Grocery Shopping with my Twelve Children

And by twelve children, I of course mean one child who asks for twelve children’s worth of attention and energy! And by one child, I of course mean Kepler.


We have the benefit of the most amazing resource; an agency full of angels social workers who help families with all sorts of issues related to special needs. They have been working with us for several months on food and eating, and we have branched out to some community outings to deal with issues that arise in such settings.

One of the challenges of parenting this child is that he generally is not ready to leave a place when it’s time to go. I have tried using a timer, acting like I didn’t care if we left, speaking sternly, begging, pleading, groveling, and collapsing on the floor in a heap of despair. That last one REALLY doesn’t work.

The social workers from Envision encouraged me to write a short list of tasks for him to do when we go somewhere. Here is an example from a recent grocery store trip:


In the past, we might have had a three-minute tussle just getting through the foyer because he would disagree with my cart choice. It has been a complete godsend to begin using a list with him. The tasks are about as basic as they come, but he loves checking them off, and especially saying “ok,” as that means that he is obeying.

Simple tasks:

  1. Get a cart.
  2. Hold on to the cart.
  3. Remind me.
  4. Check with Mom first.

I daresay this might even work with typical children. I think children really love having a job to do, something specific to focus on, rather than just being the tail of a kite that is flying through a store and having to follow without giving any input.

This method also works when we are taking a walk. Greg had recently reminded me that at Toyota, they measure very small increments of things before reflecting on the failure or success of something. I had been taking Kepler for walks, but he would resist as soon as he figured out that the arc of the circle was now leading back home. Not sure if he thought we were just going to walk infinitely?

walking-mapWhenever he and I take a walk, I have the path, duration, direction, and intention set before we even start, but I haven’t ever thought to share any of that with him. I just figured, I lead, you follow, the end. However, when I take the time to draw the map, show him the route, give him the job of stopping at each intersection and saying OK about which way we are going to turn, the walk becomes a joy all the way to the end, not just until the point where he says, “HEY WAIT A MINUTE WE ARE HEADING HOME.”

Sometimes the most basic things are the most profound. Making a short, written list makes all the difference in the world to how easy it is to make transitions from one place to another. (Thank you, Emilie and Yolanda, my angels social worker guides.)

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