Solace in the Solidarity of Strangers

Adolescence? Pre-adolescence? Childishness? Growing-pains? Boundary-pushing? All of this and more? Whatever the reason, going to the grocery store as a family on the weekend has become the most dreaded event of John John’s life. And he isn’t shy about sharing his feelings before we leave, as we are leaving, on the way, while at the store, and again when we’ve returned. It’s not a question of if he will be mad about it, it’s a question of how mad. And, for how long.

For last weekend’s trip, the answers were “very” and “end-to-end”. At the grocery store, as we weaved through the aisles, he was so mad that he stayed just out of range the whole time. Never straying too far away, but always far enough to let us know we were being ignored.

Happily, by the time we were ready to checkout he seemed ready to acknowledge our existence and was there to help put our items onto the check-out conveyer. But he started putting things up while the lady in front of us still had a few items in her cart. I asked him to wait until she was done. The scowl I got in response told me I was pushing my luck giving directives. But the woman – a nice lady, in her late 60s or so – invited him to go ahead and put our items on. She would just put her few remaining items in front of our plastic divider. But it was too much. John John grumped, not exactly at her, but in response to her offer, then huffed out of eyeshot.

“I’m so sorry,” the nice lady said, “I didn’t mean to upset him.”

I assured her that it wasn’t her; he’d been upset before.

She looked at me with empathy in her eyes.

“Don’t worry,” she said to me, “it starts getting better after they turn 26.”

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