Look, Up in the Sky…

I’ll admit it.  I have sensory issues.  I have since I was small.  I was a great eater, but refused to eat water chestnuts because of their watery crunch. I preferred not to wear socks. I cannot touch styrofoam without great discomfort, and the sound of its squeak will sent me running to another room with my hands over my ears.

This is why there should be no surprise that my first born starting showing signs of having sensory issues at about 2 years old.  A fire engine was parked in a neighborhood that we were visiting in preparation for the fireworks later that night. The firefighters were letting the neighborhood kids check out the engine and as we were passing by, they let out a quick blast of the horn that sent the usual happy, mellow B into hysterics that lasted the rest of the night and eliminated the option of us sticking around to watch the fireworks.

Since that time, B has had several incidents of going from perfectly normal to hysterical within seconds when confronted with loud noise, or even the prospect of it. I was late for work one morning because a fire truck was parked outside of my neighbors house and, while B thought it was the coolest thing to watch from the window, he clawed the at the doorframe screaming in fear as I tried to move him from the house to the car. We left two annual Fourth of July parties because the minute the fireworks started he ran aimlessly screaming until someone caught him and brought him to some sort of shelter. And while my friends all exchanged reviews of the newest Pixar film out in the movie theatre, I cringed at the memory of B throwing himself to the floor and curling into a fetal position outside the door of the “movie night” room at a hotel, screaming and pleading for us not to make him go inside.

The pediatrician felt it was a common occurrence for two and then three year olds to be sensitive to sound.  I thought that his seemed a lot more dramatic than other sensitivities I had seen in his peers. This was confirmed the night that we took him to his first live theatre production , Sesame Street Live, when he was two and a half and I was 6 months pregnant with C. He had loved Elmo since he turned 2 and we were excited for the opportunity to see him live on stage singing and dancing.  He was happy and excited all day and we were thrilled with anticipation.  All went well until Bert and Ernie came on stage to open the show with a song.  The music started playing and hundreds of toddlers jumped up and down dancing and singing.  And my child let out a primal scream and ran through the entire theatre and out into the lobby.  Two parents and six ushers spent the entire first act trying to calm him enough to get him to reenter the theatre. Following intermission, after spending the first half of the show that we paid big bucks to get front row seats for in the lobby, a very sweet usher was able to convince him to sit in a balcony seat to watch the second half of the show. He lasted through 3 notes of Cookie Monster’s ballad before again hitting the ground running and climbing up a very steep set of stairs to the very back of the theatre in an attempt to escape. When he got to the top, he ran back and forth along the very last (empty) aisle, desperate for an escape hatch. Finally, he sat on my lap in the theatre chair that was the farthest away from the stage for the last 20 minutes of the show. Only because he was too exhausted to do otherwise.

One of the wonderful ushers who had tried so much to help during this whole traumatic ordeal tried, at one point, to convince me that this was not uncommon. Two year olds have sensitivities to noise and other types of stimulation and that he and I were not alone. I looked at her and wearily pointed out that he was the only child in the entire theatre that was hyperventilating in this lobby while Super Grover was flying over our front row seat. There was nothing to be said from there.

So, this sound-sensory stuff has been what we have been dealing with for the past two years.  We try to deal with it with a great deal of preparation, understanding, and the choice to leave the situation if it gets too overwhelming.  Since he has turned 4, however, B has done some pretty brave things in an attempt to conquer his fears.

Two months ago, we took B, a grand lover of music, to his first rock concert. It was Los Straightjackets and it was in an old mill that had been converted to art studios and a music venue. We provided him with earplugs and he danced all night long. He even got the drummer’s autograph at the end.  After that, B felt like he could face anything. We attending his first movie theatre movie, Monsters University, a month later and he sat enthralled for over 2 hours. We went to Sesame Place in PA and sat through an Elmo Rocks concert and a fireworks show with little incident. (Though I did initially need to chase him though a crowd of people as he aimlessly ran shouting, “We need to get inside!!  I don’t like this at all!!!”) I managed to calm him in the end and when asked a week later what kind of cake he wanted for his birthday, he requested a “Fireworks Cake!” Who knew.

Which, finally, brings me to tonight when a popular local children’s band was performing the final concert in a local outdoor concert series.  In preparation for the event, I spent some time with him on You Tube watching clips of their concert and laughing at and clapping to their songs. When he asked if we had seen the band before, I told him the truth.  We had gone to see him when he was two, but he had thought they were too loud and had run through the halls of the school where they were performing in an effort to escape. I explained that we could sit anywhere he chose, close to the stage and speakers, or more far away where it would not be so loud. He seemed to take this into consideration and then walked away.

He came back 5 minutes later wearing a Batman shirt, a Spiderman mask and asking me to secure his Superman cape. He asked if he could wear this outfit to the show. I told him that of course he could.  He said, “Good.  Because I have the best idea.  If the music gets too loud and I get too scared, I will put down my mask and it will protect me.” How could I argue with that logic.

So my big brave Bat-Spider-SuperMan attending the show. He chose a spot farther from the stage, but did spend a good deal of the time sitting up in front of the stage with many of the other children. There was no hysterical screaming, no running without destination, no fetal positions. On one or two occasions, I saw him tip his mask over his face when things seemed a bit more overwhelming.  But most of the time, Spiderman’s face rested on his head, with little strands of his blonde hair sticking through the eyeholes.

We’ve come a long way since the day of the first fire engine blast and I feel that we have won this battle with a whole lot of understanding, preparation and the allowance of whatever type of security needed to feel comfortable.  I am so proud today of my amazing SuperB.

Tags: , , , ,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: