Our daughter dislikes loud noises, sudden shouts, sirens, hand dryers, Morse code and any music with a repetitive bass beat (her dad is very proud of that fact because it means she loves Bowie and Lau!). To her, this hum of everyday life is an ear-splitting, brain-befuddling cacophony. From a tiny girl she would clasp her hands over her ears in department store toilets to block out the hand dryers, sit on my knee with her faithful stuffed rabbit when we went to birthday parties complaining about the volume and conversely beam with delight when underwater swimming or out in the open air trudging across a field with only the sound of birds as company.
Large gatherings or events are pretty frightening for her and when going to a ceilidh at school it isn’t just the horror of having to hold hands with smelly boys that freaks her out (she is eight after all) but the knowledge that at some point, there will be the scary triumvirate of noise, people and unpredictable dancing about! A teacher relayed to me that at a recent school party she found our daughter outside the main hall, peering in through the glass panel at everyone else; she wasn’t sad or crying, she was just quietly looking in. She naturally asked her if she was OK and our daughter reassured her that she just wanted a break – thankfully that kind, gentle teacher smiled at her, offered to stay with her and chat and checked if she needed some water or anything else. I applaud and thank that teacher for her basic kindness, for not forcing my daughter to join in, not admonishing her for being antisocial or cajoling her into dancing (others are not so understanding). But, that image of everyone else screaming and shouting and having fun while my daughter stands alone, looking in on them, stays with me and I cannot shake it because it is a perfect visual metaphor for what my daughter feels on a daily basis – compelled to join in but repelled by the thought of it.
Our daughter is now aware that it is fine to not want to stay in the room with the other 200 kids, it is ok to take a breather and cool down and all she needs to do is speak to a teacher if she really needs to get out of there quick but it took her a long time to realise that it was acceptable to do that. We have little chats about how everyone is unique, that it is ok (well, brilliant actually) to be different, that the world would be boring if everyone was the same, but it doesn’t stop this little girl wanting to be the confident girl in the sparkly dress, flailing her hands around and not caring what the world thinks of her.