Managing Expectations

Tonight was a family dance at my son’s school. When it was announced, I wondered if my son would be interested given his sensory issues… he was. He really wanted to go, and I thought it would be a blast for all of us.

Oh, how wrong I was.

I left feeling like the worst mother in the world. Terrible and ill-equipped to parent a kid with his issues. How could I possibly imagine he’d be ok with a big echoing gym filled with kids and a DJ blasting music?!

In my own feeble defense, we had gone to Great Wolf Lodge in Texas when he was four or five. It was around Halloween and they had a PJ/Costume dance the night we stayed, and he danced for over an hour straight. He was awesome!

I guess I figured if the distraction of playing with friends was great enough, he’d get acclimated to the noise, much like he does at the movies.

No such luck.

From the minute we walked in and the terrible DJ was shouting into the microphone, I knew we were in trouble. I tried to distract him from the worst of it. He was clinging onto me as we walked in. We stood at the back of the gym, furthest from the speakers to try and alleviate some of the overwhelming noise. The music was actually not the terrible part, it was the idiotic woman shouting into the mic that did us in. One of my pet peeves is exactly this. Shouting into a device that’s sole purpose is to amplify and carry your voice. On top of it all, it was mumbled because her mouth was ON the mic. Idiotic.

We shuffled our way to the glow bracelets and necklaces, purchased one for each kid, and scooted back to the rear of the gym to try and convince the kids to dance a little. I managed to get them both dancing for one song, but after that he was searching for his friends/clinging to my hand/worrying and panicky.

Finally, when the DJ had the kids split into boys vs girls and had them scream as loud as they could to see who was the loudest, my son looked at me and said, “Mom, it’s TOO loud! My heart is shaking!”

At that point we packed it in and left. It had only been 25 minutes.

I had to catch myself from reacting too much or letting my disappointment show. My husband is great at taking over at these moments and talking things up. He praised him for trying something so overwhelming. My disappointment wasn’t directed at my son, it was more of a reaction to what I feel he’s missing out on. I finally got to meet his little girlfriend who was beaming when she saw him. He was too overwhelmed to run off and dance with her, though.

Once we got in the car, he said he felt like an idiot because he was right in front of his girlfriend, but didn’t dance.


Broke my heart. How could I allow him to put himself in that situation where all signs pointed to, “Are you Crazy?!”

But I feel like he’s not going to grow and find his way if he isn’t given opportunities to figure it all out.

But oh, how I wish I could have protected him from his own feelings tonight. He had his head hung and it was one of those moments when his challenges seem monumentally unfair. All of the things I could have/should have tried with him before getting into the dance went through my head and I beat myself up a bit on the drive home…. all while trying to talk him up. Trying to tell him how proud I was that he tried it, and when he felt his body react the way it did, he was able to tell us he needed to leave. He didn’t have a fit or a tantrum, he was just an anxious ball of worried nerves.

I’d be lying if i said at the moment we left, i wasn’t a little frustrated with him for not being able to cope.

And then I mentally slapped myself upside my own head.

It’s confusing, to say the least, to have all of my thoughts circling inside my head while simultaneously trying to allow only the positive ones out of my mouth. A lot of people – especially in my family – are of the ‘suck it up and move on’ mentality. Be tough. Be strong. Be hard.

None of that works for my son. I have to rewire my brain to recognize that his going and actually getting onto the dance floor, even though he had to hold my hand the whole time, was being strong. That’s his version of strength. I have to learn to let go of the expectations I have of how things should go, and focus on managing and recognizing and seeing what is actually happening.

I love my son so much, and when I see him managing his emotions so incredibly well – better than his mom sometimes – I can’t help but cross my fingers and just hope I can do right by him and make him a better version of himself and not screw it all up too badly.

And for what it’s worth, when we left the building, MY ears were ringing. Who in the world thought it was necessary to have concert decibel DJ shouting and music at a kid’s dance?! I was completely annoyed that no one figured all of that out before the dance began and made sure it was all a reasonable level… but what do i know..




4 thoughts on “Managing Expectations

  1. I agree with you wholeheartedly. It may not have been a rousing success, but the fact that he went and tried is a valuable learning experience for him. Don’t shy away from giving him opportunities. Some will be great successes and others not, but don’t take away his chances to succeed by protecting him too much.


  2. Thanks for sharing your story. I’ve been in your situation before. One time I encouraged my introverted shy daughter (who also has some sensory issues) to draw with some girls at indoor recess so she would make friends, basically insisisting that she at least try. Ended up that she didn’t want to play with them because they were mean. I felt awful, but it was one more life lesson in trying to figure out how to help our kids. At least now he knows what to expect, and maybe you can see if there’s another way to participate the next time. Stay strong!


    1. thank you for the comment, next time i might volunteer to be their sound person and lock all the dials to “low” πŸ™‚
      i hope things got better for your little person


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s