For years I rarely left the house because any excursion with Corrigan turned into embarrassment for me and frustration for him. It wasn’t his fault but I never knew if the meltdowns were because of anxiety/sensory issues or developmental immaturity. Or maybe both?
Mark always asked how he was supposed to learn how to act in public if we didn’t take him out in public but he wasn’t the one that had to deal with the screaming child and judgmental comments from strangers. My hands would shake just thinking about going into Walmart with Corrigan and even with a list I would get home to find that I missed several items because I was running so quickly through the store.
Since Connor’s soccer practice began, this past July, there was little choice. Connor had to be somewhere and I had to take him. Which meant that Corrigan was getting out of the house daily and, over time, it occurred to me that the amount of gas I was wasting running back home and then going out to run errands when Mark was finished work was ridiculous. I was already out, we had things to do, let’s just do it.
Surprisingly, whether it coincided with a growth in maturity or what, the trips into the bank, post office and grocery store became more and more bearable. When I look back over our errands last week, I had to go in and out of 14 different businesses and I cannot think of a single tantrum. He now sits in the cart like every other kid in the store and I can even count on him to stand beside me at the counter while I search for my debit card. Not even holding his hand.
We still get odd looks sometimes. He has taken to “singing” loudly when we are in the store and his garbled language is more suited to a 9 month old rather than a 3 year old but I will take loud renditions of “Row Row Row Your Boat” over ear-splitting screams any day of the week!
In a burst of new found confidence we decided to take Corrigan out of town to the zoo. Oooh boy. Let me just say that while it wasn’t the best day ever, we learned a lot and when you come right down to it, the experience is worth the tension headache that lasted a full 24 hours. But man, that was one heck of a headache.
The zoo was packed and people were rude. I thought that maybe my headache was making me grumpy but the folks at the Pittsburgh Zoo were twice as rude than anyone I have ever run into in Baltimore. By the end of the first hour I wanted to use the Jungle Jeep (rented wagon) as a battering ram. I am pretty sure that one woman would have been charged with 4th degree sexual assault the way she kept nudging behind me and touching my tush…just so that she could get a closer look at the stupid rhinos.
But it was a beautiful day. Corrigan really seemed interested in the animals and when we pointed out things he always looked in the right direction and you could see recognition in his eyes. He loved the elephants and was captivated by the fish.
There were some hard moments and we arrived later than we planned (and ran into terrible traffic) so we had only 2 1/2 hours to see everything. Corrigan was pretty much finished with the place after an hour and just wanted to run around and squeal.
Hey look! Connor was there!
When Connor was Corrigan’s age, he was waiting patiently in hour-long lines at Disney World. He was a champ on the 18 hour drive to Florida at 10 months old. There wasn’t a single place we couldn’t take Connor and he never ever gave us an ounce of trouble.
Corrigan keeps us on our toes. Wouldn’t want us to get lazy in our old age, I suppose.
I knew that Cor wouldn’t eat in new environments so the day was full of stops for feeding tube boluses and anytime we were in the car he was hooked up to his pump. We couldn’t even tempt him with a french fry. When he is in new situations we describe it as “wiggy.” He will run in circles and make repetitive sounds and does this strange flapping thing with his hands. If you try to hold him you can feel the energy flowing through his body. He only napped for a few minutes on the way up and we arrived at the zoo right when he normally would have been tucked into his bed for a nap.
Smart parents, we are.
We didn’t want to come straight home when the zoo closed. (Okay fine, we thought about it) so we went to a large mall and didn’t take the stroller. It was a risk but I figured that he was tired from the zoo experience, he might stay close and not want to run in the mall. I was right (that never happens) and he did great. He held one of our hands at all times. At one point Connor was walking with Corrigan, holding his hand, and Mark and I were able to hold hands and walk together and everything felt (for just a moment) so normal.
While Mark and Connor were happily lost in Brookstone, I was walking laps with Corrigan when he followed the voices of happy children and saw a play area. It was just giant molded plastic structures and foam padding-and a hundred kids running in circles. It is fascinating to watch him search his brain for the right signs and words when he really wants something. He was clearly communicating that he wanted to play so I took him down, removed his shoes and let him loose.
He didn’t move.
I nudged him forward and he wouldn’t let go of me. He did manage to walk under a few things and over a plastic bridge but after a short while he simply climbed up on the booth-like seating area (for parents) and watched. He was brave to try and I am proud of him for making the attempt. That kind of crazy environment is just too overwhelming for him right now but the escalators? Those are his kind of party!
He and I rode up and down 12 times. He squealed happily in both directions. It was awesome. No really, it was. I had a bit of an escalator “fear” before this past weekend. Not enough fear that I wouldn’t utilize them but enough of one that I wouldn’t let go of the railing and had visions of my shoe lace getting caught in the steps and my foot being ripped from my body. I think I saw that on the news once and have never shaken the imagine from my head. A dozen times up and back I was riding it hands-free (woo hoo! I am a wild woman!) and I suppose that even old dogs can learn new tricks!
After all of that we headed home. We hadn’t really eaten all day so we got off of the turnpike and said a prayer that Corrigan would allow us to eat a meal. Other than a successful Cracker Barrel visit last year, Corrigan hadn’t been in a sit-down, waitress-take-your-order, restaurant in a long time.
He sat through the entire meal! He colored, he watched videos on our phones and played with his numbers puzzle. He sat on a booster seat for the first time and didn’t fuss to get out of the booth. We ate our entire meal in peace and maybe it was the haircut but none of us knew who that toddler was eating dinner with us at 9pm. After a long day. With no nap.
We made it home around 10:30 pm and collapsed into our beds shortly thereafter. It was a long day but I am glad that we made the trip. It is hard to step outside of your comfort zone sometimes. It would have been a far less stressful (and less expensive-hello broken GPS!) day if we would have just stayed here at home, played at the park and went to bed but I am starting to think that Mark was right all along. How else is he going to learn? It is obvious that he can learn…we just have to give him the opportunity to do so!