Some words: Christmas blear

Today I’m pretending it’s not the H-word. I’ve spent the last two weeks trying to ignore it. Soon, I will be busy ignoring the ridiculous lead-up to the C-word. (Not that one.) Although to be honest, I’ve been doing that since mid-September. Yep. That early.

I’m tired of it all. I’ve said before that, having no beliefs in these areas, holidays mean nothing to me. They’re gaudy, drawn-out, over-commercialised circuses of mass consumption, and they make me horribly uncomfortable.
I know it doesn’t have to be that way for the individual, but being inescapably surrounded by it for months of the year makes me want to avoid all of it altogether. It’s, like, celebration fatigue. There are so many ‘special’ occasions, and they’re made into such productions, that I just don’t want any of it any more.
Maybe I need to start thinking of my own celebrations.



I have always been irritated by people making noises. Eating, breathing, sniffing, tapping… even talking.
Now, I think at this early point, most people would say, “Oh, yes, me too!” No one wants to listen to someone loudly chomping away on a bag of chips, or constantly sniff rather than get a damn tissue.
But I need to be clear – I am practically enraged by certain sounds. I become filled with such bone-deep, skin-crawling anxiety and frustration that I cannot focus on anything else. I can’t be distracted. My brain becomes locked, clicking over and over like a scratched record. My heart beats faster, my limbs feel restless, my jaw clenches, and in particularly bad moments I even break out in a cold sweat. If it’s something like, for example, someone eating chips, I want to snatch the bag violently from them, throw it on the ground and stomp on it.

So, eating is a major one. I also can’t stand certain people’s voices (Julia Gillard is one); humming; whistling; finger-tapping; repetitive noises like dripping taps, doors being moved by draughts, or bird calls (especially if they come in a predictable pattern); the sound of muffled conversation; the sound of loud, bass music from a distance; repetitive movement like someone absently tapping their foot in the air… I mean, I could go on.
I can’t remember not being like this. I remember dreading family trips away, because not only would I be trapped in the car for hours with four other people and their noises, I would also have to sleep in the same room as some or all of them. When watching TV with my sisters, I’d constantly swat their legs because their fidgeting in my field of vision would drive me nuts.

And you know all I’ve ever been told?
“Just ignore it.”
“Everyone is annoyed by those things, you just have to learn to block them out.”
“You’re too sensitive, why can’t you just ignore it?”
I mean, for reals, guys! Don’t you think that if I could ‘just ignore’ something that was making me crazy, I would? I am not an overly-dramatic person in any aspect of my life, so why would this be any different?
I’ve cried, many times, because I can never make anyone understand how much these things affect me.

And then.
About three months ago, I found something. A word.
It is a real thing – a sensory processing disorder – that causes some people to be uncontrollably sensitive to trigger sounds. They become extremely agitated and stressed by certain noises (or movements), and can be driven to fits of rage by their triggers. Apparently, it is similar in symptom and treatment to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
I almost cried again when I discovered this, but this time from relief.
There’s no ‘cure’ for it, but the mere knowledge that this is a legitimate sensory disorder has made me feel so much better. I have, for the past few years, suspected that I have some sensory issues (I also have a low tolerance for loud noises, bright lights, crowds, and touching), and though I am admittedly self-diagnosing, I at least now have an answer that is satisfactory to me.

Now, Devin… Devin is adverse to certain loud sounds, too. He hates the vacuum cleaner, blender and kitchen mixer (actually, my mum told me today that I was much the same at his age). If he does hang around while they’re on, he insists on wearing ear muffs. He uses public restrooms only after clarifying, several times, that we aren’t going to use the hand dryers.

We recently went to the airport to watch the planes arriving and departing. The aeroplanes that service our town, though certainly not quiet, are small and it’s not uncomfortable to be right next to the runway when they land and take off – but I still had to keep my hands firmly over Devin’s ears, at his behest.

This was after the plane had turned around, so the engines weren’t quite so loud, but he still only let me take one quick photo with one hand removed.

Even this evening when I was playing with him, pretending an old McDonald’s Transformers toy was an ambulance and pushing the button to activate the ‘siren’, he told me to stop it because the noise was “too loud.” (Which made me very glad that Jene and I are very against toys with automatic sounds.)

As you might imagine, having such adverse reactions to such common noises isn’t going to win me any popularity contests. I try hard to tolerate things, but there comes a point where I can’t hide my discomfort and eventually I have to admit, “Well, your humming/breathing/eating/general movement is driving me nuts.” And that’s not the kind of statement people generally take well. Especially not the people who have heard it from you before. Many times. (Hi, Jene.)

I learn to deal the best I can, and if Devin’s aversion develops into something similar to mine, at least I have the personal experience to be empathetic and considerate towards his frustrations. I’ve never had a violent outburst as a reaction, but the irritation and suppression can cause lingering bad moods, and that’s something I really need to control.
White noise and noise-cancelling headphones are my two best friends. I have an app called Relax Melodies, which can loop a huge variety of sounds including rain, waves, wind, clocks, birds, city noise, a fan, music… there’s even one called ‘womb’.  When I’m on the computer, I usually have Rainy Mood open in a tab, and I find it very difficult to sleep at night without the ceiling fan on – even in winter.

