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Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Bowling and a Movie

Your kid gets invited to a friend's bowling birthday party...awesome! You get the gift, make sure your little guy signs the card, and dispatch Daddy and son to the bowling alley. You think hurray! Another notch in the childhood memory belt. Childhood should be full of carefree bowling parties with your friends. It's good to be a kid.

Then you remember your kid has Sensory Processing Disorder. And Tourette Syndrome. And that nothing ever goes according to plan when you throw those two factors into the mix.

I got a call from Daddy, after he had finally, successfully gotten Aidan ready for his friend's party. Alex said it had been quite a process. First of all, you're supposed to wear socks at a bowling alley- socks are Aidan's most frightening nemesis. He couldn't handle the socks. The seams were wrong, the tightness was wrong, the whole thing was terribly frustrating. Then he put the bowling shoes on, size 1, like I had pre-ordered. Aidan said they were too tight. He was really getting upset, and Alex was really trying to stay calm. Aidan's friends were calling him, telling him it was almost his turn to bowl. Alex had Aidan try a size 2 shoe. Too lose. Bothered his ankle. Alex finally got Aidan in a size 1 1/2 shoe, with NO socks. Despite how many disgusting, sweaty, six year old feet go in those shoes, at least the shoes were on Aidan's feet and he was ready for his turn at bowling. 

Now you remember. Just a fun little birthday party can be riddled with mines for a child like our sensitive, frustrated Aidan. Jumpy places are the same way. Aidan desperately wants to jump, but loathes socks so much he can hardly bear it. The need to jump on huge inflatable bouncy things always wins out over the horror of putting on a sock, so it works out. But I forgot that he'd probably have to wear socks at the bowling party. And it almost derailed all the fun. Sometimes I forget about the severity of our kids' various "quirks", and when I fail to prepare for the situation, it never goes smoothly.

Earlier this school year, Ben had a field trip with his class for Earth Day. They were going to go see a movie at a theater! It sounded like so much fun to me. I was thrilled on his behalf. The two days prior to the field trip, Ben was home sick. The day of the field trip, he was healthy enough to go back to school but had a complete freakout meltdown about going. His anxiety was through the roof. I finally wiggled out of him that he was terrified of going to the movie theater with his class. He struggles at theaters as it is, but always has someone there to take care of him like Grandma or Mom or Dad. He was scared to death of going to a movie without a person he trusted to take care of him. I was dumbfounded at first- how could a kid not want to get out of school and go to a movie for a field trip with his class?? But then I looked at it all from Ben's perspective and realized it made perfect sense. The noise of the theater, the people, the strangers, the temperature, the darkness, the worrying about what if he had to get up and pee, what would it be like to be at a movie without Mom, what if he got lost...I went with my Mommy Gut that day and let Ben stay home from school. I didn't make him face his fear and go to the movie with his class. He was insanely grateful, so grateful it sort of broke my heart. I was grateful that I had figured out what the problem was and decided to let him stay home. 

I know most parents probably would have made their kid go to school, it's just a movie after all! But if you know Ben the way I know Ben, it just wasn't worth putting him through all that. I would take him to the movie some other day when he felt safe and secure and he'd learn more that day anyway because his brain would be available for learning instead of caught up in anxiety. It just strikes me sometimes, stops me in my tracks, to look at the world through my kids' eyes. Bowling parties are filled with potential dangers, movie field trips are riddled with possible triggers of a meltdown. These things I think are fun and would have killed to do as a kid, my kids struggle with so much. When you parent kids like mine, you have to come at parenthood from a different angle. Things that make sense to "normal" kids and parents just don't work the same way in our house. Field trips are a change of routine, scary, unpredictable. Bowling is filled with noise, people, lights, action, too much stimuli. AND you have to wear socks. Unless you have a great Daddy who realizes you're not going to bowl at all if you have to wear those socks, so lets you go barefoot in your sweaty, germy bowling shoes. Because he wants you to experience the party and have fun being a kid. Because Daddy loves you and 'gets' you. Sometimes it's hard to understand why our kids act the way they do. You definitely have to think outside the box with these kids of ours, and that's why many people don't 'get' our parenting techniques or our kids.

We try the best we can to give our kids fun, normal opportunities like many other kids get to experience. Sometimes, though, you have to realize that your kid does have special needs and experiences need to be modified. I'm still surprised sometimes at how the things I take for granted, like bowling or a movie, can be such sources of anxiety and discomfort for my kids. We do what we can to give our kids what they need in order to participate in regular life, while still making sure their individual needs are accommodated. I guess that's what makes life interesting- that we are all so different. My kids always keep me on my toes with their variety of unique needs. They have taught me so much about how to celebrate and cherish our individual 'specialness' while living in a world that usually centers around people who do not have special needs. Because of my kids, I look at the world differently, and appreciate all the little things that I used to take for granted. 

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