Philip hasn’t fallen asleep yet.
That, in and of itself, isn’t unusual. It’s not actually past his bedtime. On this particular occasion, I’m surprised he is still awake since we had worried he would fall asleep too early. He took the briefest of naps midday and then was full of energy until early evening. He laid down a few times and his eyes threatened to shut, but I roused him. I know, I know. The old saying is to let sleeping dogs lie. But this isn’t a dog. It’s a toddler that doesn’t tell time. There is no going to bed early, only taking an extremely late nap and waking back up around midnight or 1:00 am.
But we haven’t had those problems on a regular basis as of late. By forcing myself to get up at the same time every day and so that I can also get Philip up, we’ve settled into a stable schedule. Sure, I don’t get to sleep in on weekends, but I’d rather have the consistency so that I’m not up until 2:00 am on weekdays.
But this post isn’t about sleep issues. It’s about what Philip is doing on this particular night as he fights off sleep. He’s not slap-happy and laughing hysterically for no apparent reason. He’s not racing back and forth the living room in a final spurt of energy before finally relaxing into sleep. He’s not even doing head stands on the couch to get some pre-bedtime vestibular input.
I don’t recognize the tune, and I’m not certain of the words. It sounds like he is improvising lyrics using his, until now, only spoken catchphrases “one-two” and “what’s that.”
Before this day, I had never heard him sing before.
My mom noticed it earlier. We were at my parents’ house after breakfast. Philip was playing by himself in the living room as Mom and I looked at some pictures in the dining room.
“It sounds like he’s singing,” she said to me.
As soon as she had said something, the singing seemed to stop. But I cautiously agreed with her.
“Yeah, it kind of does.”
Later, when we were back home and standing together in the kitchen, I heard it again. It was definitely singing. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. I was quickly switching between both. I wanted to laugh because it was cute, I wanted to cry because it seemed like a gift. I wasn’t sure if either reaction was appropriate, so I choked both back to just listen to his song.
This morning, Philip started singing as I pushed the stroller up our driveway. We had just returned from a walk.
“Was Philip singing?” Peter asked when we got in the house.
“He sure was,” I told him. Peter had also heard this new sound in our house yesterday. I told him how Philip was singing before bedtime last night.
We’ve heard it several times since. This evening I started singing Philip a song while I changed his diaper, and Philip started to sing his song, too. Again, I had to fight tears.
I know it is selfish of me, but I have been harboring this secret sense of loss ever since we learned Philip is autistic. Philip is autistic. It is a part of who he is, so wishing it away would be like wishing away a part of his identity. However, it is sometimes hard to let go the life I had imagined with Philip. I’ve written before about my previous life as a music teacher. I was certain that music would be an integral part of my child’s life. I looked forward to making music together with my son. When he got his diagnosis, I thought I had lost that future.
The truth is that Philip’s life is full of music. He enjoys listening and moving to music. I’ve incorporated music into routines, and those recurring songs have helped increase his receptive language. And now, it appears that he is finding joy in singing. I have to let go of what I thought his musical life should be and learn to embrace what it is.
We went to my parents’ for a Labor Day cookout. My best friend is in town for the week and joined us. When she arrived, Philip started singing.
Not surprisingly, Philip seems to sing when he is relaxed, playing and happy.
It makes Mommy happy, too.