So, if ever I ask you to stop breathing, please don’t take it personally. It’s just my brain being incapable of dealing with such complex, strange sounds… (According to my brain.)

More hair, more cuts.

When there’s this much hair between the three of us, it’s really an unavoidable topic.

I took Devin to have his hair cut three weeks ago, thinking it would be a breeze like the previous three… four? times. He apparently read my mind, using that uncanny ability that all children seem to possess, and decided that not only would nobody be cutting his hair, but also that he wouldn’t be sitting on that stool, or in the chair on Mum’s lap, he wouldn’t be watching the fish light, he wouldn’t be eating any of the bribery biscuits – in fact, they can go on the floor – and he wouldn’t stop that whining and crying until we were safely back outside and Mum was suitably frustrated. The ladies were very nice about it, though.

This morning, I tried again. I was prepared. Jene loaded Wall-E onto the tablet for me, and I packed half a box of Jelly Belly jelly beans and a packet of mini Oreos in my handbag. Things went… slightly better. He still wouldn’t sit on the stool or have a cape over him, so I had a cape and he sat on my lap. The movie distracted him a little, the jelly beans even more so. He wasn’t particularly squirmy, but it still took almost 20 minutes to cut all of that hair (“Yep, quite short, please – it grows very fast!”) – by the end he was really desperate to get down and we were both covered in hair. But, it was done.

As the very nice and patient hairdresser was cutting it, she said, “I’m sorry, it’s not going to be the best haircut…” and I laughed and said, “That really doesn’t matter!” Honestly, there are days where he wakes up and his hair legitimately looks longer than the day before. It’s insane. (I think she did a pretty good job under the circumstances, anyway.)
I’ve said before that I like it longer and scruffy, but it’s getting warmer and he’s too hot. He’s a little furnace as it is – he wears summer pyjamas and only one blanket in bed in winter –  and the extra insulation on his head doesn’t help.

I wonder if he’ll rebel against us one day by deliberately wearing his hair extra short… A bit like The Rage In Placid Lake.

Hair. Goodness me.

Shoes and clothing damage our ability to survive naked in the wilderness.*

* Which is a situation we’ve all found ourselves in.

I am completely fed up with boys clothes. Who knew that the biggest drama I would have with a boy is the constant quest to find decent things to put on his body?

Shirt: Target (on clearance for $1.88) / Shorts: Hundreds & Thousands @ Kmart / Jumper: H&T @ Kmart / Shoes: H&T @ Kmart (I bought two pairs)

The stores that are available to me now, like Target and Big W, sell cheap clothes. The most you’ll pay for something is about $20, and that’s for things like thick jumpers. Cheap is all I need for my little growing person who has no need for long-lasting quality.

Shirt: Target / Shorts: Dymples @ Big W / Shoes: Coles (really)

But. Just because I need cheap, doesn’t mean I need uggers. My choices for Devin’s clothes in these stores can be broken down into four categories – sports, machinery, licensed characters and lame words like ‘Mummy’s little rockstar’.

Shirt: Mambo @ Big W / Shorts: H&T @ Kmart.

Most of Devin’s clothes are plain block colours or striped because I have no other option. I had quite a bit of luck at Kmart with shoes, checked shorts and graphic shirts that were cute but not twee, but there is no Kmart in our current location.

Shirt: Dymples @ Big W / Pants: Bonds @ Big W / Shoes: Munchkin @ Big W.

There is a Pumpkin Patch here, and another boutique store, but they’re unreasonably expensive and too preppy for my tastes. I don’t really get the big deal about Pumpkin Patch.

Shirt: ? gift
Shirt: ? gift / Pants: H&T @ Kmart

Of course I look online, and while I have slightly better luck finding things I like, finding things I can afford? *insert thumbs down and raspberry noise* I mean, $40 for a kids t-shirt? Are you serious? I don’t like paying that for a shirt for me, and I’m not perpetually growing.

Shirts: H&T @ Kmart

The thing is, I know I’m not the only one having this problem. All you have to do is look at the online stock levels of good boys products compared to girls to realise how desperate people are to snap up something nice for little boys. There is a glut of pretty things for girls. Everywhere. And it’s not all pink. But, for some reason, manufacturers still haven’t picked up on the unbalance.

Shirts: Dymples @ Big W / Pants: Dymples @ Big W (I think) / Broom: $5 @ Bunnings

So I’m at a loss, now. Should I take up screen printing and sewing? Actually, I would like to do both of those things, but because I want to, not because no one seems to be able to make tasteful childrens clothing.

Shirt: Target (clearance) / Shorts: H&T @ Kmart / Baby duck @ Japanese gardens

Maybe I should just tie an old singlet on him for a joke and then have him throw a tantrum when I try to take it off because he actually likes it.

Oh, wait, that already happened.