Late nights and late fights

My family loves late nights.  I don’t. 

Having been an early riser for many years because of my job, I prefer to start my day in the coolness and quietness of the morning.  They sleep in. And they stay up late.  Often past my usual bedtime, they watch TV, play computer games, fuss in their rooms, eat late night snacks, take late night showers and have arguments.  Though I don’t mind most of the activity when done quietly, the latter is the problem. Is it so hard to consider the inevitability of an argument given that they are so tired, patience being so thin?
Studies blather on about our lack of sleep and its negative impact on our health and well-being.  Seriously, why do we take our bodies and minds for granted?

Can we keep the drama on TV please?
A recent fight included a comment made by my husband–the one with asperger’s. Perhaps it was a comment about gays, maybe it was a comment about her driving, or a reminder to take her pills (which she’s decided is a comment about her maturity). It could have been a comment that she disagreed with or one that touched on her insecurities of feeling not smart enough (leftover from learning disabilities). Since the comment is rarely worthy of mention, the content of the comment isn’t the point. Nor frankly is the exact nature of our daughter’s reaction. She’s tired, too, after all. He puts his foot in his mouth regularly. She reacts frequently. Patterns repeat.

Emotional dysregulation affects relationships
I’ve recently come upon a book about BPD that has helped me see her reaction more clearly. It talks about the shame and anxiety that a BPD sufferer experiences. One section on nurturing relationships highlights the emotional dysregulation and the twitchy trigger on blow ups. In Overcoming Borderline Personality Disorder, Valerie Porr says that “They have … difficulty tolerating unpleasant feelings [and] their responses will be out of sync with the responses of the people with whom they are interacting.” So if my daughter is emotionally vulnerable and her father is equally un-emotionally clued in, the likelihood of a fight is strong. Add in the day’s exhaustion and the need for space in our small home, it’s a sure bet there’ll be an argument at a late hour.

The soothing voices of PBS and BBC
For some reason, though, watching late night documentaries is different. Maybe it’s the lack of controversy or the soothing voice of the narrator–often a British accent underscoring the gravity of string theory, the importance of Civil War documents or the impact of Roman architecture, but when the two watch a documentary, there are rarely, if ever, outbursts. She listens to his bits (large and lengthy though they can be!) of knowledge, and he answers her questions. My guess is that in these moments, she returns to what they once were. He, a trusted daddy who shares all he knows, and she, an interested student of all he longs to share as an inheritance. She gains a sense of security in these memories and so does he.

Time out
I used to get up out of bed and join the raised voices. In the last two years, I’ve tried to remind him of the drama–late night or not– and then stay out of it. It hasn’t been easy. Poor’s book has made it easier to talk with my husband about the logic of keeping our house calm, of maintaining a sleep schedule that protects our sanity; though, I can’t say he understood the role his comments played in the family drama. I can say with a smile that he’s been going to bed earlier when he’s exhausted, sometimes even earlier than I do.

Lest he be the only award winner of blame in these family dramas, be assured that she’s begun to identify her needs and her hot buttons, working on those triggers and the reactions. And more frequently, she spends time in her bedroom watching what she loves on her computer.

Now if I can just convince her to turn it off earlier and get some sleep!

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