Sometimes, it’s just hard.
When I can’t fix it.
When my baby hurts.
When the world is too bright, too loud, too big, too scary – just too MUCH.
I sit on the floor outside the theater holding my crying girl. I swear I’d done everything I could think of to prepare. But neither the noise canceling headphones nor the popcorn and gummy bears nor all the prep work in the world could get us through.
There was no epic meltdown. No kicking, screaming tantrum. Instead there was the heartbreaking, silent cry of a little girl whose sensory system was under attack. She climbed onto me, curled her little arms around my neck, and said “hug, hug, hug,” over and over again.
I couldn’t make it better. I couldn’t make it easier. It was just too much for her to take. All I could do was get us the hell out of there.
There were so many reasons that it should have worked. I’m too tired to detail them, but trust me – this should have been the one.
We walk the long corridor together, side by side.
“Jesus is my favorite Godspell friend.”
“Yes, honey, I know.”
“I like Zoe better than Elmo.”
“I know, honey.”
“They live on Sesame Street.”
“Yes, baby girl, they do.”
The scripts – the comfort of sameness. Order out of chaos.
I suggest going back in to try again. Her mouth opens into a tortured ‘O’. The tears stream down her little cheeks again.
We sit down on the floor to the side of the door and listen. How many times have we been here – just outside a door – listening to the world on the other side? Birthday parties, movies, kids’ shows of all shapes and sizes – too many to count.
A mother chases a toddler out the door – he’s no bigger than a minute. She and I exchange a smile. Brooke doesn’t notice.
As she scrolls through the home videos on my phone, my mind wanders back to the moments before the movie. As we waited for the slowest concession stand worker in the history of the world to finish her chat with her co-worker and scoop some popcorn, Brooke had done jumping jacks. I thought it was adorable. Someone else did not.
“Brooke, what are you doing?” I asked.
“Jumping jacks!” she shouted back.
Ask a silly question ..
I didn’t stifle my giggle.
Brooke looked up at me with pleading eyes. “Mama, she’s EMBARRASSING us in public again.”
I’d fought yet again with that all-too-common tornado’s brew of emotion – empathy for one child stirred into a healthy dose of anger in defense of the other – how dare she – and yet, of course, she’s eight. Of course.
The movie finally ends and we watch the parade of people file out. I search the crowd for Katie and Julie. Smiling four and five year-olds chatter on about how cool the Chipmunks were – I’m sure I see far more of them than there really are, but Jesus – enough.
An hour later, my girl is still not herself. I beat myself up for trying to bring her somewhere that can’t help but overload her system.
Three hours later I am still sitting up in bed. I want to scream. Or throw something. I want to know why it has to be so hard – why the simplest things – like a movie – have to be out of reach. Why every little thing has to be such a PROCESS for my girl. Why a theater full of kids and their parents can sit happily through a movie without having to plan for every possible contingency. Why my baby’s life has to be HARD. I want to know WHY. She shouldn’t have to struggle. She simply doesn’t deserve hard.
Once in a while Katie will rebel against a ‘no’ with, “It’s not fair.” It drives me crazy. My response is the same every time. “What’s not fair is that there are children in the world without enough to eat. THAT’S not fair.”
But all I can think as I sit in the dark is, “It’s not fair.” It’s not fair that our children have to hurt disproportionately. It’s not fair that my nearly seven year-old can’t go to a God-damn movie.
It’s just not fair.