Saturday, May 26, 2007

The Child Whisperer

photo credit-shutterblog

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.


J said...

Awesome. Really ... awesome.

kristina said...

My husband does something the same---talking to Charlie in a low tone when he walks into regard the Sleeping Boy .

Myself, I make sure the blanket is tucked over his feet.

VAB said...

That's great. I am pretty sure that it would have a subconscious impact, but even if it didn't, it would be a good thing.

Mom without a manual said...

Beautiful! I can feel the love. Buddy Boy and Sweet Pea are really lucky to have the parents they do!

I also have spent today marveling at the gifts their childhood provides us parents.

There are so many things that I will miss as my son becomes older and more independent.

Anonymous said...

that is the most beautiful thing!!! i used to whisper to fluffy when he was in the throws of colic and then later when he was in the throws of a night terrror. i'm going to start doing it again at night. we have the same night trips to the bathroom!

Niksmom said...

I can so relate to this. Every night before I go to bed I slip into Nik's room and just watch him sleep. I whisper to him about how special and wonderful and loved he is. I tell him how strong and smart and funny and fearless he is. Been doing this ever since he as was often my only way of connecting during all those long months in the NICU.

Sharon McDaid said...

Buddy Boy and Duncan would be such good mates, I'm sure!

I whisper to my wee man when taking him to the toilet at nights too. But my husband enjoys whispering to, and gently kissing, the soft, curly head of his son while he's asleep even more than me. Duncan is much more physically cuddly with me than with his Dad, so he loves the chance to relish his beautiful, sleeping little boy gorgeousness.

mumkeepingsane said...

I've always whispered to my boys at night but never thought it could be good for them....I do it for me! It makes me feel good to whisper and cuddle and love when they're asleep. It gives me a bit more bonding time I guess since they're so busy and fast when they're awake.

Patrick's night trained but his 7 yr old NT brother is a matter of fact it seems we're in the exact same boat as you in that regard. Even with wake ups at night he's wet a lot of the time and he flows right out of that pull up too. I just keep telling myself it's a matter of time....which it is of course. He has my small bladder and makes a whole lotta pee!

Club 166 said...

Wow! I never knew so many people did this kind of thing.

I had almost forgotten about colic. Buddy Boy had "colic" for about 12 weeks. We changed formulas, did the amino acid formula thing, everything. Finally it burned itself out.

Sweet Pea's "colic" lasted 12 weeks until we finally figured out it was really GERD. We used to have to sleep with her strapped to one of us with a "Baby Bjorn" carrier. We each took turns sleeping in a reclining chair (Lazy Boy) every other night. Half the night was spent bouncing her around the house strapped to us, singing, chanting, cooing, etc. Anything to keep her from screaming. Then we would lay down for 20-30 minutes, until she would get up and scream again.

Two days after starting her on Prilosec, she was a new baby. Smiled for the first time, laughed, and "slept like a baby".

Sweet Pea had to continue the Prilosec for about 18 months, as I recall.

Daisy said...

Sniff. Lump in throat. Wonderful concept -- and wonderful post. Thank you so much for sharing.

Another Autism Mom said...

Wonderful post!

Can I share my story too?

From the time he was a baby, my 3-year-old will only fall asleep with me in my bed, and later my husband will carry him to his toddler bed. Every single night my husband whispers "Beautiful boy, I love you sooooo much", while he holds our son in his arms. Even though the boy is fast asleep at this point, I think he somehow hears it and registers it. Because last Summer we were all laying in bed together, and after we said our good nights, my son looked at us and said "sooo much".

Anonymous said...

Just so we know. Hearing NEVER shuts down when asleep. The brain continues to receive sound signals 24/7. How it innterprets the sounds is interesting. Have you ever had a dream where the sounds and voices you heard were actually in the room when you woke up? This is when you are 'hearing' sounds but your brain is placing them in the context of a dream. In any case, this is a great way of sending messages subconciously. I intend to do it with my daughter as she 4 , on the spectrum is exactly in the same bedtime situation as Buddy Boy. Thanks a lot for this post.

Anonymous said...

Sounds very familiar. Even since stopping the nightly toilet trips these days, now that Cameron is 10 (Aspie. I still check on him evevy few nights and can't help whispering those type of things myself

Anonymous said...

I tell my son every day that he is my angel sent from heaven and I truly believe it. All 3 of us - him, my husband and I - work very hard to help him learn the things that seem to come so effortlessly for others, but he is still and always will be my angel sent from heaven.