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Shopping on the Spectrum

With Autism, Meltdowns are Frequent

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How I picture everyone else in the store is thinking in their head, “If that was my child….”

In our household, my main fitter is Charlie Bear.  He has about one very public meltdown a month.  They usually end with me wanting a nice stiff drink, profuse sweating, and both of us exhausted.  During a meltdown I have felt like an Asshole, that I should have done better,  that EVERYONE is judging me,  and why can’t this little fucker quit Minecraft for 30 fucking minutes so we can shop!  It’s such a mixture of emotions and those emotions last long after the fit is over.  I am sharing the two most recent public meltdowns to help my readers understand what our lives are like.

Costco Meltdown

Normally I handle Charlie’s public meltdowns with a calm, stern manner.  Today I was so taken aback by his behavior that I lost all of my control, training, and sense.  He was losing his ever-loving shit. Being the awful Mom that I am I refused to let him play the tablet in the store.  He needs to learn how to be a person in public, and how to be a part of his community.

Near Miss

I forgot to give Charlie his 10-minute warning before we got to Costco so he had to quit abruptly.  I am human and I occasionally forget to prime the boys before a trip.  As we were are leaving the car, he begins to jerk at my arm and fuss.  I start planned ignoring and he notices this and begins to pull on the cart we just got.  I firmly tell him to stop.  As we enter Costco, he spots an opportunity to force me to pay attention. He decides to kick at the boxes of curved flat screen TV’s on the left of the entrance.  I grabbed him just before his foot hits the boxes.  Before I even recover from that, he flings off the nearby display,  two boxes filled with $600 cameras.  Fortunately, his twin Bobby catches the boxes before they hit the ground.

Losing Control

I lost it, I grabbed him by the arms and told him I was going to whoop his ass if he tries something like that again.  I was screaming at him, which was absolutely the wrong thing to do but I lost my control.  He wiggled free from my grasp and ran over to another expensive item and began to kick it.  I am so done with him at this point. Then a nice older man walks over and so sweetly says to Charlie, “Hey Buddy, can you make better choices for your Momma.  You’re making her sad.”  Bobby jumped in and told the man, “She has this, we can handle this ourselves.”  The man then says, “Okay, I just wanted to make sure you don’t need any help. Can I get a high five?”  and I look at the sweet, kind, man and say, “He has autism.”  And he then says, “That’s okay, we all have rough times.” He proceeded to give Bobby and William a high five, tried Charlie with no success, and I called off thank you to him as he walked away.

Judgement

Believe it or not, he calmed the whole situation with such kindness and lack of judgment.  By this point, I had picked Charlie up and he began to cry into my neck and say, “I am so sorry Mommy.”  And I stood there for a moment and rubbed his back and told him I loved him.  I continued to carry him through the store because I felt he needed it or maybe I did, whatever the reason was it just felt necessary.

Kindness

I have handled hundreds of Charlie’s public meltdowns.  They are usually stressful, but this one hit all my feels.  I was frustrated, angry, scared, grateful, sad, so many emotions in such a short time.  Then to have someone come to help with just kindness not judgement hit me right in my gut.  It was so refreshing to have someone that, wants to help you and not judge you as a terrible Mom.

Target Meltdown

Yesterday I had the crazy idea to take the boys at 4:30 to Target.  It was a hard call because I try to avoid stores at busy times with the boys, but we really needed basics.  We were out of all the things because we had been out of town for a week.  If I didn’t get the necessities we would be eating moldy cheese for dinner. 

Minecraft, you Bastard

I have this love/hate relationship with Minecraft.  I love it because my children will be silent for a guaranteed hour when I let them play.  I hate it because Charlie does not transition well off Minecraft to another activity.  Charlie was playing Minecraft in the car. I primed them and gave 5-minute warnings, and then when we got in the parking lot they knew it was time to turn off their tablets.  Well, Charlie didn’t go back to his house or needed to kill a Golem, or some life or death Minecraft scenario.  He kicks off his crocks and refused to go in.  I give him the choice of putting his shoes back on or going in barefoot.  He felt grunting was the best way to defiantly answer me and I pulled him out of the car barefoot and proceeded to drag him into the store.

All the Staring

By the time we get in the door, I have been carrying this 60lb 8 year old like one would carry their loved one over a threshold on their wedding day.  He is grunting and wiggling.  I, unfortunately, was not planning to do crossfit in Target, so I was in a dress with jewelry on.  I am pretty sure several people saw my bar as he tugged and kicked displays.  However, I am sure they only noticed the flailing child in my arms.

Destruction 

Once we got to the back of the store where the groceries were, my arms started to give way and I had to put him down.  I kept a firm grip on his arm because any time I would let go he would hit one of his brothers. He was also knocking things off the shelf and tried to knock over a display of Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc wine.  I am not sure which would have made me sadder, the bill of all of those broken bottles, or all of the wasted wine.  Every time he knocked something over, I would make him put it back.  He would comply although he would not put it exactly where it needed to be.  At this point, I knew my Husband was almost home.  I called him and had him come to Target to help me with Charlie.

Help Has Arrived

My  Husband arrives just as we are checking out and we both think it’s best he takes him home.  When I walk out of the store I notice that they are hanging out at the entrance of Target.  I ask Trey what is going on and he says, “I think someone called the cops on Charlie”.  Without hesitation, I go and ask the officer if he is there for us.  Thankfully it was a shoplifter and not us he was after, but it could have so easily have been us.  

Good Can Come from Bad

On a positive note, his brothers were amazing.  I told them to grab a cart and they did, I’d tell them to put something in the cart and they would.  Keep in mind that they also have autism and get uncomfortable when Charlie has a public fit, so they were rock stars for this one.  I  praised them the whole way home.  Sometimes when you are having a rough time the only thing you can do is look at the positive side.