reasons
Don’t tell me cause it hurts” – Don’t Speak by No Doubt