This Saturday morning I took my little folk to the store with me. Little Guy did not want to go. Little Guy seldom wants to leave the house. He handles leaving for routine things like his weekly appointments or school pretty well, but spring a trip to Target on him and watch the drama unfold.
It starts from the moment he is informed we will be going. His face falls immediately into an expression of distress and he emphatically tells me "No, we are NOT going to the store! We're staying home!" I say something like,"Yes, yes we are" which usually gets a "The store is broken" or another "No, we're staying home". I disregard his protests and he becomes my unwilling participant in getting dressed, brushing his teeth, combing his hair and getting his shoes on. Baby Boy, it should be noted, is excited and happy to be going somewhere. He can't wait to brush his teeth and put his shoes on.
Eventually we head out the door, Little Guy still protesting. Once in the vehicle and resigned to the fact that we are actually leaving the house, he attempts to persuade me to another destination. No, we are not going to the pet store instead. After a brief respite provided by the distraction of music, the selection of which is a whole other mini drama, we park at the store where we can return to the drama on the main stage, called "Little Guy does not want to go the store!"
We are walking up to the store now and he is still protesting. Simple, well reasoned explanations that we need to go to the store and won't be there long are a waste of breath. Both calm demands that he behave himself and sharper words to "cut it out" yield pitiful and tearful pleadings of "I'm sorry, Mom. I'm so sorry!" He will dissolve into further despair and continue to chant this until he is told "It's ok". Try to explain to him what he did wrong, why you're upset, or that what he did really wasn't cool and it will only yield more of the chant. If you don't say anything, he will eventually instruct you in between tearful sniffles, "Say 'It's ok.'" Those are literally the only words he wants to hear, the only words that will calm him down. This is how Little Guy reacts to 90% of any kind of rebuke these days, be it gentle or sharp, over something minor or something important. Tearful, pitiful, "I'm so sorrys" that make you feel like the meanest and most heartless person on earth.
And so we enter the wonderful land of Target: one unhappy preschooler, one happy camper toddler and one mom still keeping it together with most my calm in tact. We have 90 beautiful seconds of walking peacefully through the store before Little Guy starts screaming and announces he has hurt his toe. How I have no idea, and it looks fine but I pick him up and hug him and try to calm him down. He doesn't want to let go of me and is still quite upset, so I set him on the shopping cart handles and with him grasping on to me like a spider monkey push on to collect the items on our list. Soon I set him down and within 30 seconds he steps in front of the cart and gets his foot run over. Replay of crying, hugging, spider monkey scene.
In the classical sense of time our shopping trip has been quite short, but in Mommy Time we've been in Target for about 8 years when I put the last few things in our cart. Since that first 90 second stretch of peace not 30 seconds has gone by without some kind of unhappy outburst from Little Guy, who is truly an emotional mess at this point. Some of my fellow shoppers give me small smiles of sympathy and understanding and really I appreciate that. This isn't my first time starring in the public kiddie meltdown show, but that doesn't mean I enjoy it.
By checkout time the outbursts have evolved into dissatisfaction that I will buy him neither a unicorn pillow pet nor a toy tractor. In realization of his final defeat on these matters, Little Guy crouches into a ball in front of our cart and weeps while I swipe my credit card. The cashier makes small talk with Baby Boy, sitting in the cart and being adorable. As I sign my name on the screen the cashier says, "You have one cute kid". I know there is a way to say those words that is simply a nice compliment to Baby Boy, not intended as a slight to my other child. But that is not the way it came out of his mouth.
I guess I need little cards to hand out that say, "My child is not a brat, he is autistic." And also some that say "Fuck you, asshole."