And so it is Thanksgiving.
Despite my reputation as a curmudgeon, I do actually appreciate the idea of a holiday centered around giving thanks (although the history behind the holiday does tend to put a damper on the season.)
But I like the food, and I like the weather, and having a break when I get to hang with my kiddos is always the best.
So today, after the food, we went to see the new Pixar film, The Good Dinosaur.
Most of the readers of this little spot on the internet should be completely aware of the boy’s love of Pixar films. When the bouncing lamp clicks on the screen, like flipping on a switch, his happiness meter jumps to eleven.
Today was no different. From the opening scenes of the short, “Sanjay’s Super Team” through the switching out of the Pixar lamp to close the film, the boy was completely engrossed.
In may ways, The Good Dinosaur is not Pixar’s best, but after just one viewing, it has vaulted to nearly the top of my list. When Arlo’s Poppa takes Arlo out to a field of fireflies to face his fears, the boy came over to sit on his poppa’s lap. And there he stayed for most of the film which was surprisingly scary at times.
Often the boy’s favorite parts of a movie start when the credits roll. No, I have no idea why. It’s just part of who he is (and it seems, a common trait among those on the spectrum). He likes other parts of the movies we attend as well. Movies with a rollercoaster scene (like the door scene from Monster’s Inc., or the same scene in Inside/Out) bring him endless joy.
And that’s why we go to movies together: it gives me insight into his world.
But occasionally the movie brings us together in other ways. Today was one of those days.
When the pierodactyls attacked the T-rex cowboys, in a surpisingly scary scene, the boy was terrified.
While we work on emotions and expressing them in socially appropriate ways, fear is one that I—like most parents—try to protect him from. But protecting him isn’t always possible or even good for him.
Fear, on the spectrum, tends to result in a meltdown. And meltdowns tend to turn into a negative feedback loop. The fear often grows into terror; debilitating, disruptive, disabling terror.
Like most spectrum parents, like most parents in general, there’s little I fear more than my child’s terror knowing that I am often powerless to help him.
And so as frightened as he was by the surprise attack, he controlled his fear. He bounced on dad’s lap. He yelled at the screen. He patted himself on the chest, and he grabbed my hand and squeezed it to his chest seeking out his dad’s reasurrance.
And so there in the dark, on a row to ourselves (thankfully), we both faced our fears together.
And the negative feedback loop was disrupted.
Sometimes facing fears is necessary to see the beauty in life, like the firefiles in the field.
So, again, thank you Pixar. Your films have a way of connecting with my son like few others. And that connection is everything.
It’s been a good Thanksgiving.