My biggest challenge these days is trying to run errands with the kiddos. First of all, as a working mom, my time to get things done ends up being at the end of a long day of work (for me) and daycare (for M and M2). My kids are angels, for the most part, at daycare. They have their regular kid issues, but no one would guess what they act like after school. It’s like M holds back all his frustration and unleashes it on me or M2 as “struggle concentrate” in the evenings. See my post on the therapy swing for what we are currently doing to combat this! Here’s the hard part: sometimes, I have no choice but to take them to do something (i.e. shopping) that I know will cause a meltdown.
I wish I had started this blog a few weeks sooner. I would have definitely been able to better recount what I consider an absolutely dreadful Target experience. I was on my last diaper and wanted to run in and grab a jumbo box of size 4 diapers and just a few things on my list that are difficult to pick out online. (I do almost ALL shopping on line these days! Shoutout to Instacart!) M’s sensory profile is a mix of hypo- and hyper-sensitive but one of the things that drives him batty is large retail stores. I don’t know if its the florescent lights, the movement, the sounds, the combo of these things, but whatever it is, makes him lose his composure. He can no longer make eye contact, he throws himself into walls or onto the floor, he can’t sit in the cart without making it dangerous. M2 is almost entirely hyposensitive to stimuli these days (although as an infant was the opposite). So it is difficult to keep her from touching, licking, biting, everything in the store. She won’t sit in the car, she is some sort of baby contortionist, she can wiggle her way out of any seatbelt and if I turn my back on the cart for even a second, she will be balance one foot on the shopping cart seat, one foot on a shelf, stuffing things into her mouth at rapidfire pace. Seriously, what did FASD parents do before online shopping?
Back to my Target experience. I don’t know why but my closest Target is always out of the big boxes of size 4 Huggies. So then, I have to stand in the aisle with what should have been a 5 second task, grab the box of Huggies, grab a giant box of Target brand wipes and run out the door as fast as possible. That didn’t happen, I had to read prices, compare sales, and find something else that would substitute for our usual brand. It took too long. And we were too close to the giant blinking Christmas display. M lost it. I mean. LOST. IT. He was throwing his body into the shelves, moaning, whining. It was about 5:30pm, an already busy Target time, and I manuevered the cart with M2 seated and still buckled (thankfully not complaining too loud about getting out) and M writhing aggressively in my arms. I turned out of the aisle to face the checkouts and, of course, there were only 2 checkouts open and lines 15 carts deep. For the one minute I waited in line, M writhed so much he wiggled out of my arms onto the floor in a puddle where he convulsed kicking everything within reach. Thank God for whoever the kind Target employee was who saw my struggle and opened a register just for me. I was out of there two minutes later. I wrestled M into his carseat and he was asleep by the time we got home 10 minutes later, exhausted, overwhelmed. My sweet baby, I know his triggers, why don’t I learn! (Of course, I was also upset that he fell asleep so close to bedtime. More on our sleep issues later.)
Because of that experience, I am scarred. I can’t even imagine taking them to any store ever again. At least not without G for reinforcement. But there are unavoidable appointments. Like the one I had yesterday. Although the environment of the WIC office is not nearly as hard on him as Target, we had a quick height and weight check this week. They are only open until 5:30 and I had to bring the kids.
I know, the office is less crowded on Mondays than other days. It is also way less crowded at the middle of the month than at the beginning or the end. So it was a good time to go. I planned in the morning that we were going after school. I packed a few snacks and our current favorite sensory item to help keep him calm, right now it is a string with a truck attached that he can swing in circles. I don’t know why this is relaxing for him, but it is. He will watch it spinning, he will even spin his body to spin the truck around on the ground.
I was right, the office was not crowded when we arrived a little after 5. We were in an out in a few minutes. There was only one other kid there and he was playing calmly. There wasn’t a ton of noise or commotion. M played with his truck on a string for almost the entire time. I felt a surge of pride that I had planned this so well. One errand that didn’t cause our entire evening to deconstruct. M and M2 were both in a relatively good mood when we got home. I was ready to put on some TV and let them veg for a little bit while I made dinner. However, life likes to serve me up some humble pie just when I am starting to feel like I am in control. I open our front door to reveal an enormous mess. At that point, I have no idea what happened but the first thing I noticed was that nearly every Christmas ornament has been removed from our tree and scattered all over the room. I then notice the feathers. Little tiny feathers everywhere. Everywhere. I walk a little farther into our house and peek into the room where there are masses of feathers everywhere. I know from the look of the feathers that it wasn’t a down pillow explosion. There is a bird in the house somewhere. A bird that our cat must be torturing as we speak. Because the majority of the mess was in the bedroom, I assumed the bird was in there so I shut the door so he couldn’t escape. I didn’t need further destruction in other rooms of the house. I called G frantically out of frustration but the reception is bad he thought it was an emergency and rushed home.
The kids thought the swirling feathers were fun. I saw M2 stuff one in her mouth and I LOST. IT. My calm and successful evening went right out the window. I yelled. “STOP. IT. GOsitonthecouchanddon’tmove.” M is not quite used to me yelling and I saw his face change from delight to fear and saw him start to meltdown. He is sensitive. He quickly transitioned that fear into anger and he went after M2 thinking it was her fault that the feather and ornament swirling fun time was over. I managed to get him quickly into a “time-in” to get him back to regulated and then started the giant task of cleaning up. I had gotten all the ornaments back on the tree and feathers in the living room cleaned up when G showed up. He found the bird, deceased,mangled but intact, in our bedroom.
I think these little unpredictable events are what I dwell on the most. I was smugly admiring my own success as I walked into the house yesterday. I pride myself in keeping calm in stressful situations. But this, this was not stressful. It was just a mess. Something easy to set right again. This is when I lose it. Now after a day to reflect, I am blaming it all on the cat.