Jason was lucky enough to take a couple days off this week, and spent them either 1) getting at least one of the two children responsible for most of the screaming/tattling/HE'S BREATHING MY AIR sort of hullaballoo out of my hair, or 2) spending quality one-on-one time with our middle and youngest children, reinforcing good positive attention behaviors with a side of spoiling and all that jazz.
Technically a bit of both, I suppose. Both days involved the aquarium and copious amounts of dessert.
Jason also sent the following photo as evidence of Ezra's Scrabble prowess, but in doing so revealed himself to be a dirty cheat who plays acronyms and two-letter words the second I'm not around to challenge that shit.
(Note: Jason won't play Scrabble with me anymore.)
Last night it was my turn to treat a kid to a special time out, and I landed either the best or worst assignment, depending on how you look at it. I took him to see DanTDM Live at the Baltimore Hippodrome.
Who is DanTDM, you might ask? A perfectly reasonable question that I'm still not sure I can answer. DanTDM is a small and highly energetic British human who makes more money playing video games on YouTube than all of us put together, and can also sell out 5,000+ seat venues full of screaming kids, preteens and their long-suffering parents who STILL can't believe how much they paid for this...whatever it is, and oh dear God, did you see the merchandise lines? Did you see the merchandise PRICES??
(By the way, the last time I tried to talk about my blog with Noah and if he was comfortable with me continuing to write about him and post photos, he answered "oh sure" without hesitation, and followed it up with "you know no one reads blogs anymore, right?")
But lo, I am a sucker for my children's pure, unbridled joy, which is exactly what I got when I surprised Noah with our tickets a couple months ago. Plus, all his friends at school were like, sooooooooooooooooo jealous and I get surprisingly smug and petty about that shit.
So we went, and while I remain somewhat baffled about the whole Dude Plays Minecraft on YouTube --> Achieves Justin Bieber-like Celebrity Status phenomenon, I did learn a couple things and made a few interesting observations.
(On the other hand, I was like, WAY WAY WAY into NKOTB in fifth grade, so I do get it on some level. Yet now I have to spell-check "Bieber vs. Beiber" in a separate browser tab every time, so clearly, none of this is meant for me anymore anyway. Nothing is meant for me anymore, other than the Great British Bake-Off and the occasional dusty-ass blog.)
First, there were a LOT of ASD and special needs kids at this show. A LOT. Clearly, this guy connects and clicks with them -- I admit a huge reason I splurged on the tickets was because I know going to see a crowded and noisy live show is a challenging, but important sort of experience for Noah. He does not always enjoy going to the movies or sporting events, although he always desperately WANTS to enjoy them. If that makes sense. And we'd like to take him to see shows and plays and stuff like that, but tend to hesitate because of the high ticket prices AND the high risk of it being too much and having to bail.
But DanTDM seemed to offer the right amount of motivation to try. So I did. And I was definitely not the only parent there doing the "I have no idea how this is going to go but oh God I hope he/she has fun also here's your fidget/sunglasses/earmuffs" song and dance.
After we arrived, while perusing the tour t-shirt options,* an usher noticed Noah's earmuffs and asked me if they were for sensory/Spectrum purposes. I was a tiny bit taken aback (like WHAT? are they FORBIDDEN? are we breaking a RULE?) but said yes.
I was then informed that for this show, the theater's VIP lounge had been converted into a viewing room for special needs kids. Comfortable chairs, lots of personal space, moderate light/sound levels, etc. The kids could then watch the show on a large screen, with attendants offering them drinks and popcorn, or just hang out to chill for a little bit. The usher said we were more than welcome to make use of the lounge for all or just part of the show, whatever he needed.
We actually never needed the room, but I am 1,000% convinced that just knowing it existed, that it was an option, was enormously helpful. He visibly relaxed and sort of...un-tensioned himself. It wasn't all or nothing. It wasn't put up with stuff he hated vs. having to leave and miss out on the stuff he loved. Thank you, thank you, thank you, to everyone involved for that.
Second, I get why this guy is so appealing to kids like Noah. He's like the tween years version of Thomas the Tank Engine, or Steve from Blues Clues. His facial expressions are wildly animated and over the top. His enthusiasm for something they like and understand (trains! the mail! pixelated farm animals!) is out-sized yet genuine. He operates at top volume in every way imaginable, but in a completely non-threatening, let's play together! fashion.
DAN! they scream, as a cartoonish villain lurks behind him, only to disappear every time Dan turns around. He looks at them with a biiiiiig look of confusion, then asks them if they'll "be on his team" to help him complete the villain's challenges. They cheer again, the same way they cheered for the wide-eyed Thomas to be really useful, or to help poor Steve find those pesky paw prints he would practically trip over without the help of all the preschoolers at home.
There wasn't much for parents in the script, to be honest -- there's no deeper level of humor sailing over the kids' heads, and really, that's fine.
It's not meant for us.
(The bar and concession areas, on the other hand, supplied everything that I needed juuuuuust fine.)
*We did escape without spending a ridiculous amount of money on merchandise, because if there's one thing the DanTDM Live show is completely devoid of, it's anything explicitly Minecraft branded or even Minecraft adjacent. This was a little disappointing for Noah, who was expecting the show to have actual Minecraft mentions or tie-ins. Nope. And other kids around us in the upper balcony complained that all the audience participation bits (of which there are a lot) only involve kids from the lower (and higher priced) orchestra section. So those are my last two "know before you go" for parents of fellow DanTDM fanboys/girls.