I was in the middle reading Andy a bedtime story, when he carefully opened the screen door and crept in. At first I thought he was coming in for a bedtime hug from brother, but then I looked at those red eyes and knew there was more. I hugged him, and all he could do was sob. Daddy called Andy into another room to read, and I hugged my baby tight, covering him in kisses, and began the Guessing Game.
"What's wrong, baby?" I cooed, giving him more kisses as he leaned his little red face on my chest and sobbed.
"I was in the bathtub alone." I frowned. To be honest, this made no sense to me at all; he's been insisting on privacy in the bathroom for over a year.
"Were you scared?" I prompted, "We're right here."
"I'm scared." Part of speaking Joey is trying to untangle the words that make sense from the words that don't, and figure out what are words he is attaching to feelings, and what are words trying to communicate like other people, providing clear information. This is even harder when the words are between sobs and sniffles.
"What are you afraid of, buddy?"
"My brain is hot. It's burning."
"Are you sick?" I feel his forehead, but there is no fever. The words mean something else, then.
"Your brain is burning? What is making your brain hot?"
"It's too long."
"What's too long?"
"The ride! It will take a hundred million years!" Ride. Ride. Long ride. Ah-hah! Field trip tomorrow!
"You have a field trip tomorrow," I nod. "Don't you want to go to the museum?"
"No!" Unfortunately, my wording of that question makes me wonder if I was clear.
"Do you want to go tomorrow?"
"No!" Well, that was clear.
"Are you worried about the field trip?"
"The ride is Too. Long."
"Yes, it's about an hour to Richmond, and then you will go to the museum- the science museum! You love science! What do you think they will have there?"
"I'm afraid of the sharks!"
"Well, they won't have live ones, maybe pictures."
"I don't like sharks."
"You can see other things. Maybe they'll have something about the weather! Or volcanoes!"
"It takes too long!"
"Do you know where the museum is? Do you remember when we go to Maymont? Those big buildings we pass when we get to Richmond? The museum is one of those. So it isn't even as far as Maymont. Just about an hour."
"It is farther than Maymont! It will take a hundred hours!" He breaks into sobs again. "Its too many!"
"Joey, are you worried about the museum, or the ride to the museum."
"The ride!" he wails, but clear as a bell. Ok, now we're getting somewhere.
"You like riding the bus, don't you? You'll be on the bus with Ms. Macy, and all your friends..."
"You think there are too many people on the bus? Are you worried about the people, or that it will be loud?"
"Too loud!" More sobbing. My brain goes into hyperdrive.
"Well, how about your earphones? Does Ms. Macy have your phones?"
"No!" He's getting a little frantic now; time for a solution.
"Well, how about earplugs? Would you like earplugs?" The "yes" is reluctant, yet he is calming down; he wants to reduce the noise, but this is not the ideal solution for him. He knows he hates having the plugs in his ears.
"How about a music player, with headphones?" I'm thinking out loud. Mom got them headphones for Christmas. We haven't really used them, and they were originally for Andy; but this spike in noise sensitivity in Joey brings them instantly to mind- and besides, they are sitting right next to me. The phones would block out the other noise, and the music fill his ears with something rhythmic and familiar.
"I can listen to my favorite songs!" he almost sings, smiles busting out all over that little red face.
"Yes! Let's go make a CD!"
So I have let him pick out the tunes, have loaded it into the CD player, and emailed the teachers. I'm also sending a note. Let's just hope they have sense enough to let him have it for the ride!