Had to go to Costco this afternoon. Had to. I needed to buy a bushel of apples for a conference that SEPTAR is hosting in two days, plus snacks to give Iz and all thirty of her classmates caloric boosts to help them plow through the mandated silliness that is STAR testing, plus stock up on the treats that Seymour's parents prefer as they're coming to stay with us in less than 36 hours.
I've had good luck taking my three kids to Costco. Leo likes to ride in the big cart and get straws from the restaurant area. Mali likes to make new friends every five yards. Iz likes to cruise the sample carts and tell me which food items we simply have to buy. It's fun. Most of the time.
Today I needed to buy more bulky items than I usually do, so Leo had to walk for the last half of the shopping. And Mali was being a serious PITA* to Iz, who lacks the self-regulation to move away instead of retaliating. The three were fairly roily by the time we reached the checkout.
At which point Mali lost it, because they had balloons and she wanted one and she couldn't have one. She turned on the tears.
So then of course Leo lost it. He started sobbing, with big tears of his own, and smacking himself in the head. This scared Mali, so she cried harder. This made Leo more upset, so he kept trying to reach Mali in her basket seat, to hit her and make her be quiet.
They were really, really loud. They drew the attention of every single person in the crowded space between the checkout stands and the exit, many of whom watched/tried not to appear as if they were watching as I struggled to push the overfull cart to the side while trying to keep Mali and Leo apart, hugging and kissing and reassuring them to see if I could help them calm down.
At least forty people walked by. Not one asked if they could help, even as Leo's attempts to hit his sister grew more obvious and his crying grew louder.
I was able to get Mali to take a deep breath and stop wailing, and resumed our shuffle to the exit. We then had to walk across the parking lot to our car. It was a visible struggle to push the weaving and uncooperative cart with one hand while holding onto Leo with the other. He was still determined to get his little sister. Iz, bless her, kept stepping in to deflect Leo's maneuvers, but her actions made pushing the cart even more difficult. At one point I resorted to hopping on one foot and pushing the cart with the other. All as people kept passing us on either side, pretending we weren't there.
We made it to the car and I got Leo and Mali strapped into their seats. That's when I started crying, too. Iz was concerned, but seemed relieved after I told her, "Yes, I'm crying. That was really hard. You were very helpful. Thank you."
Please know that if you see a child who looks too old to be having a tantrum going into full tantrum mode, there's a good chance that child is autistic. It's okay to watch and see if the adult has the situation under control.
Please know that if you see someone who looks like they might need help -- as opposed to someone who is disabled yet going about their business -- please ask if you can be of assistance. Even if they tell you "no, thank you" or even if they're hostile in refusing your offer, think of what would happen if they really did need help and you didn't offer it because you were too afraid of offending them or interfering. Were those people at Costco waiting to see if one of us actually got hurt, first?
Leo has been doing so well on these kind of excursions, today excepted. I don't want to stop bringing him along. Learning to tolerate routine errands is critical to his social and cooperative learning. Leaving him at home even more than we already have to do fractures my kids' perceptions of sibling- and family-hood. Most importantly, Leo is a social boy. He doesn't want to be a shut in.
But we don't always have successes. Sometimes, like today, we have catastrophic failures. And when that happens, it is doubly difficult when our community fails us, too.
My hands are still shaking, hours later.
*Pain in the ass