Susan's Blog

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Grocery shopping as a rite of passage

Oh, Stop&Shop.  I have come to you for food for 23 years.  I have complained about your sometimes bruised fruit, your empty shelves, your lack of Atkins bars.  I have loved you for your workers with disabilities, the guy who chats a bit too much about the Red Sox and food; the young man I recognize from one of Nat’s social groups; the man who covers his ears while he packs.  The summer job kids from Brookline High School; the woman from Town Hall who has a job here, too, on the register.

We can walk to Stop&Shop.  We did that many times with our boys when they were younger.  Stop&Shop back then was a dreaded destination.  The worst time was when Nat had some kind of terrible outburst outside, when we were done.  Back then he had few communication skills and so did we, so we did not always understand what was wrong for him.  My blood pressure shot way up, as always, and I switched into Please God Make It Stop mode, along with Ned, who had the bulk of the physical struggle.  I remember watching Ned wrestle Nat to the curb.  I remember wondering if violence was now going to be a part of our lives.  I remember talking to my therapist afterwards, to see if she thought we had handled it alright.  I felt like I was in trouble, that some agency was going to rule us unfit parents and take Natty away.  As difficult has things have been, I always always wanted to hang onto him.  He is my responsibility, and that is that.

Today I took Nat to the Stop&Shop, the only feelings I had were the dread of crowds and anticipating the boredom of food-shopping.  Nat was clearly into the outing.  I was feeling strong.  When I’m strong I remember to let him do things, I take more risks.  So I hung back to see how much he would do.

He tried to get the cart out but they were all stuck together.  He tried to pull it twice, both times taking another cart with it.  He let it go and looked at me.  “Here’s what you do, Nat,” I said.  “You push this one and pull on this one.”  He was already walking into the store with the cart I had untangled, but okay, I was with the program.  He was pushing the cart today.

We wended our way through Boca burgers, mayo, and lo-and-behold:  Atkins bars.  I told him to find the sugar, once we were in the baking aisle.  He went ahead, looking but not with focus.  “Look on the lower shelves, Nat.  The sugar is usually down there.”  It was always down there, yellow bags bright as sunlight but I didn’t want to embarrass him for not being able to find it.  “Look down, Nat.”  He looked down, and picked up confectioners’ sugar.  “No, not that bag.  A yellow bag.”  He touched the right bag but did not pick it up.  I did and showed him the word.  “Nat, read this.”


“Good, Darling.”  And then we finished up.  I only had a few items so I thought I’d do Self-Check-Out.  I started scanning and then I remembered that Nat has been training at a mock shelving room in his school, to scan bar codes and shelve items.  I wondered… “Nat, why don’t you help me scan these.  You know about bar codes. You look for this.” I showed him the black lines.  He started picking up boxes but moving them haphazardly across the eye.  A little more guidance, okay.  “Here,” I said, orienting the box correctly.  I handed boxes to him in the right orientation and then I saw that he was getting it.  He was holding them correctly and placing them in just the right place for the beep, then putting them on the conveyor belt.  This was generalization of a skill, right before my eyes.

When it was done, while I was paying, I tried another thing, why not?  “Nat, will you bag?”  I didn’t wait for his answer because I had to press buttons.  Then I looked up, and he was holding a bag and putting stuff into it.  He’d already finished one bag, and it was in the cart.

My blood pressure was up, I was running quickly after him as he pushed the full cart out the door.  He stopped at the curb to let a car go by.  He had looked for cars.  Another blessing.  He loaded the stuff into the car.  He got into the back seat, because that is where he likes to ride.  He carried all but one bag into the house.

A trip to the Stop&Shop on a Saturday has made my day.  How many people with typically-developing children can say that?


awesome…i long for the day *sigh*

— added by Timmy's mom on Saturday, April 2, 2011 at 1:49 pm

We go to the village store instead of the big ones in town. They have all we need and truth is it keeps me from splurging on all that other stuff…. 🙂

My eldest checked out today – been doing for a couple of years – and I felt guilty b/c last time I brought his bro by himself and he did the scanning. They don’t have a “self” area… they simply let them do it. It was the first time he’d ever tried to take things out of the buggy, put them on the conveyor and scan. He does make beeping sounds as things scan.

I need to take him by himself. I need to actually go at night with him after school. Otherwise older and more capable bro takes over…. and that’s not right either.

We get into a rut… It’s just easier to do it….

It bothers me that I have to teach them these basic skills that all other children learn simply by watching. It bothers me that I should remember to do it instead of being lazy….

This parenting thing needs to come with a users manual 🙂

Glad you had a good trip to the store.

— added by farmwifetwo on Saturday, April 2, 2011 at 2:44 pm

What a wonderful trip, enlightening and productive.

— added by Penny on Saturday, April 2, 2011 at 3:03 pm

Love love love this!!! I have tears in my eyes. So awesome!!! Thank you for sharing (as always!)

— added by Suzette on Saturday, April 2, 2011 at 3:40 pm

My eyes welled up for you reading this post. What a wonderful day for you!!!

— added by Donna on Saturday, April 2, 2011 at 4:11 pm

How nice! We’ve had some of our biggest triumphs at grocery stores as well! My son followed a shopping list and put away groceries once we got home. I too never thought a shopping trip could feel miraculous.

— added by Jana on Saturday, April 2, 2011 at 5:50 pm

@Timmy’s mom: one way or another I hope that day will come. Keep on keeping on, and you improve the odds that it will, sooner rather than later.
@Natty: [high fives]
@Susan: [high fives]

Jeremy, whose aesthetic sensibilities used to have to do (and still have to do) a lot with the making and breaking of patterns, used to get a giggle if I did a “high foot” instead of a “high five”. Comedic pattern-making-and-breakage.

— added by Phil Schwarz on Saturday, April 2, 2011 at 7:56 pm

Great blog today, and congrats to Nat again. These little daily miracles are what we live for. May I bore everyone with another personal story? When Matthew was around six or seven, I picked him up from school and was told by another teacher that he had gotten in trouble that day for throwing rocks on the playground with another child in his class during recess. I was so happy to hear this news! This was “regular kid” behavior, he was interacting with another child exhibiting typical boy behavior and I couldn’t have been happier. Of course, I didn’t let him know that but inside I was like YES!

— added by Sharon Jones on Monday, April 4, 2011 at 9:59 am

Sharon, I love your stories and your spirit. I, too, have been happy about that kind of thing, such as when Nat started swearing!

— added by Susan Senator on Monday, April 4, 2011 at 10:02 am

According to my friends in the NT world, very few. Good for both of you!

— added by kim mccafferty on Monday, April 4, 2011 at 11:17 am

Yay for Nat!

Sharon: I would be thrilled if my guys threw rocks with another child!

— added by Alice on Monday, April 4, 2011 at 11:58 am

I know what you mean, Alice. Like I said, I was really happy about it.

— added by Sharon Jones on Tuesday, April 5, 2011 at 2:11 pm

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