My son Jonah is 30. Ashton Kutcher handsome. Silent. A human being who has never sinned in his entire life. And yet over the years his autism has given us a run, (I should say at breakneck speeds) for our money. Sleeplessness. Seizures. Unexplained self-injurious behaviors. But last night, during our weekly visit with him, he had no idea what kind of gift he gave me.
Typically he comes to our home every Sunday night for “Shabbos dinner.” Every Friday night I prepare a Thanksgiving-grade meal, with plenty of leftovers. From homebaked bread, soups, and main courses, to desserts, Jonah gets his “Shabbos meal, a couple of days later.
Yesterday our schedule was such that we went to his house to visit him. It was 8 p.m. He was falling asleep on the couch watching a Disney movie. He allowed me to snuggle up to him, (not a given when someone has autism) and sat holding my hand and resting his leg on mine. Then, after a few minutes, he stood up, walked to his bedroom, got into bed, pulled up his blanket and went to sleep.
He read his body cues. He knew what he needed and followed suit. By himself. Understanding that bed is the best place to sleep. No one told him it was time for bed. It was, an 100 percent independent activity that he chose.
It may not seem like a leap for someone who is tired to get into bed and go to sleep. But seeing him do this filled me with joy. He lives a life with shadows, one on ones, someone always supervising him. He has to. He doesn’t understand danger and needs that level of supervision. But that he was able to judge his own exhaustion and do what was necessary to properly address it, was something I’d never really seen before.
It’s not often that a parents will say, “my 30 year old son was tired and went to bed.” But that’s what he did. I kissed him goodnight, the way a mother of a small sleeping child might, and left feeling like I had been given a gift. A show of independence, a rarity in my adult son’s life.