Sensory kids are challenging. You just never know what’s going to happen! You could have a lovely outing when you expected all hell to break loose. You could have a meltdown in a formerly safe place. You just never know!
I would like to blame grocery shopping issues on sensory stuff. Maybe it’s part of it? I don’t know. I’m far more tempted to say my kids turn into little wild animals at the sight of the grocery store, but that’s not really fair either.
Outside of routine
We usually go solo, one parent or the other. Since grocery stores are a known trigger it’s easier to work around it than subject the kids to weekly torture. This weekend was too busy. We had to split up, take 1 or more kids with us, and get the errands done. I had both boys with me and one goal in mind: get it done quickly!
Picking out cookies was the highlight of the morning, and they chattered away over the merits of one cookie versus the other. They had opinions on everything. Literally, everything! Then they got bored. That’s when the fun started.
We shop at Aldi, so it’s a small store with a limited selection. It makes things easier, like when I’m chasing down a chortling 4-year-old or reminding my 7-year-old to STOP TOUCHING EVERYTHING! Definitely sensory issues there.
We made it to the end, to the abnormally long check-out lane. Then, trouble. Mr. 4 had a tantrum when I made him stay with me. He ran clear to the door while playing with his “little man” toy (tiny figure of Spock.) He broke the hard rule: stay with mommy! and had to face the penalty of riding in the cart.
Screaming. Fighting. Throwing his toy. Yelling. Thankfully he can’t unbuckle himself so he’s limited to trying to kick and hit me rather than climb out. It felt like everyone in the store was watching us, watching my son scream and try to hurt me. We were the show for everyone waiting in line.
Behavior is communication
He was so frustrated I did the only thing I could and gave him a big bear hug. I calmly told him that I knew how frustrated he was and how upset the cart makes him. I reminded him that his choice to run away put him in this situation, and that I knew how much he hated it. I hugged him. And he calmed down.
When I looked up, I saw my oldest. My normally misbehaving, wildly impulsive child who tests my limits at every turn: I saw him bagging our groceries. Without being told to! And more than that, he was carefully placing them on the bottom rack of the grocery cart out of reach of flailing hands and screaming 4-year-old. He was being so responsible and amazing that I wanted to cry!
A positive focus
Instead of getting upset that my 4-year-old lost it, I left the store amazed at how mature my oldest is. I was happy that he demonstrated he can not only behave, but anticipate needs and be responsible. Later, when he asked to return the cart for me, he also asked that I go with him “to make sure I don’t get hit by a car.” Since this is the same store that he nearly did get hit by a car because of his impulsive behavior, his request was self-advocacy rather than anxiety speaking. I’m proud of him!
This particular outing was both meltdown and success, and it gives me hope that even my wild little animal will grow up and mature into a responsible kid. I can hope!