For as long as I can remember I have preferred to avoid the crowds. Until I realised I am a highly sensitive person I never really knew why, or even thought about why for that matter.
As a teenager, my friend and I regularly frequented afternoon film showings in a small local cinema. We would often have the cinema to ourselves and they are fond memories. No rustling of sweet papers, no crackling of popcorn, no chatting from other moviegoers. Back then it wasn’t even particularly a conscious decision to choose the quiet times. We’d go to evening runs of movies too – but those quiet movie afternoons were definitely my favourite.
I also preferred the quiet evenings in the pub with friends, with music playing in the background that meant we could talk to each other and not shout over background noise. We went to nightclubs too, and despite those evenings also being fun, it’s the intimate chats in the quiet pubs that stick out in mind as the cherished moments.
Fast forwards a few decades and I am still opting for days out and visits to places where we may just miss the crowds. These days it’s not just for my sake, but for my three children too.
Avoiding the crowds takes planning. We avoid the opening days of new events and let the mad rush subside before we head there too. We don’t target Bank holiday weekends for visiting theme parks. We choose mornings over afternoons for shows so it’s a little quieter. We’ll opt for the side events instead of the main events. We let a film run a few weeks at the cinema before we go to see it.
Of course, sometimes we bite the bullet and do it anyway but then we plan in quiet time afterwards. We make allowances for frazzled boys and lower our expectations.
Last week we visited the Nemo Science Centre in Amsterdam. Man, oh man it was busy. The tempers in my family started flaring, we all started feeling irritated and grumpy and I was physically and mentally exhausted by the time we walked out the doors at the day’s end. Don’t get me wrong, the museum was wonderful and my children had a great day – but it was draining. The noise was overwhelming at times, we were jostled at every exhibition and I was overloaded by the amount of children bumping against me and hurtling through us as we walked around. I had reckoned on it being quieter than it actually was. We went with the flow – and picked up the pieces afterwards. Luckily we had a planned a quiet day the next day – and we all needed it for sure.
The trick is to understand our children’s (and our own) triggers – and understand the effects those triggers will have on us all. That understanding goes a long long way to helping us parent our highly sensitive children.
Over to You: What are your triggers? What overwhelms you? Are they the same triggers as your children’s?