Monday, October 15, 2012

Going Shopping

"Ahhh, I'm not sure about this," our younger son said to me this past week. It was Columbus Day, a school "vacation" day, and the first real cold day here in upstate New York. Proving my insanity, I chose that very day to buy our boys fall jackets.  

That's right. It is October, and I had not yet purchased their jackets. 

We tend to deal with fires only in this house. You know, just the emergencies. And, until that point, the weather had not been cold enough to compel me to deal with jackets.

However, it was cold enough on Columbus Day to require pants and long sleeves, and when our older son's jacket barely zipped, there was no denying it any longer.  I'd used up my grace period. It was time to shop.

So, I did it.  I took them both.

In public.
By myself.
To try on jackets.
With the intent to purchase. 

Yes, I really did.

And, in that moment of protest, our younger son was standing in front of me wearing both a jacket and a look on his face had rejection written all over it.

I just didn't know why I thought this shopping venture was a good idea.

Son #2: I'm just not suuuure. This one is new.

No kidding, kid.

Me: Honey, all of the jackets in this store are new.

Consumed by regret the second the words left my mouth, I watched a  look of panic cross his face as he scanned the entire section of jackets, and I knew right then and there that I had just sabotaged my own efforts. 

He stood, frozen with fear, contemplating an entire department of newness, while to his left, his brother had issues of his own. Living inside his head, older brother was not having a good gastric day. He hurt, which was unfortunately not an uncommon way to live for him. That day, he coped with the pain by shoving his fingers in his ears, humming, and staring at the ground. He focused on the escalators--must get to the escalators. Then, he focused on the elevators--must try out those elevators. 

Hey! The edge of this carpeting looks pretty neat! Why don't we follow it for a while?! 

That's what his mind was telling him, anyway.  To the outside world, all we saw was a wondering child who hummed and whooped and a mother who chased after him.

Oh, sure, I said the words "please" and "thank you" a lot as I pounced upon him and brought him back to the jacket section in order for me to field our younger son's anxiety-ridden comments of indecision, but, let's be honest, I don't think I was sounding all-that-polite to anyone.

Son #2: Ahhh, I'm really not liking this idea.  New jackets are just  You know? And, that would be waaay to...unfamiliar.

(Insert cursing in my head. I'm just being honest.)

Son #2: And new jackets are also...scratchy.

Me: Gasp! Where's your brother? 

Son #2: Fishing supplies.

I threw a different jacket at our younger son to try on while I retrieved our older son. Returned. Younger son had not budged. Took off first new jacket. Threw it on ground. Put on second new jacket. Retrieved wondering Big Brother another time. Returned to inspect Little Brother, who looked as though he was covered in a blanket of splinters.

Son #2: Yeah, well, see, this one is unfamiliar. Unfamiliar jackets are just...well, disturbing.

Shoot me now.

I was the boss here, you know. I wore the pants, drove the car, owned the wallet and made all the rules. AND I WAS ANGRY! It dawned on me that I could tell our younger son to shove it and that it would be quite peaceful if I could shove him and our older son back into the van for a very long and very peaceful drive back home. 

Taking a deep breath, I looked at the two of them, standing in front of me with their heads hanging, both burdened by the weight of this outing. And, it struck me that they weren't the problem. 

Oh, sure, our younger son was giving me grief about transitioning to a new jacket, with it's heavier fabric and scratchy zipper and long sleeves. But, that's just one of his things. I know this about him. And, yes, our older son was pulling out all the stops with the wandering and the humming and the tics and whooping. However, when gastric pain hits, this is what he does.

Frankly, the only unusual thing in our very unusual lives that day was their crazy mother who decided it would be an appropriate time to take them shopping for new jackets...together...without another adult assisting...while they were on a break from their school routine.

I know for sure that day we were an absolute spectacle in the store, and I also know that those looking at us took pity upon me. 

That poor woman. She really has her hands full.

It's true. My hands were full, and the trip to that store was a complete disaster, but I couldn't blame autism. It was my own fault. After all, I don't go grocery shopping when I'm hungry or else I'm likely to buy the entire store, bark at my younger son for his unbelievable lack of shopping focus and rip into a bag of something once we hit the car.  I know this about myself, and I do my best to avoid shopping on an empty stomach whenever possible.  I guess it's just one of my things.

We all have our things.

"Forget the jackets," I said to them. "Let's get out of here."

I was instantly met with looks of relief. Forget about winning this battle. We were already all losers because I had set us up to fail from the start without even realizing it. The jackets could be purchased at another time. This shopping excursion, I finally realized, was not fair to anyone.


  1. You were just trying to get them what they needed and being a good mom. Sometimes you just have to try another day.


  2. Hi, Kathy! (Bowing to the blogging queen as I'm trying to get back into the swing of things.) What you say it true, and at the same time, there is a heightened responsibility to be aware of special considerations with kids like ours. Simple outings take planning. Shopping isn't a simple outing. Why I didn't plan is beyond me.

    By the way, they do have their jackets now. Another store. Better circumstances. Happier kids.

  3. Your shopping experiences brings back memories: Eric lying on the floor at Northgate Mall screaming because we were going in the "wrong" direction; Chris on a "life skills" outing helping himself to unpaid-for candy and grinning; Maurice insisting (very vocally) on wearing his winter jacket in 80 degree weather. Mostly, though, when those experiences occurred, I was with other caregivers and/or teachers. You are one brave lady trying the shopping thing alone. One can't help hoping, at times, that things will go differently despite all previous evidence to the contrary. You knew when to give up which is something not all of us are good at acknowledging.

    1. Yes! This is exactly the type of situation we encountered! It went beyond the "I don't like this" or "It's too hot" or any other basic kid complaints to tics, anxiety, wantering, processing difficulties, transition difficulties--gosh, you name it, we had it.

      Thanks so much for explaining it as magnificently as you did. I hope others will find comfort in your words and know that it doesn't only happen to them.

  4. I think you were brave, and also possibly wanting "normal" just for a few minutes. Since my boys were little, I've always bought their coats on my own. In fact, I still do, and they are now 17 and 16. Just easier. They don't care about fashion. Now, my daughter, who just turned 20, I always brought with me for clothes shopping.....