FatherSon Ventures

Building a Relationship through Adventure

Monster’s University

Written By: Scot Butwell - Dec• 31•13

DSCN1134D and I saw Monster’s University the first week of summer. It was the first day we were both out from school–D from preschool, me from high school–and without a plan, my default idea was to see a movie.

Monster’s U was only the second movie D has seen at a theater. The first was The Muppets when he was three. D lasted 42 minutes, but he became a huge Muppet fan from watching the movie many times at home.

L and I have not taken D to movies because he is overstimulated by noisy environments, so I was curious to see how he would respond to the loud audio in a blockbuster animation film.

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We saw Monster’s Inc. the night before at home, so I was either guilty for allowing excessive media consumption (true) or, paradoxically, creating an awesome double-feature movie opportunity (true).

The volume was excessively loud from the start. D covered his ears with his hands, squirming non-stop in his seat. It was uncomfortably loud for me too, but I managed to tolerate the volume.

I consider myself to be a sensory “sensitive” dad, learning from D’s occupational therapist and reading on my own to understand how his sensory system is different from other kids.

L and I watched an excellent documentary, Graham’s Story, about an eight-year-old boy with sensory processing issues, and there were many similarities between Graham and D.

The point of the documentary was sensory issues can make it seem like a child is on the spectrum, but a child can have sensory issues and not other common traits associated with being on the spectrum.

So I regard myself as a dad who understands his son’s sensory system. But I completely ignored the signals D’s body was sending off like when he sprang out of his seat after ten to fifteen minutes.

He was like a spring coming loose from its bearings, but my response was to cajole him to sit back down, rather than give his senses the break they so obviously needed.

D was engrossed in the movie despite the volume, but really it was me that didn’t want to miss any of the movie. This was how “sensitive” I was to his sensory system being on overwhelmed.

The next time I looked over at D, his body was convulsing as if he was in a prison electric chair. However, I was still more concerned with seeing the movie than giving D a sensory break.

Soon after he sprang out of his seat again and bolted towards the exit. His senses had obviously reached their limit, and it was impossible to remain in denial that he was on sensory overload.

So we took a break in the lobby, and when we returned, Sully, Mikey and the Tri Lambdas were competing in the Scare Games to become the top scarers at Monster’s University.

Despite missing four or five scenes, I liked how Mikey, a lime-green ball with one eye and pencil-thin limbs, accepted his physical limitations, yet never gave up his dream of being a top scarer.

He was intelligent and a loyal friend to Sulley, a big, blue wall of fur, and his quirky personality reminded me of D, and I saw glimpses of myself in Sulley, and not only for his large size compared to Mikey.

I liked how Mikey motivated the talented, but overly confident Sully, using his gift of gab encourage Sully to be his best–and being a dad of an atypical child, D inspires me to be my best as a dad.

As Mikey confronts the realization that he might not be frightening enough to be a scarer at Monsters, Inc., I couldn’t help but think and wonder about D and his future as an adult.

I appreciated the film didn’t push a “you can be anything you want to be” message. Instead, it conveyed a more nuanced perspective on childhood dreams:

Every dream may not come true. But through accepting our strengths and weakness, we can embrace what’s wonderful about ourselves. 

And that’s what Mikey did–and why I liked the movie.

I wasn’t sure what D thought of the movie since he squirmed through most of it. Yet, he began calling me Sully and himself Mikey in the next couple weeks, just as he called me Gary and himself Walter after watching The Muppets.

This simultaneously showed me his perception of the movie and our relationship: it was a friendship tale. And we spent the next few weeks scaring each other or his friend C from across the street–who wasn’t so happy about it.

Apparently, he has some sensory issues of his own–at least to loud screams.

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