Saturday, July 3, 2010

How Do You Make Things...Uh...More Normal?

Yesterday we all played hooky; the other half from work, M from summer school and ABA, me from, well, driving M to and from summer school!

The boys had been so anxious to see Toy Story 3, so we made plans to go to the first showing of the day.

Going to watch movies in the theater used to be one of our only activities that we could do as a family and know that everything would go smoothly.  However, with the upswing in verbal self-stimulation M has grown into over the past year, even that has turned into a shaky event.

I'd mentioned not too long ago about seeing Shrek 4 at an AMC sensory-friendly showing. (The next one is July 17th at 10 am, 'Despicable Me,' fyi)  It was the most stress-free movie we'd seen in quite awhile since my kid most certainly wasn't the loudest of fidgety-est one in the room!  I will definitely go back to one of those in the future, but the time and date isn't always possible for us to attend, as was the case with Toy Story 3.

We thought a general showing of Toy Story3 would go alright since these are some of M's very favorite Disney characters.  And it did go alright for the first hour, despite having to turn off our own feelings of how someone should appropriately eat their popcorn when in public.  (ahem.)  But after that, you could tell that despite him being interested in what was going on on the screen, his body was winning out in its war to make him squirm and make constant guttural sounds. (Thank you person who brought small infant into the theater...your baby's constant crying helped drown out most of my son's sounds--woohoo!)  Inevitably once this movement and sound cacophony begins, he will progress to doing his signature move--he starts getting this silly smile on his face, leans into you as though he wants to interact or play wrestle, and then escalates it to an uncontrollable frenzy of sound and motion that generally ends with you attempting to get his solid 60 lbs. unstuck from you, his nails from clawing into your wrists, and for him to stop make the sound that honestly has started to make me shut down each and every time I hear it since nine times out of 10 it leads to a very frustrating moment.  

The other half was the one to take the brunt of this display this time, and since he was not in perfect M-handling mode, I could tell that he was not dealing with it well.  They left to watch in the wings a couple of times and came back to have M slip back into the same mode only minutes later.

I finally decided to take over knowing I'd receive more of the same.  I kept hoping that he'd just get his shit together a tiny bit since we were only about 15 minutes from the end of the movie.  Even though these are kids' films, I still don't like missing the ending, dammit! :)

But, alas, we missed the last five minutes of the movie when he just burst into tears.  It was too much for him to be there, and his body couldn't handle it anymore.  As much as I understand and sympathize with this, I still grieve for little B's experiences as well as for the other half and I.

I get tired of looking at all of our outings and thinking well, it was almost great.  Now, I completely realize that B is responsible for plenty of spoiled outings as well.  The child can't go on a walk without whining for you to carry him.  But when a kid has looked forward to seeing a movie for so long...talked about it multiple times a day for weeks...I get sort of pissy when his brother puts his parents in a foul mood that ruins the happy mood we all felt on the way there.

So what do you, parents of children with special needs, do to make these rough outings leave less of an impression on you?  Do you leave your child with a sitter so that your typical child can have more, well, typical outings?

B really, really wanted to go play video games with the other half, after the movie yesterday, so I told him that this weekend he should definitely take him to Chuck E. Cheese or someplace similar and I will stay home with M and take him for a walk.  That way, both boys get to do something they enjoy without all the stress of the other one not being able to handle it.  But is that fair to our family as a unit?  Is that healthy to start doing things in such a divisive manner?  I just don't know what the right answer is and wish that I didn't even have to  ponder it.

One of B's best little buddies whose Mom I count as one of my closest friends here, is having a birthday party this afternoon.  It's a backyard, family bbq, and I desperately want all of us to go.  I want the other half to finally get to know the spouses of my close friends.  I want to drink beers for hours on lawn chairs while our children play happily around us.  But the reality of the situation is that if I do convince the other half to attend with M (he says he's in at this point, but we'll see), is that if M is snatching food from the table or other people's plates, if M has an embarrassing meltdown in front of the people we don't know, or--worst of all--M gets frustrated with one of the little kids and grabs them, I feel certain we will have to leave.

 I would love to know how you all make outings more enjoyable and normal for your family.  Please be sure to leave a comment to let us all know!


Jenn said...


we have taken two cars and left with the Offender after first giving opportunities to work it off.

We take turns as to who leaves. We also hire a sitter and take turns taking the older 2 out alone.

Hope you have a great 4th!

fer said...

Deb, we are not in your circumstances, but I want to chime in on the value of dividing and conquering--I think it's healthy for families and their members to do things in different combos...different sides of the children AND adults emerge during those opportunities. I also suggest, kind of like determining who will be designated driver, who in which social/outing occasions will be the departure person if their needs to be an exit...

I hope you got some time in a lawn chair with a cold one :).

Rhea said...

OK, first of all I have to say I really appreciate reading a blog entry that I can nod familiarly with almost avery word. While we have 2 kids that require very different (constant) supervision, and we do most often "divide and conquer," I often grieve the lack of normalcy (whatever that is). Like you I wonder when we can go to an outing and not leave thankful that only one child had a really difficult time. Just this side of disaster is a relative success for us most days so I can't offer much advise, rather a pat on the back to another mom who is just trying to make her family be the best they can be.

Anonymous said...

Never do too many things together. One parent takes the other typical kids so they don't have to constantly be subjected to disappoinment on leaving, listening to the screaming/meltdowns, etc. Sad but this is the norm.

BethRD said...

My younger child's special needs aren't spectrum related so we don't have this specific problem, but our kids are eight and three, and we often divide and conquer just because of the age difference. There are a lot of eight-year-old activities that the younger one can't participate in (seeing Toy Story 3 was one such) and there are a lot of three-year-old activities that leave an older kid cold, so we split up sometimes. I don't think it's a problem at all unless it results in one child never getting to go someplace fun, or the whole family just never being together. It's okay to accept that not every activity is fun or even tolerable for everybody and act accordingly, IMHO.

Casdok said...

Some good advice here.
Am also looking forward to Toy Story but will wait till it has been on for a few weeks and then the cinema will be empty!

Alicia D said...

This is a huge struggle for us. We usually leave our daughter behind,and feel immensely guilty for leaving her out.Because she visits her dad (joint custody arrangement from a divorce) we end up planning things on "carlie-less" weekends. She has such a hard time with social outings so she hates being out and its not so enjoyable for us either. but its sad to have a family day or trip minus one family member...