The Cliffs Of Insanity

The Princess Bride From: Happy Aspies

It always happens like this. We are having a great evening. The kids are getting along and actually playing together. Like really getting along. And then one of us – tonight it happened to be Eliot – suggests that we do something out of the ordinary. He suggested that we watch a movie as a family. Of course, it was 7:15 when he came up with the idea, the grass was half cut and needed to be finished and the kids were covered with dirt and needed to be bathed. A sane person would have looked at all that needed to be done and said, eh, we’ll do it another night. But we went for it.

I showered the kids while E finished the lawn and went to get the movie. We were torn between E.T. and The Princess Bride. We opted for the later because it is shorter. We put in the movie, made popcorn and passed around some treats. We had a great time.

The movie ended at 10:30. Two hours past bedtime. W is totally revved and getting his second wind. He is running around repeating “the cliffs of insanity” over and over again, wildly laughing. I thought this was actually a very appropriate line from the movie for him to be repeating at the moment because I knew what was coming. Total chaos and insanity. I managed to get his teeth brushed during the post movie craziness and thought I might get off easy and be able to talk to him quietly as he drifted off to sleep, but upon going into his room he announced that he would not be sleeping tonight until “way later” and that in fact he would be drawing in bed with his new Flair felt tip pens and that I would have nothing to say about it. I know that somewhere in his head he knew that I would not agree with this concept based on pure logic, nevermind his tone of voice.

Twenty minutes later I am reading to sweet little H, who has been patiently waiting for a story while we are trying to diffuse the chaos from his big brother. As I was laying with H and he was falling asleep I started to feel mad at myself for deviating from the routine and allowing this late movie. Everything I read about autism tells me to stick to a strict routine. After all that is what most kids need – autism or not. Kids need routine. Well, he has a routine and even when we don’t deviate he has meltdowns. Big ones sometimes. He was even saying it himself during his rant. “Why did you let me stay up late? I wanted to write with my pens and I watched that stupid movie and it had those battles and so now I am battling with you because you’re stupid. I am suppossed to be going to the park to ride my bike tomorrow and now I will just have to sit under the pavillion and write with my pens. All because of this stupidness!”

It’s easy to assume that what he was angry about was the lack of routine. He said it himself. A year ago I would have been convinced that we just shouldn’t have let him stay up. That his little rant was a plea for the normal bedtime routine. What I couldn’t see then is that he had some new pens and he was excited about using them. He wanted to spend some of his time using them before bedtime. He had them out all throughout the movie and he wasn’t expecting to not use them while he was watching. He became so stuck on the idea of using his pens that he couldn’t put it aside once the movie ended. I thought he forgot about his pens, but I have come to realize that he doesn’t forget. He just puts things on hold for awhile.

I think I am right to have a  routine for certain parts of the day. Both of my children benefit from this. I don’t think it’s right to assume that every meltdown could be avoided if I would have just stuck to the routine. And even if I could avoid all meltdowns by sticking to the routine I don’t think it is the wise thing to do.  Wouldn’t that be teaching him inflexibilty instead of flexibility? Isn’t that giving in to the challenges that asperger’s presents him with rather than challenging them? Would it be okay for me to not shift my perspective so I can better understand my husband and children just because I am not wired that way?

As much as I want to run from those insane moments and do everything in my power to make sure they never happen again, I know I won’t. And that is a good thing.

Stephanie Stewart
I don’t have asperger’s syndrome, but I am married to a man who does and we have two wonderful little boys. Our oldest son, Wolfie, is seven and has asperger’s syndrome.
Stephanie Stewart


I don’t have asperger’s syndrome, but I am married to a man who does and we have two wonderful little boys. Our oldest son, Wolfie, is seven and has asperger’s syndrome.

0 thoughts on “The Cliffs Of Insanity

  • New pens are cool to play with.   Watching a movie spontaneously could be fun.   But choosing to give up one of them is no fun.   I can relate.    +

    Boy I wish that sometimes I could just forget things & let them go.  Either that or get an alarm on my hold button — you know instead of the little voice keeping on tugging “Do me next.  Do me next.” it would just shut off ’til however long you set the alarm for and then say, “If it suits, do me now.  Otherwise when do you want the next reminder?”  Why is it so much easier to spontaneously add something than to spontaneously delay or delete something?

    In other words, my guess is W will never really like his routine being messed up.  (I still don’t like it when mine is.)  But he will develop better coping mechanisms & better discipline to try to talk himself into putting things on hold longer.  It’s all part of life.  It sounds like you are doing things just fine.

  • @keystspf@xanga – Thanks for your story. It makes me feel better in my choice to continue to push the issue of flexibility. The fact that your son is 10 and just went on a month long trek gives me hope that in a few years all the hard work we are doing now will pay off a little.

    I have learned to chill out on the bedtime thing as well. Wolfie has a youth companion dog that we got for him through Support Dogs, Inc. He is an amazing buddy to Wolfie. We have gotten to the point where after we read together, Chip (the doggie) gets in bed with Wolfie and he reads quietly or draws. No video games. He turns out his light when he is ready and falls alseep. I never thought we would get to this point, but here we are. It was when I stopped stressing so much about the fact that he wasn’t asleep “on time” that we got here. Maturity on Wolfie’s part helped too. 🙂

  • I’m sitting here giggling about this… My son does some of the same things. I do it too. I’ll have something I want to do and it will get pushed aside until “later” but that later might just mean me staying up half the night because I can’t sleep because I didn’t do it. It is easier for me, if it is something reasonable to do, to just do whatever it was that I pushed off so I CAN sleep. If it is not something reasonable to do, then it takes a good deal of convincing myself that I can do whatever it is tomorrow. I’m 31, so I’ve grown into some measure of talking myself into things… but I don’t think I could expect that of my ten year old son. He needs someone outside himself to talk him into it.

    Josh has gotten to where I can trust him to put himself to bed if he wants to finish something. The line is drawn at staying up to play video games though. Those make too much noise and bother everyone. (We have this awesome surround sound system that makes you feel like you’re actually inside the games.) He likes to read and draw, so I let him fall asleep reading or drawing if that is what it takes to get him to settle down. 

    I think that teaching kids that there is a time for routine and a time for spontaneity (sp?) is a good, though sometimes difficult, thing to do. I try to save my “insanity” for the summer time and stick to a fairly strict routine during the school year. This summer we took off for an entire month and trekked around in PA, NY, and VT. We had a blast. Josh, who usually is a bit crabby and difficult away from home, just told me that this was our best adventure yet. So, there is hope of growing into some of the flexibility that we Aspies seem to lack as young kids. It’s just a matter of being willing to put up with a bit of a fight until we get used to the idea.

    My mom did it. My mom thrived on adventure and dragged me along with her, usually kicking and screaming… but now, I’ve learned to like it myself. I’ve learned how to create my own adventures even… mine are a bit more structured and thought out than hers were. My idea of a last minute camping trip is two weeks in advance, while hers was one minute we’re talking about camping and the next thing we know, the car is packed and we’re on the road. The month long trip we just got home from was decided eight months before we did it. Josh had plenty of time to see it coming…LOL


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *