Night before last, our SUV got a flat tire (luckily at home). With daddy in trial, and deadlines to meet, it won’t be repaired until the weekend. This is the only vehicle Tootles travels in because he is terrified of riding in anything else – period. We do have a truck and another car that my husband drives. We put a DVD player in the truck years ago, just in case I had to use it for back up with Toots.
I began preparing Toots for the transition with a little “oral social story”. He’s ridden in the truck before, but not for over a year, so the fear is strong and the disruption of routine, well, not good.
When he first heard about it, the nervousness in his face was clear. He did his best to be brave. “You can watch DVDs in the black,” he said. “Yes,” I told him. He picked a DVD. He talked about how he did not have to ride in the car – only the truck. I suggested we could pretend it was “Gravedigger” and it would be fun to go in the “monster” truck.
I moved all the essentials (some baby wipes and a cooler) to the truck. I moved the “golden” DVD with Oswald (Nick Jr.) on it. We were set.
In the morning, Toots kept looking out the window and remarking how he would watch “Oswald” in the black truck. I reassured him that the DVD was ready to be put on and we would leave soon.
Foolish, foolish me. Oblivious. Unprepared.
We left through the front door on time. Oh wait. That’s on time if we’re in his SUV.
Toots was in a good mood. He decided that his “security blankies” for the ride would be his Ford Mustang car and “Rip” his chainsaw from Handy Manny. (Sometimes, he takes toys just to keep him calm – not to play with.) He dutifully carried the Mustang (I carried Rip) to the truck, placed it inside, hiked up and in the seat.
The seat belt was too tight. I had to adjust it to maximum looseness. But, I had the golden DVD sitting on the console. As soon as he saw it, he put himself in a loop. “Mommy to put the DVD in. Mommy – spell Oswald! Sing the Oswald song mommy. Put in the DVD. Wanna watch. Watch your DVD. Put it on mommy. Turn it on! On. On. 2-M-0-4-3-N (A new soothing mechanism, saying a string of random letters and numbers)”
No pressure. This went on while I loosened the seat belt. Then, I had to adjust the driver’s seat from “Yao Ming” to “Eva Longoria” which meant adjusting the steering wheel, mirrors and seat back tilt. The non-stop mantra of putting that DVD in continued. I relinquished and turned around to put the DVD in the player.
The DVD player is on the cab ceiling in the back seat of the truck. I had to contort my body like a Chinese acrobat to find the spot to insert the DVD. Turns out it was on the passenger side in the back, on the ceiling.
I will spare you my feelings about that design. The excitement of finally getting the DVD in was lost on both of us only 10 seconds later, when we discovered it had no sound.
I tried to figure it out. The front console was no help. I hadn’t driven this beast for over a year and could not remember. I pushed all the buttons, tried scanning the radio for the correct frequency – nothing.
Do you know how I felt in that moment of realization? If you are a parent of a child like mine, I know you know how I felt. And 3-2-1, meltdown.
My ride to Toots’ school is about 30 minutes. We hadn’t even left the driveway. Tears were streaming down his face. He wasn’t screaming or yelling. He was non-stop “looping” with tears. He knew it and so he, kindly, added in an apology – “Mommy, turn up the volume! Turn off the music! Fix it! I’m sorry mommy!” etc.
I tried to explain that I didn’t know how to fix it and that we were now going to be late for school. His response. “No.” Have you tried to reason with a child in the middle of a meltdown? He can’t process. He put up a force field, chanting, with tunnel-vision and tears. It was pretty good, in terms of meltdowns. It was also the most painfully long 30 minute ride I’ve had in a long time. I texted ahead to the tutor that we would be late. His teacher, tutor and I anticipated discipline problems. His eyes were dry when he went in to school.
When I picked him up, there hadn’t been a single time out! He was happy. Meanwhile, after sitting in the parking lot for 20 minutes, I had fixed the problem (set the frequency by adjusting the menu on the DVD screen from the back seat using the buttons on the BACK SEAT DVD PLAYER !!).
I wondered if being the last one into class, without all the commotion as everyone gets settled in the morning, contributed to his success. I had always thought of this as a possibility in passing but never really thought of taking action on it before. We’re going to take action by experimenting in bringing him to school on time and then, as last one in, to see if there is an effect on his behavior. Who knows? Maybe this meltdown will be the gateway to a breakthrough. Giving the little guy an accommodation to come in later than the rest of the class may be just the ticket to improve focus and responsiveness. Silver linings anyone?