On one of my days on. . . (Leslie and I swapped so that we always had coverage at home with the kiddos while school and daycare were closed. . . Leslie lost her mind and took both kids to Jump Zone and the movies. Leslie's track record with these sorts of decisions is less than stellar, mind you. She has a tendency to take a good thing and think, "yeah, this is a good thing, but wouldn't it be better if I jammed ten MORE good things into the same day???" Usually this results in spectacular failures at some point and confessions of, "I know. . . I tried to do too much stuff!"
Contrast this with my style of parenting. . . "Okay kids, what do we want to watch on TV next? Emma, can you hand me the remote? My hand won't stretch quite that far now that I've eaten all those Christmas cookies."
You can see there's probably some middle ground there. In fact, Emma, who typically considers me the "fun one" at one point looked over at me and said, "Is there ever going to be a day when Mommy stays home and you go back to work?" It was at that point that I thought perhaps I'd been mailing it in a bit on the "fun dadsmanship" and I looked over at her (from the couch) with a wry smile on my face and said, "We really haven't done much today, have we?"
So Leslie lost her mind (again) and agreed to take Lily along with Emma to a friend's party at Jumpzone. Essentially Jumpzone is one of the many little franchises that inflates stuff and has kids jump on it for money. In Leslie's defense, jumping on inflated crap is right in Lily's bailiwick. Also in Leslie's defense, she didn't really know that 38 other kids were also invited and that it would be kid-pocalypse in there.
And Lily, predictably. . . wait. . . no. . . Lily had an awesome time! She did not melt down amidst the chaos. She did not slap or spit at other kids when they got too close. She just jumped her ass off and had a great time. SUCCESS!!! Retire now, Leslie, while you're still Champ!
But she didn't. Giddy with success, she accepted an invitation from my mother and father to accompany them to the movies with Emma and Lily after they left the Jumpzone. Originally the plan was for Gramma and Papa to watch "Tin-Tin" with Emma, while Leslie took Lily to see "Chipwrecked". But Emma said (and this is a direct quote), "Movies that have characters who speak in British accents freak me out." And so she and Gramma and Papa and Leslie and Lily all attended the movie together!
And Lily, predictably. . . wait. . . no. . . Lily had an awesome time! Again! She sat in her seat, she watched the movie, she stayed quiet! And I will say, if there was a movie that we felt fairly certain Lily would be interested in, it was that movie. . . but there's still a huge gap between what seems like something Lily will like, and what actually turns out to be something that Lily likes.
Sometimes I get a little too comfortable not going out, not testing the waters. The "look". The "confrontation". Those things can be pretty enervating in the aggregate. Sometimes it seems like it's just not worth the aggravation of braving the stares and criticism for something that you're pretty sure is pushing the limit. But when you give into that complacency, you totally dismiss your child's potential to succeed at them. And Leslie does a great job of pushing those boundaries, of changing venues, of leaving her/my/Lily's/our comfort zone and seeing . . . "can she do it?". . . "will she enjoy it?"
And she did it. She fucking DID. IT. She sat through a two hour movie without behavior or incident. She jumped for a half hour or an hour (or more. . . I'm a little hazy on some of the details) with NT peers and did not hit, spit, bite, or otherwise lash out. She didn't get hurt. She didn't get left out. She participated and had a blast.
Leslie did so much "right" in making this successful for Lily. And I don't want you to think that just because Lily went to Jumpzone and a movie one day that I think that means she's now clear for takeoff at the next kids' birthday party regardless of venue.
What went right:
- Support. lots of support from friends and family who understand. These friends know Lily. They included her in the Jumpzone plans because they thought she might like it, and their understanding of Lily made it easier to say "yes" to the invitation. . . they knew what they were in for. Having family at the movie meant an extra set of hands to help with Lily in case things started to go sour.
- Interest. Jumping and chipmunks. . . right in her wheelhouse. If it had been putt-putt and "Tin-Tin"?? Massive failure.
- Backup plan. She always had an escape route just in case things went south and needed to get Lily out/away.
- Realistic expectations. Without putting words in her mouth, I think she really didn't think things would turn out even close to how good the end result looked. You can't go into a movie theater thinking your autistic ADHD daughter is going to sit and be a princess if you know she can't sit still and has no volume control (although in this instance, she could have, I suppose)
- The theater was empty. It's nothing you can absolutely control, but if you go to matinees and watch movies that are a little older and on their way out of the theater in a week or so, you can probably catch that particular bottled lightning a pretty fair number of times/attempt. Even if the theater had been full, Lily might have been fine, but having it be empty meant so much less stress on Leslie. She could let Lily be Lily if she refused to sit still, and not risk "the look".
Leslie is great at trying new things with Lily, at not discounting Lily's ability to participate just because it's gone poorly before. I need to stretch further for that particular metaphorical remote control.
There will be other movies in Lily's future. We still have a birthday party to plan for her (after the fact, but before the holidays was just too much to jam in. . . even for Leslie) after all.
She has been SO GREAT with Lily, playing with her, watching her for a few minutes while we're in the bathroom or doing laundry in the basement, helping her with the iPad when she needs a hand. She gets Lily's coat for her when we get ready for school. She's been taking an interest in cooking, making the kool-aid for us, toasting bread, and even making her own Mac 'n' cheese. She even asks to pump gas for me when we go to the gas station. (Late edit: I came home from work and the driveway was shoveled. I was thinking. . . no wonder Leslie seems so stressed out, she shoveled before I got home! But no. . . it was EMMA!!!) She's 9 now, and I know she's got changes coming in her future, and her teenage years aren't something I'm necessary looking forward to, but MAN. . . she's building some serious equity in the good kid category to help pay for those teenage years.
I try to tell her; I try to tell all of them how proud I am of them whenever I can. Probably I fail to include Leslie enough in that general praise, cause she's all grown up and stuff and not my kid. . . but I'm very proud of all my girls.
Emma said, "Does that mean you're finally going to pay me my allowance that you haven't given me for like a year?"
"No. I'm a little light this week. Ask me again next week."