Yesterday, Sawyer did something he’s never done before- he went into the grocery store and bought a soda all by himself.
We live in a very small town, where everyone pretty much knows everybody else. We have one grocery store, and it’s fairly small, so when Sawyer asked if he could go in and get a soda for his Valentine’s Day party at school, I hesitantly said yes.
He’s almost 10; I know it’s important to start giving him a little independence here and there. I try, but sometimes my anxiety just won’t let me give in to him. He is still young, and even though he is VERY smart, he still lacks the social skills most of the kids his age have. He’s also very naive and trusting, so I worry about him a lot more than I ever did with my girls and I’m very protective over him. However, when we pulled into the parking lot it was pretty empty, and knowing that the sodas are right inside the door and he wouldn’t have to go wandering through the store, I decided to let him go in.
I pulled up as close to the door as possible. Before I let him go in, I asked him “Are you sure you know where the sodas are?” He responded: ”Yes.” I asked “And you know how to go through the line to pay, right?” He responded with an “Mmhmm!”. I looked at him in the rear view mirror and saw the excitement in his eyes. I remembered how big and proud I felt as a kid when I got to go into the store by myself for things, and my heart melted. I handed him $3 and said ”The soda should not be more than $2, but here’s an extra dollar just in case.” He took the money and opened the door, got out and headed into the store, waving at me with a grin as he walked past the car.
I watched the door to the store like a hawk. I thought to myself “If he’s not back in 3 minutes, I’m going in.” So I watched, and waited semi patiently. After a couple of minutes, the automatic doors opened and he walked out, a bottle of Pepsi in one hand and the receipt and change clutched in his other. He was grinning from ear to ear, and I felt a grin spread over my own face as I watched him walk to the car and get in.
“It was $2.07, Mom,” he said, and his hand shot forward between the seats to hand me the change. I turned to take the receipt and money, and smiled at him. “Did you make sure to thank the girl when she gave you your change?” ”Mmhmm!” he replied as he sat back and buckled his seatbelt. “Good boy,” I told him, as I put the car in reverse and started to back out. As I shifted into ‘drive’ and started out of the parking lot and toward our apartment, Sawyer said “I’m really proud of myself, Mom!” I grinned and looked at him in the rear view mirror and said “Me too, buddy! I’m so proud of you!” He gave me a beaming smile and then turned to look out the window, proudly holding his Pepsi in his arms.
To some people, it probably seems stupid of me to write out this little exchange, as if Sawyer did something really big and grand. But what most people don’t understand is that when you have a special needs child, independence is something that you can never be thankful enough for. A few years ago, I didn’t know if my sweet boy would ever be able to do something as simple as buy something at the store on his own. Being the parent of a child with autism has taught me that every milestone is one that should be celebrated, no matter how big or small, so today, I am celebrating a milestone for my son and sharing his triumph and pride.