A. Peevie doesn’t handle distress well. He tolerates frustration like a cat tolerates being tossed into a swimming pool. There is nothing moderate or rational in his automatic dismay response: it’s loud, violent, and intense, like a Die Hard movie.
And it has a hair trigger. A.P. is hyper-sensitive to hot, cold, noise, and light; to flavors that are too sweet, too sour, too spicy, not spicy enough; to large groups of people; to transitions; to smells, stickiness, and clothing that is too tight or too loose. Even crumbs on the table can set him off in the morning, which in our household is not a little bit ironic.
Today, it was a debilitating scourge that almost brought our family to doom, causing unimaginable pain and horrific mental and emotional distress. What was this this vile plague, this painful torment, this deluge of disruption?
Socks with bumps.
We were getting through our morning routines with a normal amount of delay and distraction--this one can't find her favorite jeans, that one doesn't want to stop drawing Pokemon characters long enough to get dressed. But finally, finally, we were all mostly dressed and mostly in our right minds. M. Peevie and I headed downstairs, when suddenly, we were stopped in our tracks by a blood-curdling scream.
"Aaaaaaaaaggggghhhhhhhhhh!!!" A. Peevie screeched at the top of his lungs. "Buuuuumps! Aaaaagggghhhh!"
That sound was like ice-picks are being jammed into my brain--but I valiantly tried to stay cool-headed. "A.," I said calmly, "What are you screaming about? Stop screaming, use words and a normal voice, and I'll try to help you."
A. Peevie calmed down a tiny bit, but his face was still scrunched up like that of a ticked-off bulldog. He took a deep breath. "Bumps!" he whined. "These socks have bumps." He was still huffing and puffing, on the verge of more ice-pick jamming volume. "They hurt my feet. I can't wear them!"
They were brand-new socks, the thin, polyester kind. I picked them out on purpose because I knew from past experience that sock bumps could set our morning schedule off by 15 minutes or more. I tried to explain this to Captain Sensitive.
"A. Peevie," I said, "Look! There are no bumps! These socks are thin and smooth. No bumps!"
Wrong approach. You can't tell the princess there is no pea under her nine-foot-high stack of Posturepedics®, and you can't tell A. Peevie that there are no bumps on his socks. He feels them; therefore, they are. And they are pure torture. Michael Mukasey might get away with equivocating about waterboarding, but he would never have been confirmed as the Attorney General if he supported making terrorists wear socks with bumps (known as 'sock-bumping' in the intelligence industry).
"No, look!" A. Peevie sobbed. "Here! and here!" He rubbed my finger along the smooth-ish seam of the sock. "Bumps!"
I wiped the tears, I smoothed the bumps. "Here," I said, "if I smooth out the bumps, and then hold the sock tight up by your ankle, it should be fine." Finally, we got the bump situation resolved, and our breathing returned to normal.
Two Minutes Later: "Aaaaaaaaagggggghhhhhh! My shoes are too tight!"
Postscript: Apparently these ultra-sensitive children are not uncommon, and there's even a book about how to parent them. I already ordered it.