Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Meltdowns and Dollars: The Price of Awareness

I had a brain freeze today.  I needed to run to Target to buy a birthday present after work.  Going anywhere with the children after a day of school and a couple hours at day care never, ever goes well.  And Eric was home  from work early today.  So I should have taken them home, then run back out by myself.  Except that we're already half-way to Target from work, so I asked them if they could handle a stop at the store, and they said yes...so off we went.

In all fairness (to them), they handled a stop at Target just fine. The problem was that someone cleared the Target shelves of anything that might make an appropriate gift for a one-year old.  So we had to make another stop.  My choices at this point were Walmart, or Toys R Us.  And I really hate our Walmart--it's crowded, and dirty, and the people who shop there have no manners.  So off we went to Toys R Us.

Bringing two children into Toys R Us is asking for trouble.  I don't care how well behaved your children are--that place will bring out the worst in any kid.   I told them both before we got out of the car that we were getting a present for the party, and nothing else.  We were not going to look at toys for them.  We were not going to stop and play with the display toys.  We were in a hurry and just needed one thing and then we were leaving.

They heard "blah blah blah blah TOYS blah blah blah blah."

Sure enough, Squirrel had to touch every.single.toy she saw.  She had to press each button, pull each lever, read each box.  She was aware that her behavior was making me crazy, so she kept trying to rush her brother along to catch up to me.  Which made him mad because A. she was telling him what to do; B. she wasn't being fair because she was touching things (he's all about the fairness these days); and C. he hates unexpected and uninvited touches of any kind.

He had noticed the Geo Tracks right away when we got in the store.  He's been telling me for weeks that he needs more Geo Tracks.  I have convinced him that he can have them for his birthday--which is in August.  Light years away in a Kindergartener's mind!

So by the time we finally found a suitable toy for our present, Munchkin was in meltdown mode.  And fixated on the Geo Tracks.  I failed to grab a cart when we came in (because we only needed one thing!) so I couldn't just pick him up and deposit him kicking and screaming into the back of it.  Which meant I had two choices: let him cry it out on the floor in the Fisher Price toy aisle, or scoop him up and carry him like a sack of potatoes over my shoulder.  Did I mention we were in a hurry?

Well, we made it to the check out line, with only one person ahead of us.  And as we're waiting, two people end up behind us.  Now, to my credit, I kept my cool this whole time.  I calmly told Squirrel to quit touching everything for the hundredth time while depositing Munchkin on the floor between my feet (so he couldn't bolt) and setting down our gift on the counter, and still managing to find my rewards card in my wallet and get ready to pay.  And, to their credit, the other customers were very kind and compassionate towards me and my kids (lots of "Oh, poor little guy" murmurings).  As far as meltdown experiences go, this one was not bad at all.  The cashier rang up my order and scanned my rewards card.  Then she asks:

"Would you like to donate a dollar to autism research?"

And I laughed.  I couldn't help it!  The irony of it was just too much!  She looked at me like I was nuts (which, a little bit, I was!) and said, "Oh, OK."  So of course I had to explain myself!  I said, "Here's a little autism research for you right now!  My son has autism, and is having a meltdown triggered by an overwhelmed sensory system and a tired little body.  And yes, I will donate a dollar."

I have no idea what the other people in line thought of me, because I then had to hand Squirrel our purchase, scoop up Munchkin again, and head out the door to resume our normal living.  But maybe, just maybe, they were encouraged to give a dollar too after what they had just witnessed.  Maybe, if nothing else, they felt compassion for me and for Munchkin and wanted to help us out in some way!

I mean, if that's not what Autism Awareness Month is all about, I don't know what is!

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