Thing Two received a classmate's birthday party invitation last week. If he hadn't seen it in his school backpack, I might have quietly gotten rid of it and RSVPd "no" without telling him about it. And not because of any issue with the classmate, either.
This was a laser tag party. Having been to these before with Thing One, I know that the game is played in a large, dark maze, with oddly fluorescing blacklit items scattered here and there and deafeningly booming music playing overhead. The children wear light-up vests and carry "laser" guns, which they use to shoot the targets on other players' vests. Every part of this sounds like a nightmare of sensory overload for my son. Add to that the fact that he hates to lose, but has never tried this before and would therefore likely be hit just about immediately, and it seemed like a recipe for disaster to me. But he really wanted to go, so I took him. Entirely against my better judgment, though.
He'd forgotten to put his sneakers back on after climbing in the play structure at the beginning of the party, so I could easily identify him (from the viewing platform above the maze) by the blacklit-fluorescence of his white gym socks. I saw the socks hesitate as they entered the maze. I saw his vest light up, indicating that he'd been 'hit.' And then I saw him walk further into the maze and disappear from sight. I only located him a couple of times after that. I did take heart from the fact that he hadn't come out, since I knew he'd been told to ask a marshal if he wanted to leave the field.
Fifteen very long minutes later, the game was over. He came out talking about a laser battle with an eighth grader, one of the birthday boy's older siblings. He'd lost, but was okay with it. And surprisingly, the strange lights and incredibly loud music hadn't fazed him at all. I couldn't believe it.
Good thing I listened to him and not to my inner voice. Although my instinct will always be to protect him, he needs to grow too. Sometimes I need to take a step back and let that happen!