A few months ago, a transformer blew on our street, setting fire to a tree right outside our house. Since then, our street has lost power four times. Just our street. As we are the first house on the street, we can clearly see that the houses behind us and on the cross-street right next to us are all merrily lit. This is frustrating.
The first two times the power failed wasn't a problem at all. It happened late at night, and power was restored by morning. The kids didn't even know it had happened. Himself and myself, having been raised in Western Europe in the 70s, and having experienced the great Northeastern Blackout of 2003, are reasonably well prepared for short duration power cuts and weren't phased at all.
Then a couple of weeks ago, the family arrived home after an evening at the movies to discover the power had failed again. The adults immediately went to the locations where flashlights and candles are kept, but the kids were completely freaked out. Particularly Joe. Aspies don't like change, and an unexpected change to his safe place definitely unnerved him.
Luckily there was a charged laptop available, as so we all sat down with a movie to approximate normality for awhile. I didn't realize how upset Joe was by the whole deal until he asked to sleep in our bed. He NEVER asks to do that. Joe loves his bed and his personal space. So the kids and I slept in the big bed that night, while poor Himself, dispossessed, slept in Joe's room. The power was restored a few hours later, and nothing more was said, although each kids quietly received an extra flashlight to keep by their beds.
On Friday evening after dark, the kids and I were alone in the house and the power went out again. I called out to them to stay put, got the flashlight and enlisted their help in lighting the candles. Himself came home shortly thereafter and wisely suggested a trip to the movies. After the movies, Himself, who was having good ideas that day, suggested we drop into Target and pick up some camping lanterns. We got a few small lanterns and one big one. We also got a couple of glowstick/flashlights thingys for the kids.
The lanterns were an inspired idea. Turns out Joe was freaked out as much by the naked flames of the candles as he was about the dark house, causing a lot of conflict (you blow out the candle to neutralize the threat of fire, it gets darker). So he relaxed after we got the lanterns on and the candles off. He even announced that he wanted to sleep in his own bed.
I realized when I saw him wandering around on his tippytoes (he is a toe walker) with a lantern in one hand, a flashlight in the other and a glowstick around his neck, that his staying alone was probably a bad idea, but I said nothing. As Grace and I were getting ready for bed he changed his mind: "I think I am too scared to sleep in my own bed. Does it make me a chicken if I want to sleep in here after all?" I said it didn't make him a chicken. It made him normal. And honest. So we all snuggled into the big bed, where I told them stories from my childhood and confessed that I liked power outages because I never got an opportunity like this otherwise.
Later, as I heard Grace's breathing become slow and peaceful in one ear, and Joe's slow and serious in the other, I thought back to his change of heart about sleeping in his own bed: I think he thought he had somehow failed by admitting he was scared, whereas I know it had been a kind-of breakthrough for him.
How can I explain to an eleven-year-old that knowing your needs and limitations is not weakness, but is a different kind of power?