I wanna hold your hand

Abandoning the shopping car beside the milk display, I dashed between refrigerator cases of eggs and butter, hoping to cut him off before he made it to the frozen foods.

I was too slow.  He’d almost passed the liquor department by the time I catch him. Either he ignored, didn’t understand or was too distracted to respond to my calls of “Philip, STOP!”

Then there was the time I let my cart roll into the tomato display as I sprinted through the produce department to catch Philip just as he reached the bananas.  No tomatoes were harmed.

I’m certain that I have chased Philip through every department of the grocery store at least once. I try to ignore the looks from other shoppers and employees. “It doesn’t matter what they think,” I tell myself.

Philip is approaching a height and weight that exceeds the maximum of the seat in the grocery cart. Letting him push our shopping cart is good heavy work for him and allows him to contribute to our weekly shopping trips.  As long as he is propelling the cart forward, he doesn’t feel compelled to run off.

Obviously, though, we do have to stop in the aisles to grab a loaf of bread or compare prices. When I do, I hold his hand to keep him beside me. When it was time to transition out of a stroller, I spent quite a bit of time teaching Philip to hold my hand like this.  While he occasionally struggles free from my grasp on our walks, he actually seems more comfortable holding my hand. It has become part of our routine. Doing so at the grocery store has become a habit, too.

However, when I visited his preschool in the fall, the teacher was specifically working on increasing Philip’s independence. He is now expected to walk down the hall between the lobby and the classroom without holding anyone’s hand.

Philip's "girl friend" often has to be reminded not to hold his hand

Philip’s “girl friend” often has to be reminded not to hold his hand

This is good, because there are some tasks while shopping, like grabbing a plastic bag and twist tie for broccoli, which require me to use both hands. At those times, I position my body and the shopping cart so that I am fencing him in.

Using the grocery cart to block Philip's path

Using the grocery cart to block Philip’s path

If I’m lucky, Philip is content to blink at his reflection in the mirrors behind the vegetables or to examine the colorful labels in the displays. When I’m not lucky, he is tempted to throw a cantaloupe (because it is shaped like a ball). Or he bolts.

I need to teach Philip to stay with me without holding his hand.  The preschool hallway is a relatively safe environment to practice this skill. I don’t have that luxury, so I have to try it out when the risk is reduced. When we walk the dog in our neighborhood, I only let go of his hand on the side streets. Even then, I’ve had a moment of terror when Philip ran down the sidewalk as a car turned onto a little-used street. Such near-misses make me wary of practicing independence here.

So, if you spy a half-filled shopping cart in an otherwise empty cereal aisle, please let it be. As soon as I have Philip back in hand, we will continue our shopping adventures.

I’m linking up this post from the archives with the yeah write #142 weekend moonshine grid. For those of you reading this a year after it was published, I’m happy to report that Philip is now a pro at staying with me in the store. Unless we are near a toy aisle. Then he takes off like every other kid I know.

17 thoughts on “I wanna hold your hand

  1. As much as Philip and my Jay are very different (and we don’t have THIS issue) I do love to hear your stories. It helps me to understand and be sympathetic to what other people may be going through. And I think we could all use some understanding.


    1. I appreciate that you read and comment on my posts, Deenie. I know from reading your blog that our boys, while they share a diagnosis, embody autism in their own unique ways. Still it’s nice to share strategies with each other when we can. 🙂


  2. I never judge a parent with an untended shopping cart. I love reading your posts, because I feel like my heart is getting bigger and I understand a little bit more. I hope that makes sense…


    1. Yes, that makes sense. I appreciate your empathy. Even though this isn’t an issue for us anymore, it makes me feel better knowing that you have understanding for other parents with similar struggles.


  3. How stressful! I always assume people will come back to their carts. I’m glad that I don’t have to drag my kids shopping anymore. It wasn’t really fun to have them along. Glad you have multiple strategies for keeping him safe!


  4. I am loving Philip already 🙂 Such a sweet kid he is. Well I must say I wish to learn parenting skills from you when I become a Mother in a year or two 🙂 Loved this post 🙂 xx


  5. Like Vanessa, I have walked back to the wrong cart and started shopping on my merry way. The cart’s owner found me and we traded peacefully.

    I enjoy reading your stories about Philip. One of the things I like about reading, whether it is a blog or a book, it can help us to understand another person or even open the door and give us insights into bigger horizons.


  6. I am very impressed. You do more than I and many other parents when it comes to figuring out strategies to keep your child both safe and learning to be independent. Nothing but admiration here.


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