The Boy has never really liked night time. Bedtime has always had an element of fear. It's not so much darkness, it's the shadows he doesn't like. In the dark corners of rooms, in the recesses, that's where the monsters lurk. And when the lines between reality and make-believe are forever blurred, those monsters can seem only too real.
As night falls, so his little routine starts. All cupboards must be closed. Tightly. Wardrobe doors shut. Keep the darkness inside of them. He will close them himself nowadays, there was a time when he couldn't even bring himself to do that, for fear of something reaching out and grabbing him. We'd have to do a sweep of the flat together in silence, me in front, him pointing to each offending piece of furniture in turn. We'd finish with the bed, the final sweep for monsters underneath before getting the all-clear. I wondered where his old teddies had gone off his bed, then I found them - alongside empty Lego boxes they were stuffed down the side to fill the gap where the shadows form when no-one is looking.
As soon as he's in from school he'll start turning lights on, preparing for the imminent nightfall. Time to flood the place with light. Every light. Except for table lamps or bedside lamps - they're redundant in this house. The light from them is too soft, it throws off sinister shadows that dance across the walls and leaves too many corners unlit. No, it must be the ceiling lights. Bright. Clinical.
And although cupboard doors must be closed, room doors are different, they must be flung far open to share the light. Once night time has fallen no room door can be closed, they must all be opened so the flat becomes one giant room. Bathroom, kitchen, bedrooms - all wedged open, all lit brightly. I can almost imagine my own Dad shuddering at the thought of all that wasted electricity seeping out of every wall. But at least there's nowhere for the demons of the night to hide.
Then The Boy goes to bed. And after ensuring it's brighter than an operating theatre he buries himself deep under his duvet. Then he builds a tent out of three pillows and burrows his head deep under there too. It's too dark for shadows under there. Safe in the knowledge that nothing can reach him because on the other side of his makeshift tent he's surrounded by light.
After half an hour of silence from the bedroom, Dad will decide the coast is clear. In the lounge he'll finally get the chance to remove his sunglasses and click the ceiling light off. The shadows from the flickering TV come to life. And within seconds, a monster stirs... footprints across the hallway and then a silent hand reaches around the doorframe, flicking the switch back on.
Dad should have learnt by now, The Boy has told him often enough... always leave the lights on, and little monsters sleep.
This blog is about bringing up The Boy. He's 12 years old and autistic. It's written by The Dad. It's my words, my view. Other people will think differently and have different opinions. Good.