Breaking Traditions

We don’t use the word ‘pajamas’ in our house. When I was growing up, clothes that we slept in were called ‘nighties’ instead of ‘pajamas,’ and I didn’t like them much anyway. I would have rather worn a t-shirt and sweatpants to bed, which I started doing in college. I had my kids do the same; it just seemed more comfortable.

When Aidan could talk (which was delayed, possibly because of having an older autistic sibling), he asked, “Why are the pants called ‘sweatpants?'”

Me: Because some people wear them when they’re exercising and they sweat.

Aidan: But we don’t.

Hence, the phrase sleeping pants was conceived. And in the summer, they wear sleeping shorts. Everything has to be labeled very literally around here.

Bedtime is always a mad dash for the boys to get everything done that they wanted to do for the day, all of their little Lego projects, stuff they wanted to look up online, as well as the requisite teeth-brushing, homework-checking, and lunch-making for the next day. As a result, they are rarely in bed at the stated time, which is as late as I can stand it because they have never, even as babies, needed much sleep for some unlucky reason.

So it’s 10:30 PM and I’m really wanting to close up shop for the night and maybe read in bed for half an hour before going to sleep myself. Aidan’s already down (required since he’s younger), but Nigel is still in mad-dash mode. He’s running out to the game room to find one last Lego piece (a Ghengis Khan-style helmet), he’s printing out a chart of the International Date Line from Wikipedia, and he’s saying good night to the cat. I order him to brush his teeth and get in bed because I want to go to bed.

I shut off the lights, check the doors, turn down the heater, and go back to Nigel’s room to say good night to him, hoping he’s ready.

Nigel: I have to put on my sleeping pants.

Me: Let me say good night to you and then put on your sleeping pants.

Nigel: I have to put my sleeping pants on before you say good night to me. It breaks my traditions.

And in the second before I respond, I think, Wow, what a beautiful sentence. Two! He can now express his needs with words instead of screaming, as he would have just a few short years ago. And I say, “Okay,” and close the door until he says, “I’m finished.”

Yes, he has his rituals. Things often need to be done in a certain order (unfortunately cleaning his room does not fall into that category). But there are many things that Nigel’s flexible about, and I can give him a minute to finish up with the rituals that he feels a need to perpetuate. The traditions. They bring some semblance of order to his often harried brain. And who am I to break traditions? Except maybe pajamas.

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