One hour of uninterrupted, totally kid-free “me time”.

If this gift from the gods fell into your lap, where would you spend it? The library, chapters-deep in a good book? A coffee shop, savoring a latte and cinnamon bun? At home in bed, enjoying a much-needed nap?

While those are three of my favorite ways to spend a rare afternoon alone, lately another locale has been calling me – underneath the fluorescent lights of my local T.J. Maxx (or Marshalls or Target).

I’ve always been a big fan of shopping, and even just browsing. Some of my happiest early memories were going to the mall with my mom or grandmother. Mind you, this was in the heyday of mall culture in America (see: Clueless, Saved by the Bell and Mall Madness). But unlike those trips in the 90’s, these T.J. Maxx trips are completely altruistic, or so I tell myself.

After the winding journey through the cosmetics and housewares aisles, I stop at my intended destination – the toys and books section.

See – I can’t make JB’s genes magically correct themselves. I can’t will him to walk or talk overnight. But maybe, just maybe, I can find the perfect CVI-friendly Eric Carle board book on clearance, and it will inspire him to start focusing his eyes or holding his head up unassisted.

That’s how I justify my visits. By telling myself that shopping is now more than just a fun distraction or hobby. It serves a purpose! I’m not wasting money, I am problem solving.

After all, that single Melissa & Doug puzzle could be the key to unlocking JB’s fine motor skills. Those spiky light-up balls I bought in bulk could be what finally get him to say “ball” – or any word, for that matter. It’s my duty as a good mother to be vigilant not only while watching him, but also while watching online and in stores for products – nay, OPPORTUNITIES – to provide my son with.

I don’t mess with the medical side of JB’s therapy plan. I trust his doctors and therapists completely, and know that they have the degrees and experience and research to prescribe the best medicines and suggest the best courses of action. Science is not my forte. Shopping, though? Shopping I can do!

Writer Joel Yanofsky talks about falling into a similar pattern. In his memoir Bad Animals: A Father’s Accidental Education in Autism, he writes how his family’s home was soon overrun with every kind of educational toy or game imaginable. He notes that these purchases were more than desperate attempts to reach out to their son; they were ways to make he and his wife feel like they were affecting change with their son’s progress.

It wasn’t until I read Yanofsky’s book that I realized that my shopping was in fact a way to gain some control over a future filled with unknowns. I’m not delusional. I know there is no book or puppet or train set that will magically transform JB’s journey into an “easier” one. But for now, that big bin of light-up bouncy sensory balls can keep its place of honor in our living room for JB to enjoy. After all, it’s a heck of a lot more convenient than when those things were in my closet, falling on my head every time I went to grab a pair of shoes!

Photo by Digital Buggu from Pexels

(Please note: this post includes an Amazon affiliate link.) 

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2 Comments on A different kind of retail therapy

  1. That’s what a mom does, isn’t it? Take time that used to be ours and spend it on our kids. Congratulations on launching your new site and delving into such an important topic!

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