In our family, whenever we start planning a vacation I start stressing out. “Trip away” or “change of scenery” might be a better description of what we do, because in the nearly seven years since my son’s birth, excursions with him demand way more energy and hypervigilance than regular life at home. Museums, water parks, and other kid-centered places present multiple triggers for meltdowns, and hotel rooms have not been outfitted to accommodate my child’s deficits. Doors cannot be locked inside to keep avid explorers from getting out, electronics remain within tempting reach, and decorative displays often feature glass and sharp edges that make them hazardous or prone to breakage.
The worst is the sleeping situation.
My husband and I get so little sleep on vacation that I have begun asking for prayer for the situation via group emails before we even take off. At home, my son’s bedroom is set up to keep distraction and danger to a minimum, so he can remain calm and safe when he’s in there alone. When we travel, the separation between our sleeping space and his disappears, with one of us (usually me) sharing a bed with the energizer bunny should he wake up and wander. Needless to say, exciting new living quarters all but guarantee that my kid will be bouncing off the walls (while chirping and singing incessantly) rather than settling down for the night. Besides staying up late, he tends to sleep in short stretches, often waking up in the wee hours, ready to vocalize and play. It’s enough to bring even the hardiest adult to tears, and the fear of bothering “normal” guests around us adds an additional layer of tension.
During our last spring break trip to Vermont, I contemplated the best way to handle the last night in our hotel suite, which contained two queen beds side by side. The three nights previous had not gone smoothly, to say the least. I had been woken repeatedly and stomped on by an overstimulated child determined to jump on every inch of the mattress we both occupied. This ordeal had yielded some valuable information, however, in that I learned to dress my son more lightly so that he wouldn’t “overheat” in a strange bed and get up. As I stripped him down and brushed his teeth, I discussed sleeping options with my husband, who suggested that I let our child sleep by himself that night, in the hopes that he would do fine on his own and me much better in a separate bed. I resisted. (Exhausted parents frequently get stuck in the ruts they do know, rather than trying new options they don’t). When I briefly prayed about it, the words let go popped into my head, clearly enough to cut through all my fatigue and mental paralysis.
So I did. I let my child sleep alone in the bed we’d been sharing. What the heck. Whatever our state the next morning, we’d be back in our own beds the next day.
Of course everybody slept through that last night in Vermont, a miracle which got me thinking (when I was lucid enough to think). What other blessings—no, absolute necessities—might I be preventing from coming my way because I’m not willing to let go? Not willing to surrender something that needs to be put aside anyway?
By traveling the two feet from one hotel bed to another, I had made a monumental shift that allowed the very provision we all needed so badly. Without realizing it, my instinct to protect my son by staying near him was actually hindering his rest. Apparently, he not only needed lighter clothes to sleep better, but more room to move, unimpeded, in the night.
Fast forward to the beginning of May, when I realized that it was the last full month of my son’s final stint at his school. Next fall he starts first grade at a new school, one much bigger and busier than the “little pond” he has attended the last four years. All the teachers, therapists, aides, and other staff who have become like family as they guided him from a nonverbal toddler to an expressive, engaged little boy, will no longer be part of our daily life. Very soon they will have turned their incredible gifts to other children while my son swims in deeper waters that can better accommodate his growth at this point. It is that natural order of things.
Needless to say I’m traumatized even thinking about this huge transition. Worried not only for my son, who typically resists change in his routine, but also for myself, as his main source of security. How will I help him make that monumental leap from one resting place to another? How do I surrender him to an entirely new team of people who do not yet know him? Has he gained enough language to understand that I am not abandoning him forever to strangers when I drop him off that first day? Will I build the same kind of rapport with the professionals in the bigger pond? Will they become family too?
I sincerely hope that the voice that said let go when I was sleepless and frazzled in Vermont will help me do so in Connecticut, because I’m already stressing out again. I believe the voice knows of which it speaks, having surrendered a son to an unwieldy world so that he, and we, could take our proper places in the ongoing story of creation. Perhaps I will hear other words telling me how to cope when the Tough Parts come, as they inevitably do with every transition. Praying that I do will probably increase my chances, as will sharing my anxiety with loved ones. Good advice so often flows from those closest to us, as it did for me this last vacation.
What are you holding onto that needs to be released? Does that desperate clutching come from sheer fatigue? Fear of the unknown?
Whatever it is, take a deep breath, ask for help, and open those hands. It’s the only way to find out how closely you are being held by those around you and the One above you.
Chances are that what you need, be it deeper rest or more room to move, lies just inches away, on the other side of that surrender.
What’ve you got to lose?