I am emptying Johnny’s back pack and a white envelope that is like the kind you find invitations in falls to the floor. I immediately know it’s a birthday invite for Johnny.
Later I show Johnny and I tell him I found it in his bag. He said his EA (education assistant) put it there and it was a birthday card for his little sister, “Princess” (it had just been her birthday.). When I tell him it was birthday invitation he said “I just was at Princess’s party”. I tell him that it was from one of his friends from his school who has invited him to their birthday party and could he guess who the kid is? A big smile on his face then…”Tommy.”
Tommy is in Johnny’s Grade 1 class and is always very helpful to Johnny and in many ways is his mentor. He helps him get his backpack and in the winter when when he needed all his gear on he would assist Johnny. The classroom would be a buzz with chatter and Johnny would be having a hard time concentrating on his task and Tommy instinctively knows when to offer help. Whenever the boys see other Tommy always gives Johnny a big hug and Tommy seems to know how to wait after he asks Johnny a question and get his attention. Johnny REALLY appreciates all the help and friendship Tommy offers to him in the grade 1 class even if he doesn’t always show it.
For some reason the latest craze for seven year old boys here is to have their birthday at a Laser Tag facility. Johnny has never been to a laser tag place/event before so he is not sure of what to expect. Tommy’s mom has been wonderful and supportive. She confirmed there would be loud music, fog, strobe lights and 2 other teams of kids in the facility. We were concerned that this environment could over-stimulate him (he loves lights and visuals sometimes too much) but, like many things, he really wants to try. I should add that normally he has no fear of high adrenaline stuff like roller coasters and rides but he hasn’t done the laser tag experience before and we have concerns about other kids suddenly jumping out of nowhere and firing a pretend gun at him. The conundrum is we know because its Tommy, Johnny wants to try for him.
What did we end up deciding? We decided that at this time its not the right thing for Johnny to participate in. We are always trying to have him experience new things and “stretch” his ability to experience new things but this we felt was too much at this time. I wrote the Mother of the birthday boy this note:
Thank you for checking into it for us. After a lot of thought we think that it would be best for Johnny not to participate in Laser Tag. I know would love to go to Tommy’s birthday and we always like for him to try new experiences but we think that between the loud music, strobe lighting and the game it would be too much sensory input for him. We reviewed some videos on youtube to see what it would be like. He finds it challenging in the hallways at school and during recess with all the excited children and trying to filter that out or when its super busy at the mall so I would guess that the laser tag atmosphere would be too much. Feel free to let Tommy know that when things get really noisy its hard for Johnny to concentrate and that’s why sometimes he doesn’t always answer people or join in the play at recess.
I suggested that in the summer maybe the boys could meet up in the park and the playground for some fun instead. The Mom was super gracious and completely understood. She has her own misgivings about this sort of activity but because he son has been doing so well at school and in all of his other activities this experience was all he wanted for his birthday. I am glad I was able to have an open conversation with her. I tell myself that there will be other opportunities for play with peers but in the end we have to follow our instincts as parents.
*picture credit http://www.scene75.com