Bedtime rituals confound

Published 12:00am Wednesday, July 11, 2012

There was a white fluffy stuffed dog, a colorful fabric turtle, her big soft bunny and eight other stuffed animals in my daughter’s bed. Lately, she is putting them under the covers with her before she goes to sleep.

For years, the white bunny and a favorite book were her companions, but now all the others, a stuffed monkey, a pink pig, a tiger and even a strange alien-looking creature join her in bed each night. As I changed the sheets, I removed each one, putting them back in their places in the room until tonight when she brings them to bed with her again.

I wondered why she has this group of things that she needs with her, and I wish she could tell me. However, because autism limits her ability to explain, it remains a mystery. Maybe she likes the feel of them against her body. I know she likes pressure and often asks me for a “squeeze.”

Although I doubt that it is about security, the sight of her collection reminded me of a time in my own life when I filled my bed with stuff, which surely left my parents wondering what in the world I was doing. And for me it was about security.

I cannot remember how old I was, maybe 5 or so. What I do remember is the need I felt to have certain things with me at night. While my daughter wants stuffed animals, which is not such an unusual choice, the objects I chose were not things you’d think about a child wanting in her bed.

One of the things I clearly remember having was a doily. I think it was crocheted and lacey looking. There were other odd things, maybe scraps of fabric or a piece of clothing. There were also some stuffed animals and my favorite “little pillow.”

I think I recall Mother getting a bit frustrated with the time it took me to get everything together at bedtime. Once, I remember sleeping downstairs in a different bedroom and having to bring my load with me, which Mother allowed me to do even though it took a couple of trips to get it from one bed to the other.

What comes back to me are the feelings associated with my ritual. I don’t know if I ever told either of my parents why I needed my bedtime things. I’m not sure how it started or why, but some how each of the items were, in my mind, associated with my mother.

Although it makes no sense looking back now as an adult, at the time, having them with me made me feel close to Mother, and again, for reasons I don’t recall, I needed that feeling of closeness at night.

Maybe this all happened about the time the sister nearest in age to me was born and I felt a little anxious about a new baby. Or maybe it was near the time I started to school and I had some separation anxiety. Whatever the reasons, I am grateful my parents allowed me to drag it all under the covers every night until the time arrived when I was able to let it go on my own.

That is what I am doing with my daughter. While I’d love to understand why she needs 11 stuffed animals in bed with her, I don’t and probably never will understand her reasons.

I guess we all have our strange little rituals that make sense only to us, and those who unconditionally love us, like my parents did when I was a child, allow us to have them without questioning our sanity, at least not aloud.

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