Last summer, at the end of the school year, I had a great idea (I thought) of taking the boys to a movie to celebrate the end of school. Transformers was out, which I knew they wanted to see, and I was feeling celebratory.
We slid into the theater right on time. I thought this would be great, as we wouldn't have to sit through any trailers. We got our popcorn and entered the theatre just before the main feature show started. The boys went in first, I was following slowly with the very full popcorn.
I hadn't even gotten fully into the door before Coram was running out. 'Too loud!' he shouted, 'Scary!'
I cajoled, bribed, and begged him to go back into the theater. After all this was our big treat of the month, our big trip out. And it was a movie he wanted to see! I asked him to just give it 30 seconds in there before he decided if he really wanted to stay. He went in. And came out again. Right away.
We got a refund, took our still very full popcorn and drinks, and left. I was frustrated and sad, Lucas was screaming mad, and Coram was just happy to escape. I decided I would never take them to a theater together again.
Fast forward. That was June. Now it's March. Spring Break. I arranged care for Coram for 4 days of the 5 days off from school, and Lucas was able to go to the daycamp he liked. I wasn't sure what to do on the one day Coram was going to be home. He was refusing all of my suggestions. Lucas ended up home that day too - he really wanted to sleep in, and it was Spring Break, and I knew I wasnt going to get any work done with Coram home, so why not have both home. At one point I got the idea we shoudl go to see a movie.
I honestly don't know why I even considered it. But I did.
At first both boys wanted to go. Then Coram started refusing. And I decided to approach the whole thing differently. I set up an alternative place for him to go, to his Grandpa's house. I told him Lucas and I were going, he was welcome to come if he wanted, but we would not be upset either way. I told him we could bring his laptop and headphones so if he needed to escape the theater he could. I told him if we got there and it was too loud, we'd get a refund and I'd take him to granpda's and Lucas and I would go back for a later show. So he could test it and know that we wouldn't be mad if he couldn't handle it.
He decided to come. He wanted his DSI (handheld game system) as well as his laptop. We packed it up, made sure it was charged, brought the headphones. And we went early this time, not last minute. We got to slowly get used to the lobby, pick up our food, spend the usual five minutes deciding what kind of drink to get. We got a good seat - way at the back so it was quieter - and we got to get used to where we were before it got loud. We chatted, ate popcorn, and laughed at the silly ads on the screen. We got used to the smell in there, the people, the acoustics.
When the movie started, Coram crunched popcorn with fervour. After about 10 minutes, he switched to sucking malt candies slowly in his mouth. then he passed those back and fervently chewed popcorn again. He did that until the malt candy was gone. I'm convinced the sensory input helped him stay calm.
He asked to leave twice. Each time I offered him his laptop or DSI and his headphones. He would look, consider, then say, 'No, I'm ok.' He had to use the bathroom - and I got up to walk him there - but he asked me to stay in the theater to save his seat. He and Lucas went to the bathroom, got a popcorn refill, and calmly returned to our seats.
And we made it through THE WHOLE MOVIE. No meltdown, no bribery, no stress. We loved the previews and have made plans to go back and see other movies. Afterwords, we went to the arcade in the mall and played some games, then we got a snack and came home. It felt like the most normal day I've had in months, if not years.
I learned a lesson, if not several. Prepare prepare prepare. Allow lots of time to adjust. And have escape routes planned. Coram felt safe. He was able to relax and just enjoy. And so was I.