The idea of running into the grocery store for a few items or even stopping to grab a cup of coffee at Starbucks makes my anxiety skyrocket. That is, of course, when I have to do it with my two boys. You would think, that at 5 and 8, this would be no problem. But when you throw in some psychiatric and developmental diagnoses, the picture changes. Nothing is easy when it comes to ADHD, ODD, & Aspergers.
Ok, so picture me. I HAVE to get milk. My husband won’t be home for a few hours. When he does come home, I have to run off to work. The boys and I are in the car. Let me just say that being in the car with both boys is hard enough, even when I don’t have to go anywhere in particular. They fight. One of them starts with repetitive behaviors (usually noises or banging to a rhythm). The other gets annoyed. Usually crying, tantruming starts. Would you feel like running into a store with this going on? This could all take place within a 5 minute drive.
As we pull into the store parking lot, I go over the rules. They both nod, agree, and can even recite them before I do. This actually never seems to matter. All hell breaks loose as soon as we step through the door. As we head down the aisles, I am like a marine on a mission – ‘just get the items,’ I think to myself. My facial expression is serious, tense. The kids usually start by running. I do my best to curtail it. One of them may continue running… or flailing… or throwing himself onto the floor… or talk to someone inappropriately… or grab something he shouldn’t… It could be anything. I want to get the hell out of the store. I grab the milk, the bread. I may be sweating. The checkout line is the WORST. Both kids can’t stand still. Ritalin may have worn off. One child may start running out the door. Great. What do I do now? I hope no one I know sees me. You could see why I can’t be friends with the perfect people. I can’t even manage the grocery store.
What I am not describing is how I actually DO use all of the parenting and behavioral strategies to endure this experience. The thousands upon thousands of dollars invested in therapy has seemed to pay off. The hours sitting in the child psychologist and child psychiatrists offices. I realize that for the sake of my boys I have to keep taking them to the grocery store, to Starbucks. We need to work on how to behave in public, how to navigate the social world. What I’ve described here is actually an improvement, even over how it was a year ago. There is no way out – I have to keep going to the store… and wait for the smallest incremental changes to happen. I need to do it for my boys. I need to keep up the fight.