LB, Rich and I went to watch Tom in his school’s production of The Wizard of Oz. It was deliciously brilliant and the hours and hours of practice the cast had put in shone through. LB started muttering to himself about 50 minutes in. Stamping on the floor of the tiered seating. People started surreptitiously looking. Curious.
Disruption of public space has long been an interest of mine. Through years of experience and studying it. How much ‘disruption’ is acceptable and why? In what contexts? My bar is set fairly low so I didn’t mind LB chittering on too much. Either people accept unusual behaviour in public, or certain people who can’t conform to (often spurious) normative standards can’t join in. Uncomfortable discussions around ‘what about people who buy expensive opera tickets and expect to be able to watch it without disruption?’ (as Len Davis once discussed at a memorable keynote talk) weren’t relevant here. I thought.
It got hotter and hotter in the hall and LB got increasingly agitated. Clenching his whole body and shuddering.
“WHAT.EVER!” he finally shouted out when the Good Witch told Dorothy to follow the yellow brick road.
“I’d better take him out,” whispered Rich, who was sitting nearest the aisle.
“Let’s wait and see,” I said. “It must be the interval soon…”
The songs continued, the heat rose and LB was tipping into full blown agitation gesticulating at the ceiling, bouncing on his seat and full body clenching. It was time to go. Rich manoeuvred him out and took him home, after a teacher brought him some water. He did well really at keeping a lid on it.
I stayed for the second half. Enjoying watching Tom and his mates singing, acting and dancing their socks off. With niggles about what had happened. The enjoyment was great. The niggles were a bit more complicated. It’s upsetting having that kind of experience. For all sorts of reasons. There are going to be enduring tensions between us (and others) making LB do (some) ‘typical’ things that he doesn’t want to do. Sometimes these things will be necessary, sometimes because we want him to. He should have been able to sit through the performance, as he sits through other things he enjoys. I was reminded of a friend’s husband saying to her in frustration “When are you going to realise our lives are less than straightforward?” after their son, one of LB’s classmates, had to leave a candlelight carol service at Christchurch College after repeatedly trying to blow the candles out.
I think LB (and other dudes) should be able to attend events with a leniency allowance. They may not sit quietly for the duration. LB gets very involved in things and the audience could suck it up really… within reason. And they seemed to in this context. In the interval and later people (friends, parents and teachers) asked after LB with genuine concern/interest without being intrusive. But there were the performers to consider here, too. A dose of ‘heckling-type’ behaviour could throw ’em right off track. Which ain’t ideal.
I collected Tom at the end of the show. A mix of excitement, exhaustion and smudged face paint.
“When did dad and LB leave?” he asked.