A few days ago, TH received an invitation to his BFF's birthday party. An overnight with five other boys, going to a movie (the new Lightning Thief), coming back and spending the night in his friend's living room. Sounds like a blast, right? What eight-year-old or nine-year-old boy wouldn't want to do THAT on a Friday night?
The negotiation started this afternoon. He came in to me from reading his book (our homeschool novel: Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry) and said, "I'm afraid about tonight." Thus beganneth a lengthy exchange about his fears that extended as we got into the car, continued on as we ate a quick late lunch, stretched into our gift purchases at the bookstore, and essentially lasted through the car line, pick up of his brother and his brother's friend, pick up of his other brother, and arrival at BFF's house. I'd made a deal with him: If he'd go to the party, do the part where they play outside and go to the movie, and he still found that he didn't want to stay, he could call me, and I'd come get him. My hope is, of course, that the boy-bonding that happens after an afternoon of playing and seeing a movie like The Lightning Thief would be too tight for him to resist.
The problems that trigger the anxiety? He doesn't want to see a movie in a movie theater with "a lot of people who aren't (his) relatives." He's worried that people will get cranky in the nighttime about being sleepy or someone talking. He's worried about where he'll sleep. He's particularly worried because one of the five other children is a boy he's only met a couple of times (a quiet, shy child, truly). Overall, it's because it's all different. Not the same as home. As we arrived at BFF's house, he announced that he planned to hide instantly, telling me that "the best way to hide is to hide where everyone can see you but no one notices you." And indeed, he did immediately vanish when we got there.
As I pondered his advice, wondering if perhaps I could apply it to the next time I'm forced into social interaction, I hauled him and his various overnight accouterments out of the car. BFF's mom has a special needs child, and she understands TH very well. So, she got it immediately when I explained the situation to her. She'll read the signs and know when enough has been enough for him.
Will I get a call tonight that TH wants to come home? It's happened before, at about 10 pm. We'll see. But I hope he stays and learns a little bit about stepping out of his comfort zone of his own home and his own bed and his own family and his own relatives at movies and finds that when you can put away the fear, sometimes fun takes its place.
UPDATE: It's 10:40 pm. He's stayin'. In fact, he is "bouncing off of the walls" with the other boys. I guess the boy-bonding glue worked. Yay!