Grocery shopping – a necessity for most households. For some it requires relatively minimal effort of making and checking off a list, while others can find themselves mapping out a more extensive master plan for possible unexpected traumatic sensory scenarios.
Allow me to explain.
I used to find grocery shopping a rather enjoyable (dare I say calming) experience in my “younger – OCD - I have all the time in the world” life. I’d meander the aisles carefully, reading or searching for the perfect ingredients for some new fancy recipe I was trying. My coupons were meticulously cut and organized, my list was well thought out even categorized...cheese, wine, veggies, meat, wine - don’t judge.
That was then.
Insert my beautiful, amazing children and some years later…
Now it has become more like a race, not the calming experience I once enjoyed. How fast can I get in and out with my mini entourage before any meltdowns occur, or someone (ok that someone is you) is sprinting for the parking lot in sensory distress.
It’s true, navigating stores with kiddos takes some serious patience and practice! No two children are the same – that is a fact!
When Clara was young she was a runner - if her feet hit the floor, she was like Usain Bolt speeding through the aisles dodging carts!
Gabe was an eater. If it was in arms reach it was opened and nibbled on. I promise you my dear, we fed him.
You my love took the title of our screamer. But, you had good reason with your sensory processing disorder, because stores are filled with sensory overload. The inability to filter the millions of sounds (that most people don’t even realize are at the store), boxes being stacked, carts bumping into things, chip bags crunching, cash registers beeping, water misting sprayers showering vegetables (with their fake thunderstorm noises beforehand), our horrible luck of getting “that cart” EVERYTIME (you know the one with the squeaky wheel everyone can hear coming), the list could go on and on. All this in addition to the bright lights and movement everywhere can be a nightmare for many autistic kids.
With all the distress that stores can cause you, I found a new love for ordering online! I drive up, push a button and someone brings out my groceries. Seriously a brilliant concept if I do say so! No sensory issues there! But the fact of the matter remains exposure is key, and exposure of mommy pushing a call button for groceries is probably not what was intended by that advice.
This exposure theory is not just a “dive in” approach like some would think, that can cause even greater anxiety. It’s testing the water with persistence and a whole lot of patience.
We had taken a break from the grocery shopping scene for a minute, but it was time to dip our toes back in and what better time to do that than during the holiday season. OK, well maybe that wasn’t planned out very well, but here goes nothing!
It was a divide and conquer kind of day and Dad had taken you along to the grocery store to grab a few things. It took 3 tries of going in and out of the store before you were calm enough, and not climbing into the back of the cart instantly removing your shoes and socks. He was determined you would walk through the store and still get everything on the list. With some quick thinking, he gave you a job. That’s right Addie a focus just for you – pushing the cart. Giving you an activity to focus on can help drown out some of the distractions around you. It also happens to be a life skill - see what he did there ;)?
Well played daddy…well played.
I started receiving text pictures from daddy of you happily walking (with shoes on!), and pushing the cart through the store. My eyes instantly teared up, I was SO proud of you (and daddy too for his persistence!). No easy task for anyone involved especially in a public place during the holidays.
Addie, you got through the whole store with no issues, and I’m happy to report you have done so on MULTIPLE occasions since.
Why didn’t we try this before you might ask? Well, so much of life is about waiting for the right time, and having patience. It was time.
So, we gave you a job Ad, it may not work out perfect every time, but so far so good and we are unbelievably proud of how well you’re doing! Keep it up!
You never stop amazing us.
I love you.