Parents of neurotypical children may not understand why this is such a huge deal. And that is okay. I, your autism interpreter, am here to explain it!
Last night I had to spend the night away from home (and away from my son) for the first time in years. This was planned a few weeks ahead of time, and we prepared him the best we could, with frequent reminders and reassurances that he could call me if he needed me, that I would be back today, that he is brave enough to handle one night without me. We prepared him, and I worried. Oh, he seemed fine with it. He just said, “Okay.” In the past, though, that “Okay”in response to upcoming events has been misleading, so I worried.
I worried because, despite my husband’s best efforts, my son simply has not bonded easily with him. I worried that, as usually happens, we would get to the day of the event (in this case, my leaving) and he would balk. That he would melt down at the sheer anxiety of living one single night without my close proximity. That this event would end like all of the past events that have become raging sh!tstorms.
My phone did not ring once. Let me repeat – my phone did not ring once. Not once did my son feel he needed to speak to me to reduce his anxiety. Not once did he feel so overwhelmed by my absence that he had to reach out for immediate reassurance. Not once did my husband feel so over his head that he had to call me for backup.
It was okay. I have no idea why…the social skills and executive functioning work the boy has been doing? The therapy? Progress with his anxiety? A slow (slow, slow, slow, slow) acceptance of my husband as a suitable, caring adult? All I know is that I was able to pull away and focus my attention someplace else it needed to be for one brief night…and it was okay.