I felt compelled to write this after my solo supermarket outing recently.
Basket loaded I searched for a counter with the smallest queue (obviously) and could hear in the distance the screams of a distraught child. The nearer I got to the counters, the louder the screams. I found a small enough line and took my place in the queue, and watched as a mother at the till next to mine was hurriedly packing her shopping away while her son screamed and thrashed about in the shopping trolley. Her attempts to soothe him had no effect. There was a surly looking lady directly behind her who looked on with little sympathy, annoyance crossed her face and to my horror, she packed up the few items she had already laid out, put them back into her basket and stormed away! The look on the mother’s face was enough. I got out of my queue and joined hers. I smiled at her and she smiled back with a look of sheer relief on her face.
You never know what difficulties and struggles people are going through. Yes there may be the very rare time it is just a terrible parent and a brat of a kid but the chance is minuscule. For every terrible parent there are a million parents doing their best and trying with all their might to make it work. I don’t know if this lady’s son was autistic, chances are probably not, but he could have been poorly, tired, in pain, any number of things that made him that distraught, and the look of anguished embarrassment on the mother’s face was undeniable.
On the very rare occasions I have to take Franklin to the supermarket, the fear builds before I leave the house. My fear. I need a smooth positive start to the outing which requires getting his shoes and coat on and into the car without causing him any anxiety or worry. On my journey there I’m constantly checking him through my rear-view mirror, making sure he is still calm and content (car journeys can often go either way!). Can I get in and out quick enough? Will I be able to keep him calm? Is it going to be too busy today, or too bright? Once I park up I send a quick prayer to the gods – I have a very short window now!
I’ve been that mum in the queue, with Franklin screaming and writhing around in the trolley. I’ve had to hide down a quiet aisle trying to soothe him when it’s all gotten too much and he has a mammoth meltdown. The (not so) kind where nothing I do or offer can soothe him, where we have to just ride the wave while wishing the floor would open up and swallow us whole. I’ve suffered the disapproving glares and judgemental looks. They are judging me for not reprimanding my son and judging him, assuming he’s an unruly brat. It is truly awful.
Franklin doesn’t wear a badge advertising his autism, nor do I walk around with a huge banner tied around my wrist explaining our situation… HE ISN’T A BRAT, I CAN’T JUST TELL HIM TO STOP, HE CANNOT COPE WITH THE SENSORY OVERLOAD OF A SUPERMARKET AND I’M TERRIBLY SORRY IT COINCIDES WITH YOUR SHOPPING TRIP BUT WE NEED TO BLOODY EAT!!
If you find yourself in that situation please please join that queue and smile to the no doubt exhausted parent. A small act of kindness but a big signal of solidarity. It would make a huge difference if it were you behind me in that queue, smiling and supporting me, not shaming me. You never know what a parent might be going through, what hurdles life has thrown their way, and it might just make a god awful day for them that bit more bearable.
Wishing you a very happy New Year, from one knackered parent to another x