There's an acquaintance of mine that lives in the Seattle area (I'll call him Ed). He lived in Asia for several years, then moved back to the states. His wife and he ended up divorcing, and his two sons lived with him. They were still pre-teens/early teens, and the divorce was as hard (or harder) on them as it was on him.
Ed is a counselor by training and profession, and after the divorce had problems with his own two kids acting out. He related to me once how every night when they were sleeping he would sit by their bedsides and whisper softly to them. He would tell them how much he loved them, and talk positively about some aspect of each child each day. He said there's no way of telling if this ever influenced them, but gradually they all got better.
Something about this story struck me, and as I was a new father at the time (we had recently adopted Buddy Boy) I incorporated this into my bedtime routine with him, and later with Sweet Pea.
So in addition to reading and singing to the kids, I would whisper things to them. I would tell them about how great they were, how Liz and I loved them to the moon and back, and about all the wonderful things they would do when they grew up.
I don't do this as much with Sweet Pea or Buddy Boy at bedtime anymore, but I have continued this with Buddy Boy in the middle of the night.
Buddy Boy, like many kids on the spectrum, has had some problems with toilet training. His sister pretty much self trained at 3 years old, but with Buddy Boy it's always been a bit of a struggle. At 7 he's fine during the day, but unless we wake him up to take him to the bathroom during the night he's sure to be wet in the morning. Even with taking him at night there are still about 30% wet mornings, but at least if he's been taken at night it's confined to his pullups, and doesn't spread to the rest of the bed.
When I take him to the bathroom and lead him back to bed he's basically sleepwalking. If I don't guide him where to go he would probably bump into something. After taking him back to bed I will usually whisper a few things to him. I tell him what a great kid he is, and how I'm proud of him because of (something that he did good that day). I tell him how much fun I have with him, and how happy I am that I'm his father. I don't make it too long, and whisper very softly, for I don't want to wake him up (especially as we've been having sleep issues).
Usually he just lies there, looking as beautiful and peaceful as he did as a baby. But sometimes as I'm talking I see a smile come across his lips, and I know that I've penetrated his subconscious on some level.
It's one of those pure father and son moments that bind us together. I think it helps both of us know that no matter how hard things are, we will always have our love for each other. And that that love makes the two of us together stronger than the sum of what each of us brings to the table.
I'm going to miss this when he doesn't need us anymore to assist him in the middle of the night. I might have to slip into his bedroom just to whisper to him for the heck of it.
Me- Joe, husband of a great wife, and dad to two great kids, who were both adopted at birth.
Liz- My ever understanding wife, who manages to wear many hats (mom, advocate, therapist, teacher) for our kids.
Buddy Boy- Born in 2000. Funny, intelligent, inventive, and autistic. Loves machines.
Sweet Pea- Born in 2002. Typical little sister. Competitive, outgoing, and smart. Loves anything pink.