Our latest, greatest tool for helping John experience the world is a pair of ear muffs. Lately John seems hypersensitive to the most inane sounds — not the least of which are night stirrings, the ones the rest of us don’t even notice: the air conditioning coming on, a ticking clock, gentle snoring. His sensitivity is unpredictable and inconsistent and not just at night. For example, sometimes he is unable to eat at the same time his brother does because the sound of Sam chewing makes him cry. He clasps his hands tightly over his ears and yells with what seems genuine distress. Very frustrating for him, enormously so for the rest of us.
After one terrible night of no sleep I did some research, called a few customer service professionals, then ordered these nifty ear muffs. The first time I placed it on John’s ears, he pushed it off, alarmed. After thoroughly inspecting it, he brought it back to his ears and grinned. At first I just hoped it would help him fall asleep, that it would bring him some peace in the middle of the night — and by doing so would bring the rest of us some peace as well. And it has — not always, but it helps.
What I didn’t count on is how handy these ear muffs are in a multitude of situations. Sometimes at breakfast he’ll look up and say “Ears?” and after I find them for him, he is able to finish his oatmeal with Sam at the table. On the fourth of July, he was able to sit with us for the fireworks, unlike last year when I rocked him inside the car. And yesterday we attempted our first non-sensory-friendly movie showing: Toy Story 3. He’s been watching the youtube videos on the itouch for months now, and Sam had been asking to see it.
We packed supplies: Elmo and Zoe, the silent itouch, the ear muffs — and we imagined we were like any other family who, over a long holiday weekend actually does such things. I sat there in the dark, smiling at my son in his bright blue ear muffs while the glow of his itouch illuminated his little face. Elmo and Zoe clutched to his chest, he barely cared that we were in a dark, loud movie theater. I squeezed his hand and felt the spread of pure joy that here we were doing something so simple, so taken for granted by other families.
He didn’t make it through the whole movie. About halfway in, he started to jump and yell excitedly. We tried to shush him, but there was no shushing him. I touched Twins Dad shoulder, told him we’d wait for them outside and I lead John down the dark aisles. We emerged into the sunlight, just a mother and her boy on a hot summer day. But a little bit changed.