Of course, I believe in miracles.
I believe in large-scale miracles, like the Chanukah story. I believe in smaller-scale miracles, too, like the breathless tales told by other people who just missed being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Yes, I believe in miracles large and small, but I’ve never believed they could happen to me. But this past month has changed that belief.
My family and I were blessed to experience a modern-day miracle of marvelous magnitude.
Ready to hear what the miracle was?
My thirteen-year-old son began sleeping in his own bed.
Not what you were expecting? That’s because you haven’t heard the full story.
It started more than a decade ago. When my second son, Tzvi, was old enough to sleep through the night, my husband and I had a decision to make: Do we purchase a second crib, or do we move two-year-old Naftali into a bed? We opted to stick to our carefully-constructed budget: a crib was a few hundred dollars, and Naftali would quickly grow out of it. We thought he would adjust well to his brand-new bed and then life with two toddlers would continue as usual.
We thought wrong. Because nothing about life with our toddlers would turn out to be usual.
What we did not know then was that Naftali would soon be diagnosed with autism – and that 83% of children with autism suffer from sleep disorders.
Moving Naftali to a bed turned out to be a terrible idea. When we moved him into a bed, he suddenly had the ability to roam free. Instead of waiting around or playing with his toys when he was unable to sleep, he jumped out of bed as soon as he woke up. Even if it was smack-dab in middle of the night.
Worse, we also discovered that Naftali had great difficulty falling asleep. We began lying down with him until he fell asleep. We’d close the lights and the door and then just wait. And wait some more.
For at least an hour – and sometimes two or three – Naftali would stare at the ceiling, fidget and fuss, but sleep would not come. We sang lullabies and read stories. We insisted on absolute silence around the house, we played classical music, and we gave him massages. Nothing helped.
We spoke to doctors and therapists. We tried a million and one different tricks. We bought a weighted blanket. We gave him a spoonful of peanut butter right before bedtime. We cut sugar from his supper. Finally, we started giving him melatonin every night right before bed. But melatonin only helped him fall asleep – it didn’t help him stay asleep.
So every single night Naftali would wake to discover that we had stealthily escaped his room. With his eyes half open, he’d stumble into our room and stay there for the rest of the night.
Every therapist we consulted told us the same thing: When he wakes up in the middle of the night and comes to your room, you need to take his hand and gently walk him back to his room.
Nice plan. In theory.
When we tried to bring him back to his room, he would yell. And kick. And fight as if his life depended on it. In time, we baruch Hashem had three other sleeping children, and we preferred to prevent Naftali’s tantrums so the other kids could sleep. We stopped fighting him. It was absurd. We knew it. But it would take a miracle to get him to stay in his own room, and we didn’t expect a miracle anytime soon.
After this summer, though, I took a long, hard look at Naftali. He was not a little kid anymore – he now stands taller than five feet and dons tefillin. He didn’t belong in his parents’ room every night.
I wasn’t helping him– I was hurting him.
We hired a behavioral therapist who came to our home. We smiled through that first meeting, feigning optimism. But as soon as he left, my husband and I looked at each other and sighed. What was the use in even trying? Nothing ever worked.
That night, I awoke to see Naftali climb into my husband’s bed. It broke my heart. I looked up at the ceiling and offered up a prayer to the One Who can achieve any miracle, big or small. I sent the tefillah off to the Heavens and tried to ignore the doubt in my heart.
But the most amazing, wondrous, miraculous thing occurred.
From the very first night, the behavior therapist’s plan worked. After the first week, Naftali was not only going to sleep in his own bed without us lying down with him, but he was staying in his bed for the entire night.
For the first time in TEN YEARS.
Maybe Naftali was finally old enough to feel safe in his own bed. Maybe my husband and I had finally found the resolve to stick to a plan that was difficult for us.
Or maybe – maybe it was simply a miracle.
Maybe the special neshamah entrusted in our care had given our family the zechus to bear witness to a modern-day nes, right in our home.
I’m opting to believe in miracles.
I hope you will too.