Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Better than Getting Your Leg Gnawed Off (barely)

What's the worst thing you can do with a child who is anxious? How about take her to Universal Studios during the month of October? Last Tuesday my entire family was visiting and decided they wanted to play tourist and see Universal Studios. I figured, "Why not?" Might be fun, after all, years ago back when I was a teenager I took the Backlot Tram tour. It was fun, a bit suspenseful.. my kids would love it, right? Or, at least, they would tolerate it. Except, my kids are different.... Maybe it's the autism...they are all so literal, and take situations very seriously. But..it's a movie studio, right? They make their living playing pretend. Surely my children would see that?

I knew there would be trouble when we first entered the gates to large posters of serial killers: Freddy Kruger, Jason, Texas Chainsaw Massacre. it never even occured to me that the Studio would be running scary Halloween promos and images...now we know My JBean was terrified, and extremely reticent to continue.I had to coax her into continuing, she was whimpering. If we had been alone, just our family, we would have left. But we had family to think about. We helped JBean (and JBug, too) to avoid the posters, look the other way. But as we ventured further into the park, there were dummies of zombies, and they were scary looking. Their emaciated flesh hung on their bones, their mouths frozen in an unholy grimace. Exactly the kind of imagery that can stick with a kid who has an overactive imagination. Enter: JBug. Yes, she is 14, but she really doesn't like visual scariness. Can you blame her?

I suppose for some, Universal Studios would be a great time. And there were attractions that we enjoyed. The Curious George childrens'park was a lot of fun. Shrek 4D was done well. Jurassic Park was a decent ride, even if the pacing was a bit off. But overall, the park didn't match our family values. The Simpsons Ride talked about Sideshow Bob, and serial killers and butts and was just tacky. And scary. We don't watch the show at home. I made the mistake of taking JBean on the ride without previewing it....scared her to death. I felt terrible. It was a motion-simulator, and a good one. The ride probably would have been amazing if I hadn't been busy covering her eyes and promising she would never have to go on a ride like that again. Lesson learned.

Then came the Backlot Tram Tour. I don't let my kids watch scary movies. They have never even seen Jurassic Park. They haven't seen Jaws, War of the Worlds, The Mummy... call me overprotective. My kids don't really like movies that are frightening. Body parts strewn over the crash site of War of the Worlds is just beyond their experience. I was horrified, because, truly, when kids see that type of imagery, and are exposed over and over again, do you really think it doesn't change them in some fundamental way? I never want my children to be unresponsive in the face of that kind of carnage. I don't ever want them to see it as normal, or be desensitized to it. While I wish my 14 year old was less sensitive, I am am somewhat glad that she recoils in horror to what to me, is horrific.

Set of War of the Worlds

On the other hand, I wonder if the other extreme, that of being afraid of your shadow, is just as bad. Overactive imagination? Maybe. Maybe it's the autism that makes my kids so literal, I couldn't say. I do know though, that my brother's kids had a great time. And honestly, so did JBear...for the most part. But fear can turn into Fear. Whimpering, teary-eyed Fear. Fear that means you can't go around the corner in case you run into something you don't want to see. Most kids can suspend reality and know the monsters are really just guys dressed up to play with you. My girls, while they understand that in their heads, can't get past what they see.

Have I mentioned that JBean has such a fear of Halloween costumes that we cannot venture into Target anywhere that the costumes might be? I have to give Halloween stores a wide berth. She is really afraid. In addition to the zombies, the Mummy and Frankenstein were running around. And Beetlejuice. As I mentioned, the girls dissolved into tears when he showed up, which he saw and immediately took off again. (he isn't out to scare anyone) I have no idea how they ended up being so afraid: I am sure it has something to do with the fact they don't like clowns.

It wasn't a complete loss. We also saw Scooby Doo and Shaggy. And JBug rode the Jurassic Park ride and loved it so much she repeated it. I visited Wisteria Lane, and realized I am not nearly as Desperate as I thought I was. But Universal Studios isn't a place we would return to....we'll stick to Disneyland, I think.

What suggestions do you have for dealing with childrens' fears?

T, who needs to think

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3 sent chocolate:

topsytechie said...

My 12 year old with HFA is so interesting with the way he deals with his fears. He CONSTANTLY researches them. He spends hours on YouTube watching clips of horror movies, especially the behind the scenes stuff that shows how they make those gory effects. Now, he truly cannot make himself sit through a horror movie because he won't be able to sleep for weeks afterward because of the mental imagery, but yet he forces himself to figure out what makes it all tick. It is fascinating to see him dealing with all of it. The funniest part? He can't go to a haunted house AT ALL, but this year he is begging to be one of the actors in a local haunted village. Go figure!!

fidget said...

My 6 yr old ASD daughter refuses to walk down any of the Halloween isles and frankly I cant blame her! Universal is fun EXCEPT during horror nights time.

Cyrus said...

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