The title says it all. I do not stress while out in public with my autistic son. That is not to say that I’m not alert. I promise you, I have my deer lights on and am on full blown radar alert when out in public with my child. Anything can happen. He could run from me if he gets excited or scared. He could be kidnapped if I look away for one second. You get the picture.
Oakley is seven years old. He is on the autism spectrum. Like most parents of autistic children and adult children, we worry when were in a public outing. There could potentially be something that causes a meltdown or our trip to the store just might not go as planned. We prepare for anything and everything because that’s what we do. We prepare.
For me, I prepare mentally. After I gathered the water bottle, the extra clothes, the noise reducing muffs, the iPad, the phone, dvd player, and preferred snacks, I take a deep breath. Before heading out the door and getting Oakley settled into the van, I tell myself that if this doesn’t go as planned and Oakley is not having it, it is okay. We will turn around and come home- even leave the store with a cart full of stuff if we have to.
Ill say it again.
It is okay.
A lot of parents are under pressure now days. Especially if you’re a stay at home mom or dad or a single parent or a parent who is home alone with your child often because your spouse travels for work- you don’t have a choice but to take your child to the store or to run errands. I know because I am that stay at home mom whose husband is gone 12 hours out of the day. Then when he gets home, I go to work my part time evening job leaving little room to run errands during regular business hours.
A lot of my store going-errand running has to be done during the week and during the day and with my child.
Starting with the day and evening before, I prepare Oakley for the list of things to do. I arrange his magnetic schedule on the fridge, we talk about what we have to do, and I give him a set of incentives/rewards for helping me do these tasks. Helping in this case means him just getting out the house and going for a ride and possibly having to go into a store, bank, or someone’s house. It just depends. These things sound simple, but to someone who is autistic, it can be overwhelming. However, it’s important I get Oakley out and involved because it is skills he needs to develop and utilize as he gets older and becomes an adult.
Some days, this plan works perfect.
Other days, not so much.
And I will say it again;
It is okay.
Sometimes, we manage to get to the store to get some groceries. I tend to get in my head that I just want to get in, get out, and get home, but that’s not always the case.
Oakley wants to wander.
He wants to go to the toy department and go up and down each and every aisle more than once.
He wants to check himself out in the mirrors in the Home Décor Department.
We head to the video game section and he tells me all the ones that he wants for Christmas.
He sees a spot behind the stacks of toilet paper that would make a great hiding spot.
He finds a book or magazine and wants to look at it while we shop.
He wants to go inside the freezer doors because he likes the cold air.
Sometimes, he will lay on the floor because that feels good to him, as well.
His grandma works at Wal-Mart and he will want to go and find her so he can give her a hug.
Ope, we have to stop for some Popcorn chicken.
When we get to the self check out, he wants to scan the items and have me bag them. This takes some time which is why we do self check out in the first place.
He is constantly on the move. Constantly curious.
And that’s okay.
I do not stress about it one bit.
It could take anywhere between 2-3 hours to get through one grocery trip with Oakley. However long it takes, it does not bother me. As long as he is content.
To me, it is a big deal that Oakley is curious, content, and expressing to me all of these things he wants to see and do. It is an absolute joy that he is handling being out in public, walking a lot, and learning the ins and outs of a shopping experience. He’s worked hard to be able to do this. There was a time it wasn’t in our cards to go to the store together.
I acknowledge his wants. I acknowledge what he wants to do. It is important to me to give him this control and satisfaction so he feels comfortable doing these type of things. And if he ever starts having a hard time, I still do my best to remain patient and calm with him. Not because I care what people think if I’m not patient and calm- but because Oakley deserves that. He deserves to not be embarrassed or made to feel a burden, because I choose to seem irate about a difficult situation.
Then there are times we get into the van or the store and Oakley just wants to go home. Times where we don’t even make it into the van because he is agitated, tired, and as he would say, just wants to relax and put his feet up. Even after the preparing of the schedule and verbal conversation- I can see that it’s just not going to be a good day to get out of the house. It is important to me that Oakley knows that I understand that. We all need a rest day sometimes, and that is okay. Tomorrow is another day. The post office can wait, the store can wait- I’ll just get a few things after work, the bills might be due, but they can wait. I don’t need that ice coffee and my friend or family member will just have to understand that there will be no visiting time today. My kid comes first.
I don’t stress while out in public with my autistic child because I don’t have to. I choose not to.
Life can be stressful. The pressures of keeping up with the day to day errand running can be stressful.
My child willing or not willing to participate in said errands is not one of them.