Posts Tagged ‘Sensory issues in children’

Another Post About Balloons – What Would You Do?

July 13, 2011 3 comments

After reading this post make sure that you weigh in on the newest poll, posted in the right sidebar. I’m really curious about this one because even though I feel okay about how we handled it, I thought through several different scenarios and still feel like there was more than one “right answer” here.

Last weekend at the Natural History Museum sprinkler meetup we were busy having a good time splashing about when other people showed up. The nerve. Not just other people, but other people with balloons. Seriously, can we escape the freaking balloons for one day? One woman, whom I shall refer to from here on out as The Ringleader, brought a pump-your-own-and-let-it-squeal-through-the-air-deflating balloon kit, and was sharing it with any interested child. Including my 2 yr old. At first James didn’t notice – I thought, maybe this will be okay; these balloons look a little different and they are sailing through the sky, no chance of popping. Then one popped.

All hell broke loose, James started screaming and ran out of the sprinkler area. I corralled him onto our towel and offered him books, snacks, cash, but all he wanted was for me to “tell that lady to put her balloons away!” Though he was 20-30 feet away from the action, he was impossible to calm down and continued screaming loudly with his hands over his ears. Damn, people were starting to stare at us. I started having Central Park Zoo flashbacks (see Balloon Vendors post). I offered for James to sit on a nearby bench, about 20 feet further away, and read a book. He tearfully complied but another %$#@ing balloon popped and he went crazy on the bench, still perfectly audible to the growing crowd of curious onlookers.

At this point my 2 yr old daughter raced down from the sprinkler area with her hands over her ears to comfort James. Watching them both “sit out” on the bench with their hands over their ears, one voluntarily and one empathetically, I felt like I should be doing something. I watch The Ringleader gleefully leading children around like the Pied Piper. I said irritably to my husband, “What is she thinking bringing balloons to the sprinklers? Couldn’t she be a little considerate of other people’s situations?,” to which he said something about balloons outside and it being a free country and blah, blah, blah. I didn’t have time for reason – my kids were missing out on sprinkler time! We were having a meetup for special needs children, for crying out loud! Come to think of it, where were all of the other balloon phobes?

I thought about explaining our situation to The Ringleader and asking her to put the balloon pump away for a bit. Though many other parents were openly staring at my blubbering 10 yr old, she had not so much as glanced in our direction – too focused on her balloon magic, I guess. But then I looked at the crowd of excited children she had racing around behind her and I felt my indignation deflate (pardon the pun). My husband hustled James over to another bench, about 50 feet further away and out of sight of the balloons. I mean, why should everyone else’s fun be ruined so that James could play in the sprinklers balloon-free, right?

Then I watched my 2 yr old chasing the balloons, her hands still clamped firmly over her ears in silent support of her brother. I could tell she was torn between sharing in the same carefree exhilaration as all of the other children and comforting her very upset brother, who was far, far away from the balloons.

All joking aside, this is not an easy thing to watch your toddler struggle with. In fact, it makes my heart ache a little that she is learning this kind of empathy at such a young age. I don’t want her to see balloons  and feel a sense of panic, anxiety, unhappiness, worry or tension. I don’t want her to step on a sheet of bubble wrap at home and be chastised as James runs into his room hysterical. At 2 years old she should be able to see Curious George floating in the air with 50 balloons and not think he is scared because the balloons might pop!

We are not “soft” on James’s phobias – just last week I was bragging about how many he was able to overcome on our beach vacation, with a little coaching (and some neat props!). But balloons, popping, potential popping, things that sound like popping – this phobia has only gotten worse over the years and there seems to be no stopping it. It’s right up there with blood pressure cuffs and taking the elevator alone. Does it affect our daily life? Not really. Did my 2 yr old accidentally pop a plastic bag today and send James into a panic for the rest of the afternoon, in which he hid under the covers and cried every time he heard a noise (a book dropping, broom handle hitting the wall, toys crashing into a box, door closing too loudly)? You betcha.

So I’m passing the buck this time. What would you do if it was your child at the sprinklers? I know, you’ll need to use your imagination in a big way. But seriously, I’d like your opinion. Vote for what you think is the best answer in the poll to your right, or check Other and leave your potential solution in the Comments section.

Another Day, Another Milestone

June 24, 2011 2 comments

So I have fallen behind on my posts this week. It’s week 2,374 in MK time (Multiple Kid time) that my husband is working late every night and things have been especially busy with the end of the school year approaching. You know how sometimes when there is just so much to get done and so little time to do it in you just don’t do anything at all? It’s like the deer-in-headlights indecision – “What the hell do I do now? Right, just stand here staring at the headlights blankly!” That’s kind of where I’ve been the last couple of days. That, and making dinners for James’s teachers, baking bread and pastries for the rest of the school staff, and traipsing all over Coney Island with my dad and three kids.

I don’t even have my packing list done for our vacation next week – now you can appreciate just how serious the situation is. But, I did want to take a moment to tell you about my trip to Coney Island because something amazing happened there that deserves recognition. I’ve been too wrapped up in the “now” to reflect on an “achievement of the decade” that James made yesterday.

We arrived at the Brooklyn Cyclones stadium to sing the national anthem with DMF after coming down early to visit the Coney Island boardwalk. “James went on the Wonder Wheel,” I said excitedly to the first DMF member I ran into. “It’s the first time he has ever stepped foot on a ferris wheel, and not for lack of trying.” “That’s great!” said the woman with a friendly smile. I repeated this announcement to no less than five people that evening, and everyone professed congratulations with the same polite enthusiasm. Nobody gasped in shock or exclaimed “that’s amazing!” or even gave James a huge high five.

It was an amazing milestone, achieved after 10 years of begging, bribing, cajoling, explaining, pleading, threatening and even tricking James did not work to get him in line for the ferris wheel. We couldn’t even buy tickets without him totally freaking out in a loud and public way, which drew stares and halted our passage to what I considered the epitome of a family ride. Last year I offered him any Wii game in the entire store if he would stand in line with me for the ferris wheel in the Times Square Toys R Us. He flat out refused. I upped it to any toy in the entire store. Still nothing.

So yesterday my dad bought tickets to the Wonder Wheel. I almost stopped him because I hated to think he was wasting the money. We all walked over to the enormous wheel (my 2 yr old practically floated over) and James said, “Can I play some arcade games after this?” Though I had an anxious pit in my stomach, I forced myself to be casual. “Yeah, I guess this ride is worth 2 arcade games, but only 2 because it is so slow.”

We stepped into a stationary car (versus the swinging option they have on the Wonder Wheel), my dad and James in the front and me and the babies in the back. We stepped into the car! Hooray! James asked, “Is the car going to drop? Is the ride going to go fast? Will the ride be slow? It’s just slow? Is it over? Can I play 2 games after this? Can we be done yet? Are we done after this time around?” and other such variations on a theme. It didn’t matter. He was riding the freaking ferris wheel. Amazing.

Let me clarify – I’m not being critical that nobody else, including James, was as excited as I was about this amazing, huge, terrific success. Seriously. How could anyone possibly feel what I was feeling as I experienced something for the first time that most families completely take for granted? The ferris wheel is not a big deal by any standard. In fact, some people (including my husband) don’t relish handing over $30 to send their family into rotation two puny times. But I do feel that 10 years of effort, tears, frustration, anxiety and full-blown hysteria coming to an end is at least worth a post.

I told James that since he “learned how to ride the ferris wheel” he’d be able to go on it again when we went to the beach and boardwalk for vacation next week. No big deal, right?

%d bloggers like this: