Posted by: whimsigal | August 11, 2008

Still trying to find our way

In a previous post I alluded to an incident that occurred on Friday night and promised to write about it here. Well, here we go. On Friday, Sean had gotten some free tickets through work to a Durham Bulls baseball game. Remember the movie, “Bull Durham”? It was about this team. Anyway, we were all excited to go and a bunch of people that Sean works with were going to be there as well, including Sean’s boss. Everything was fine on the way there. Ryan was a little nervous, thinking it might rain, but we assured him that there wasn’t one iota of a chance of that happening and he calmed down. He seemed to really be looking forward to the game. When we got there, both boys were enthralled by the sights and sounds of the stadium and it didn’t take long for them to ask us for cotton candy and sno-cones, which we happily provided. Then we sat and waited for the game to begin:
bulls game.jpg

All was well for quite a while. Sean took Ryan over to the playground that was in the stadium and Iain and I hung out with each other, watching the game. It was great! Then, when Ryan and Sean came back, Sean mentioned that Ryan was upset because of the impending fireworks show that was going to take place after the game. They had been going back and forth about it for quite some time apparently but Sean said Ryan was back to being excited about seeing them. Let me backtrack a bit and give you some historical knowledge about my youngest. He has always been afraid of loud noise. He has never liked fireworks, motorcycles, thunder, or seeing movies in the theater. It overwhelms him and normally, we just avoid these activities or separate so some can partake and someone else hangs out with Ryan. This situation was a bit of a conundrum for us because, Ryan lately had been interested in seeing fireworks which is why we didn’t hesitate to drive an hour away from home to enjoy the game and the show afterwards. But now, Ryan was telling us something different, and we weren’t happy about it. Ok, back to the game. Sean left Ryan with me and gave Iain a turn at the playground and I could tell he was anxious. He was up and down in his seat, and was talking about the fireworks. A lot. He was looking forward to them one minute and then totally dreading them the next. I tried very hard to comfort him and assure him that he would think they were cool, and if he didn’t like them, we’d leave right after the first one. That seemed to assuage his fears for the moment but all of a sudden he completely flipped and started getting hysterical. “I want to go home, Momma. I WANT TO GO HOME RIGHT NOW!!!!” He was loud, screaming, and getting physical with me about it and I was like a deer in headlights. Sean was at the playground and I didn’t want to leave our seats because I was afraid we’d miss each other in the crowd. He wasn’t answering his cellphone so I felt stuck. The people that Sean worked with were beginning to stare and I have never felt so many eyes on me at once. I was trying to quiety tell Ryan that as soon as Sean came back with Iain, we would leave but that wasn’t good enough for him. “I WANT TO GO NOW! NOW! NOW!” Some people behind me were laughing, not in a mean spirited way, more of an empathetic, “Oh I’ve been there” way but it let me know people were aware and I felt on the spot. Sean just got a promotion at work and I felt completely self conscious about how to handle the situation. Thankfully, Sean and Iain came back from the playground and Sean, being the wonderfully intuitive person that he is, could see form the look on my face that something was up. We gathered up our belongings and began to head out from the stands when suddenly Ryan takes off running. Sean followed close behind but the crowd was thick and I got scared. When I finally caught up with Sean and Iain, Ryan was nowhere in sight and I started saying, “Where did he go? Where is he??” Here we were, in a town an hour away form home and Ryan had run off. It was unbelievable. Thankfully a policeman was standing right there and he saw Ryan hiding behind a garbage can. Well, I don’t have to tell you that between me and Sean, the adrenaline was pumping and it was a very long, stressful car ride home.

When we got home, we put Ryan to bed and told him we’d talk about this in the morning. It was almost 11pm and we were all exhausted. Except Ryan didn’t want to go to bed and his tantrum continued. He was on his loft bed, kicking the ceiling with all his might and despite our repeated attempts and pleas for him to stop, he refused. Finally, we felt we had no other alternative and Ryan got a spanking. It wasn’t anything that brought us any joy. The only thing it did do was calm him down. We brought him downstairs and had him sit with us for a while and then we all went to bed.

I guess I’m writing all this out because Ryan’s outbursts are almost impossible to deal with. When he’s in that state, he can’t hear reason and he becomes very physical. He throws things, kicks walls, he has broken many toys this way, and the list goes on. I feel like he can’t come places with us because he may get into this state and run away again. It’s moments like these when I feel completely helpless and don’t know what to do. I imagine it’s exactly how he’s feeling, too, but I don’t know the RIGHT way to deal with it. Spanking is not the answer. Neither Sean nor I want to spank because it doesn’t feel right to discipline that way but I don’t know what our other options were/are.

I’m looking for other perspectives here, if anyone has something to offer. What would you have done perhaps differently at the stadium when he began to get upset? What would have done at home when he was on the verge of destroying his room? I really want to know because this is one thing I have been struggling with and if we don’t learn how to deal with it now, it’s only going to get worse as he gets older and bigger.

Please! Anyone with advice out there?



  1. I don’t have any advice but I really wanted to give you lots of {{HUGS}}. What a stressful time for you all 😦

    We used to have meltdowns with Billy like that when he was a lot younger – usually set off by food chock full of colours, flavours and preservatives. We generally avoid those now except for special occasions and he seems to have grown out of it as he’s gotten older.

  2. Aww man! That is hard all the way around. How scary about the running away. It’s hard to know just what to do when the kids are FREAKING out like that. It’s like they are just in a rage and not rational. Sometimes you just have to do what you have to do to get to them. I am not a spanker, but I have had to give a smack to each of my kids butts at one time or another when they were in that place where Ryan was, to snap them back out and get their attention. It sucks really, but it feels like there are no other options. I once let my kid just rage in her room and she broke things that were so special to her, that she still grieves over. She feels actually a lot worse still about it than she probably would have if I stepped in there and just stopped them. It’s a hard call. I think that we as parents feel more worse about not being able to stop the spiraling out of control in the kids we are so in tune with. We feel like some how we are doing something wrong, or we made a bad call. When actually they are just working through their issue in a way that their immature selfs can. He was probably relieved to have been stopped being in his rage. That really was not a fun place for him to be either. I would just say things like I am so sorry we hit you, but we did not know what else to do. What were you feeling? What did you need from me, so next time we can find a different solution. I found that talking about things when my kids were feeling great, helped heal bad times, let them know that I feel still badly for that outcome, and give me their perspective of what they took out of the situation. Hugs to you both, it’s a bad deal all around when these things happen. But they do happen to us all. -K

  3. It’s not easy parenting sensitive kids. Both of mine are very sensitive to auditory stimulation and have reacted similarly to movies, fireworks, loud music etc. over the years. As they’ve gotten older it’s gotten a better but my 10 yo still gets very anxious about fireworks and refuses to go to movie theaters.

    It sounds like Ryan had his own version of a panic attack. You saw his anxiety ramping up and suddenly he went over the point of no return. My daughter deals with these kinds of seemingly irrational anxieties and it’s taken us a lot of trial and error to find what works best. Here is what has worked for us — trust. My daughter needs to trust that when she’s feeling anxious and heading towards panic that we will listen and act immediately, no questions asked, to help her alleviate her accelerating anxiety.

    Believe me, we tried reasoning, bargaining, shaming and none of those EVER worked. The only thing that works in the present and also lays a foundation of trust for the future is to respect her fear and help her get to somewhere that feels safe.

    Knowing this, it helps a lot to have a plan of escape ahead of time anytime we’re going into complicated logistical situations like crowds or social events where others will be watching.

    In your situation, had I known ahead of time that a panic attack was a possibility, I would’ve had a plan like returning to the car to get alone and calm before making the next move. I might’ve told dh’s colleagues to please let him know that I was taking my child to our car and would he please call on the cell phone.

    When we let our kids know that we believe that their anxieties are real and we don’t shame them or belittle them for them (not saying that you did but it isn’t uncommon) they learn to trust that we will help them through their more anxious moments. Over time, as trust is built, your ability to help calm him will increase — rather his trust in what you are doing and saying to him to calm him will be accepted more readily. It takes time and a history of complete responsiveness, often two steps forwards and one step back, before you’ll eventually gain the trust of your child to help them through their most terrifying moments.

    Trust and believe that he was not in control of his own feelings and actions. The fact that he ran and hid, I think, really demonstrates how irrationally he was thinking at the time. Talk to him at a time when he is calm and content and explain to him that you understand his worries and you will try your hardest to hear him when he is scared and get him to a place where he feels safe, as quickly as you can.

    IF you want to chat more about this feel free to email me.

    Oh, and I’d apologize to him for spanking him. That’s a whole ‘nother subject I have thoughts and ideas on if you want to email.

  4. Evie,

    I don’t have any advice for you. I wouldn’t know what to do in that situation either. I can totally tell how uncomfortable you must have felt with everyone staring at you at the ball park. My head would have probably started spinning and my eyeballs would have exploded if that were me. I don’t know what I would have done back at home either. I am just here to say I feel for ya!

  5. First of all, I want to thank you all for the wonderful comments you left here. They have all provided me with some perspective, a different way to look at the situation and it has really helped me in my hindsight evaluation of the event.

    I’m going to write another post today because all of you said a lot of things that were in my head and I want to address that in a format longer than I have here.

    Thanks again, you guys. You have no idea just how much your comments have helped me!

    Marin, I have no doubt that whatever expression was on my face was priceless. Ryan was acting like baby Jack-Jack from the incredibles movie and I probably looked like the stupid babysitter. LOL Thank you for your unequivoval support. 🙂

  6. Wow… I felt as though I was reading about my own son! I just found your blog and read your story and my heart felt for all of you. My son is also afraid of loud noises and covers his ears often. You can’t beat yourself up about what you could have done differently. Forget about the other people around you and only focus on your son and his fears. A hug in these moments can go a long way. It sounds like your son may have sensory issues. If so, learning how to cope with them will benefit all of you!!! Again, it was like reading about my own family and we have come a long way from those days. You will, too!!

  7. Hmmm. I don’t really have any great advice for you because I probably would have done exactly what you did. But have you read Raising Your Spirited Child? ( My niece can sometimes be, um…spicy (as one friend calls it!) and I bought the book for my sister and she really liked it. Also, have you heard of the Shine With Unschooling Yahoo! Group? It’s all about learning to accept our children as they are. It addresses those tough times when you just wish they were somehow a tiny bit different (easier).
    Have you tried coming up with a plan on how to deal with his emotions in advance? Like maybe you could sit down with him and work out something you both agree you can do to make things easier for him when he’s having trouble (maybe someone has already suggested that to you). I think someone mentioned doing that in one of the group sessions I went to at the Life is Good Conference and I thought it sounded like a good idea. Of course, so often these things are easier said than done! I’m sure you’ll find a solution, though.

  8. Still thinking about you and your family. May I suggest reading livingjoyfully’s site, especially the Highly Sensitive page. It may help you and your husband understand your son and his actions.

  9. Man that’s tough. Catelynn has a lot of the same issues you have described. And really the only thing that has helped is time and helping her to build up trust that we will help keep her safe.

    It took us a long time to figure out what was needed but it happened. It will get better, Evie.

  10. I’m late (as usual – sorry) but I’m here sending you hugs, too. I was thinking on what to comment, but I found myself nodding in agreement to everything Chris said and she made some suggestions I’d thought of too. My Jonathan was/is highly sensitive and it was very VERY difficult in the earlier years. He would freak if anyone even looked at him without him initiating contact. We’ve come a long way since then. It was a very trying time, but the two biggest things that helped were 1) putting him on a cleansing whole foods diet (he was a different kid almost immediately) and 2) not putting him in situations that we knew he’d find stressful.

    1) was hard. 2) was harder. For me that is, the extrovert, who so desperately sought kindred spirits at that time. But we knew deep down that it wasn’t fair to put him in situations we knew would stress him out and then expect him to deal with it.

    It’s good to dissect those moments. Hindsight offers so much insight. Your son was giving all sorts of cues that he was growing scared/uncomfortable. And I know, believe me, how easy it is to let social expectations (husband’s colleagues, in this instance) override your intuition. It sounds like he needed to be taken from the situation.

    There’s a fabulous book I had (but loaned out and lost) that helped us figure out food sensitivities and other triggers. It’s called “Is This Your Child” by Doris Rapp. It was SO helpful to us.

    Good luck – I’m sending hugs to all of you!

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