One of the hardest things for me to accept as a parent is that my children are as they are right now, not as I wish them to be. I need to remember how hard it is for *me* to learn this lesson even as I’m trying to teach my children and encourage them to make better choices or more mature choices… they can, but they are limited by where they are developmentally and the particular aspects of their personality. But I am learning how I can push and encourage, and when to back down or when to let them struggle a bit and come through OK.
An example is today. We went to go see “How to Train your Dragon” in 3-D, which is a new experience for them. After talking with several parents, I felt that the movie would not be too intense for them, overall. My biggest concern was Gwendolyn (VERY active, very wiggly) sitting through the whole movie, but I hoped that the dragons (she likes them) and 3-D would help engage her more. I completely forgot that Charlotte struggles with sensory issues and will have an initial strong “flee” response when she is overwhelmed. So in the theater when the previews started she got upset and started crying because it was too loud. I encouraged her that she would get used to it, and she covered her ears and huddled next to me.
I hadn’t thought through the 3-D mostly because I haven’t seen a 3-D movie myself. Gwen happily put on her glasses and started watching, with no problem. Charlotte put them on and took them off because she said it was weird. Then she said she didn’t want to be watching the movie and she wanted to go home. (All the way home… we’re visiting grandparents now.) But I knew that she had to go through her initial “adjustment” freak-out period. She cried. She whimpered. She held onto my arm. Then after about 15 minutes I peeked at her, and she had her glasses on, and was watching the movie. From that point on, she was totally fine.
Gwen, on the other hand, was OK at first, and then got her usual case of the wiggles. I think at just-turned 4 years old she’s just not quite ready for movies. I need to accept that she will probably stand up and wiggle around. (She danced through much of “The Princess and the Frog.”) I think a lot of it is the theater being dark, she needs more sensory stimulation, because the darkness makes her sleepy and she needs to wake up more. I will continue to take her to movies, but chose times when it won’t be crowded, when there would be other kids, and maybe have her on the end so she could trot up and down the stairs a bit if she needed too- probably better than patting people on their heads in front of her like she did inadvertently today! (The person was very nice about it, thankfully!)
Charlotte’s initial reaction was a bit surprising to me simply because in some ways she has moved past some of those issues, but I was proud of her that she stuck it out and didn’t get TOO disruptive when she was upset and was able to enjoy the movies. I have to admit I dream of just being able to do something like go to a movie without a hassle or worrying about a child getting upset or disruptive… but at least we made it through and I think all enjoyed the movie and I hope didn’t ruin anyone else’s experience.
I have kids who have rather extreme responses to things, and at times I wonder am I too easy on them or to harsh with them, and whether I am accepting of their immaturity or should expect more from them. I think this is a pretty normal struggle, though. I really appreciate Sally Clarkson’s writing and ministry, and a book that she recommends is “Hints on Child Training” by Henry Clay Trumball. I’ve read it before, but I’m re-reading it. The first chapter talks about “training from birth” which does get my hackles up a bit, but he goes on to make some points which I think does have some wisdom. I’m not sure that I’ll agree with everything I read, but I am willing to thoughtfully read the book to see what insights I can get as I try to sort out how to bring out the best in my kids without expecting them to be someone they are not (idealized children who always act in a way that reflects positively on me, for example.)