Traditions are important to our family! We start something and then love to make it an annual event…it gives us something to look forward to. Four years ago, February 2009, we spent Valentine’s Day with our dear friends at the Advance Auto Parts Monster Jam! yes, the Monster Truck show! We have kept this tradition going and last year we brought our monster truck loving 3-year old along. What a thrill this was for him! You can just see his excitement in these pictures…
Look at that baby face…innocent, happy, elated! All this kid cared about was how high did the truck jump? when does Grave Digger come out? and please throw more dirt and spin out of control?
Then came Feb 2013. Parker is 4, almost 5. He still loves monster trucks so we decided to surprise him this year with taking him AND his little sister, who is 2 1/2, to the show. A few hours before we were leaving, little sister started a fever and stayed home with a babysitter. We still took Parker with our friends and started off out to dinner. During dinner he asked questions, and was trying his hardest to figure out where we were going. Surprises have always been fun for him…until now. Daddy carried him into the arena, he sees the dirt/car piles and doesn’t seem overly-excited…happy? sure, but not what we expected from our 4-year old. We took a quick bathroom break and while we were washing his hands, he seemed very agitated…”mom, we need to get back before it starts…mom, hurry, let’s go!” We get back to our seats and he took his hat off like Daddy for the Star Spangled Banner. We all begin cheering, and ready for the intro of the show…ear plugs in place! Here come the trucks…all 10 of them…the sound exploded in the arena. His face goes pale, heart beating out of his chest and I begin to think he’s going to vomit. Daddy’s holding him and all Parker can say is “I want to go home, I want to go home.”
At this point many thoughts went through my head (Dad’s too)…1) Come on, you loved this last year. 2) You are being a baby. (yes, sorry, sometimes this is the case, but not this time) 3) This is all for attention. Well, the truth is simple…he was Scared! The sound was thundering, shaking through our bodies, and he had no idea what was happening. We went to the lobby to get away from the intensity of it all. We tried to talk to him, comfort him and he would not respond…he just wanted to be held and still wanted to go home. We decided if Chris went back into the arena that maybe Parker would want to follow. Not the case. He just wanted to lay on my lap until the show was over. I rubbed his back, talked calmly with him and shared some stories of when I’ve been scared before. Side note: Parker is also afraid of the dark. If he has to get up in the night, he told me he just says “Jesus is with me, Jesus is with me” and he feels better. So I encouraged him to try that again…he’s too smart for his own good…he says “Mom, I know Jesus is with me, but it’s still too loud!” Good point, son!
Intermission started and Chris and our friends came to check on him. We all encouraged him to give it another try…our friend showed him how cool the ear plugs really were and put them in much better than Mommy did the first time. This seemed to work. Fingers crossed, we went back in! Four-wheelers were doing some pretty amazing stunts and he’d crack a smile every now and then. The last part of the show was Free-style, which was less of a rumbling sound and more manageable for Parker. He was able to enjoy the rest of the show and it gave him plenty to talk about after!
So what happened between ages 3 and 4?
*Fears inside our little boy became real…the sound of the trucks truly overwhelmed him.
*Logic set in…I could tell what he was thinking…”something is making me feel sick, my heart is pumping and I cannot control this, I don’t like this feeling…let’s leave”
*Surprises are not for him…sure, maybe small ones, but telling him a few hours before that we had something special planned gave him WAY too much time to think about what we were doing which in turn created a load of anxiety before we even got there.
*The bond with his sister is special…Parker and I went out the afternoon before the show and bought special treats for he and his sister to share at the show. Ring pops and m&m’s! When we were in the lobby, I offered him these treats and he wouldn’t eat them because his sister wasn’t with him. Super sweet, yet again, another reason maybe he was bothered beforehand.
*His hat size grew…notice the new KC hat?
Fortunately, Parker still loves monster trucks. He came home happy as a lark…he woke up his sister at 10pm to tell her all about the trucks he saw, which ones weren’t there this year, what it smelled like, looked like and as we listened over the monitor we knew he’d had fun.
As parents, we learned a lot…our boy had changed…he’d grown up a bit from the year before and in this time, he learned what being scared really meant and so did we! Seeing our child lose color in his face, feel his heart thumping out of his chest and squeezing us tighter than ever before made us feel sorry for putting him in this situation. However, by giving him time, talking with him, working through his fear and calming him down, we gave him confidence that he could go back in there! We taught him that he could be brave as he sat in the arena and looked at the monster truck show in a whole new perspective.