Yesterday afternoon, Maggie and I went to Hobby Lobby with the little girls. They were both due for a nap so they fell asleep on the way. I only wanted Elizabeth to have thirty minutes but that was enough time for me to run into Kohl’s and for Maggie run into TJ Maxx, in turn.
But first, a few selfies. A happy one, and then one that shows the reality of her situation at the moment (she has a bruised tailbone).
Usually, when I take Elizabeth to Hobby Lobby she is calm and completely goes with flow, accepting which aisle we go onto, how long we stay on it, and has no problem with the merchandise – much like when we go to Publix. But she wasn’t like that yesterday. She wanted to go to certain aisles, requesting them with words (which was good!) but she would start screaming when we were leaving aisles. I talked with her and shushed her, reminding her to be quieter and to talk to me instead of screaming; this worked but only for a short time. I realized that we weren’t going to be able to stay as long as we usually could.
At this point, she saw something that caught her eye and she was instantly in love. It’s this intensely pink tablet-holding pig. She acted as if she’d been reunited with something she’s always loved.
But she almost seemed sad about it as well.
I was not pleased that I was going to have to purchase this thing and bring it home, but you do what you have to do when you have a child with special needs! We headed toward the checkout and she happened to spot a stuffed animal that she has at home. She thought it was hers, or she just wanted to see it – I don’t know. But she started screaming once she realized that I wasn’t taking her over to it (if I had, she would have insisted on holding it so I thought better than to make things worse). Instead, we walked to a register and started checking out. She screamed off and on but it didn’t turn into a meltdown. I told the cashier how much the pig and the pack of hawaiian leis around her neck cost. She then asked if Elizabeth was okay. In this moment, I didn’t know what to say except to explain her the best way I knew how. “She’s autistic. She’s okay.”
And that’s the truth. She IS okay. And I’m okay. We’re gonna be okay. I didn’t feel upset, embarrassed, or uncomfortable about how she was acting. It was actually really low-key for her! But it’s taken me a long time to feel this way. She started changing at seventeen months, over thirteen months ago and I am just now starting to accept how things are. And every day I am motivated to find new ways of helping her.
Using the word ‘autistic’ is still foreign to me but it helps us all so much. There is immediate acceptance and understanding when it’s said, which I think is so beautiful.
Another cashier came around the counter and talked to Elizabeth (who was still clinging to her new pink best friend) and she asked Elizabeth, “Oh! You have a pig?” and Elizabeth looked heartbroken and said, “No. No.” in such a small voice. She had tears in her eyes. I don’t know if she thought the woman was going to take it or not, but she obviously did not want her near her. The woman very nicely said “Oh, it’s okay, bye-bye” and walked back to her register. Then Elizabeth looked up a little and said “gu-bye, see ooh later.”
When we got out in the parking lot, she was relaxed and happy getting into the van. I wish could know what she’s feeling more of the time. Some things are still such a mystery to me.