Yesterday, I decided to take my two older boys on a “Mother & Sons Date.” G-Prime has Asperger’s and E-Man has ADHD and much of my time spent with them is driving to therapy/doctor’s appointments/activities, working with them on homework from school and the therapists, and finding teachable moments. All of these are valuable things and I am happy to do them, but sometimes I just want to pull them close, love them big, and have fun together. On a lazy Sunday afternoon this took the form of an outing to the movie theater.
I’ll admit that this was not the easiest decision. The movie theater is traditionally tough for my boys. G-Prime is sensitive to sensory stimulation which means a dark theater, with loads of people, a loud soundtrack, and constantly moving figures on a giant screen can be really overwhelming. My Asperger wunderkind struggles to manage his emotions when an onscreen character is embarrassed or acting ridiculous or deeply upset. He is so entirely empathetic in that moment that he literally can’t handle the emotions and has been known to hop up and down in his chair; slapping his thighs and squealing to drown out what is happening. E-Man struggles to sit in one seat for an entire movie. He often ends up in my lap for part of it, squiggling and squirming like he “has to go” when he doesn’t…have to go. He also giggles or makes jokes at awkward times (ie: when everyone else is quiet) and people can get quite annoyed with this.
You may ask, “Then why go to the movies? It sounds miserable!”
Yes, it can be challenging. No, it is not miserable. At least, it’s not miserable for me. I can not speak for the other theater-goers. I am aware that they payed money to see a show and it wasn’t the “AMAZING ASPERGERS/ADHD ADOLESCENTS” show. I do my best to prep the boys beforehand on polite behaviour and expectations at the movies. I give G-Prime Sour Patch Kids as they seem to help him focus and stay calm, and I sit E-Man right next to me so that I can immediately catch unwanted behaviour before it’s a problem. If things get to be too much, I’ll take them out to the hallway to calm down and then we’ll try again (it almost never gets that bad). I choose movie times when there won’t be many other people and I almost never take them to an opening weekend, so we won’t have to sit in a large crowd. Basically, I give them the best chance to succeed and then I provide them an opportunity to have a fun “normal” kid experience where we can practice everything we’ve talked about. Then I pray and rely on the grace of the other patrons.
This time I took the boys to Strange Magic’s 3pm showing. It seemed perfect! There was no ticket or concessions line. The boys were able to get snacks and drinks they enjoy. The teenager working the concessions stand offered me jalapeños to go with my nachos. Jalapeños! The theater we walked into was small and there were only a handful of other people. I breathed a sigh of relief and we settled into our seats with me sitting between my two angels. The lights dimmed, the movie began and the first thing we hear is…
Wait for it…
Singing. About love.
Immediately followed by another song. About love.
I made the mistake of not looking the movie up before going. I had seen it was a cartoon and “came from the mind of George Lucas” (I’m quoting the trailer) and assumed it would be something my boys would love. Wrong-o! The entire movie is a musical consisting of popular love songs, sung by fairies, who are all trying to get or use love potions. It would have been hard to pick a movie less interesting for my man-cubs!
They both shot me looks of disbelief and disdain. I reminded them that I am a girl and them being kind about the movie choice could be their gift to me. It kind of worked. Sure, they whispered silly asides to me about the ridiculousness of the characters, G-Prime cringed and wrung his hands every time the fairy princess started to sing, and E-Man giggled throughout almost the entire thing, but it was all done quietly, which is a major achievement for us! And everyone stayed in their own seat through the whole movie. VICTORY!
I sat there, practically glowing with pride for my guys when a woman two rows in front of us turned around and threw a wet blanket all over us. (Well, not literally a wet blanket. Who carries those around in movie theaters?) Her pointed stare, angry face and exaggerated, “SHHHHHHHH,” all served to immediately drown out the victory chorus playing in my head. I felt the hot flush of shame race up my spine and into my cheeks and was just about to correct my boys when I stopped and mentally recounted all of the wins the boys had experienced in that movie theater. I couldn’t…I just couldn’t reprimand them. She had no idea what challenges they had overcome and maybe she wouldn’t care if she did, but I knew. I knew! And their ill-timed giggle and her angry eyebrows weren’t powerful enough to erase that.
So I smiled. I smiled a big, toothy, genuine smile and waved a friendly wave. Then I grabbed each of my son’s hands and squeezed them and I said, “I love being your date. You guys are awesome!” And I did love it and they are awesome and I refuse to feel ashamed about any of it.
A Supremely Proud Mommy,
P.S. If the woman in the theater ever reads this, I want to say that I am sorry that our wins came at the expense of you enjoying yourself. If I ever run into you at the theater again, I’ll happily give you $5 to cover the cost of your ticket.