Monday, April 20, 2015

Dear Sears, Thank you for Helping My Daughter with Down Syndrome

Chrissy shopping in our local drugstore.
My 13 year old daughter Chrissy with Down syndrome has a support person to help her reshape her behaviors so that she can get along better in everyday situations. Christina has autism as well as Down syndrome, making her more impulsive and stubborn, and has a very limited vocabulary which is a recipe for disaster in public. Most times I leave her home when I shop. On Friday we took a risk, and took Chrissy to Sears. Ana, her helper, and I were looking for bathing suits at Lands End so we look good when we take her to the pool, her favorite activity.
Christina was not ready for Sears. At first she ran in the door of the store and sat in the waiting area for Miracle Ear. She refused to budge despite harried looks from the lady in the office. I told Ana to go and shop while I kept Christina company there. As soon as Ana left, Chrissy bolted after her, and I tried to shop with her in the costume jewelry section. She is 13 and was fascinated by the bling of the sale watches. I was not quick enough to keep her from picking up a Hello Kitty watch in a plastic case. To my horror, she pitched over the railing of the escalator, where it glanced by the head of a manager and smashed to pieces on the escalator, creating a scene. Several judgmental onlookers were making my face turn red, as I yelled down the manager, "I'm sorry! My daughter doesn't understand what she did was dangerous!" He cleaned up the mess without making a huge deal about it. I continued on my way, trying to ignore the diapproving stare of a perfectly coiffed blonde mother of a perfectly dressed blonde  daughter of five. The mom and the little girl scowled at me, lifted their noses in the air and turned on their heels as if pleased to have let me know what they think of such behavior. My face burned red and I started to sweat. Ouch!
I could not find Ana in Lands End and so Christina bolted out of Sears to the mall where I gently helped her to the carpet. She cried and cried wanting to run top speed through the mall. and I kept helping her to the ground explaining that we were waiting for Ana. Onlookers saw her sobbing in frustration and I was worried they would call the authorities. Finally Ana appeared in Lands End and we joined her on the comfy couches provided for customers.
Two friendly salespersons provided Chrissy with coloring books to keep her busy while I tried on a bathing suit. When I emerged to buy the suit, Ana and Chrissy were gone. No one knew where they went and I had no cell phone (a certain young lady likes to hide it!) to contact Ana. Her cell phone had no power anyway, so I ran around and around the store and the mall searching for them to no avail. Finally one of the nice salesladies who gave Chrissy the crayons saw my distress and offered to page Ana.
There was no answer. More panic. Suddenly the saleslady got a cell phone call. The other saleslady was going home for the day and spotted Chrissy and Ana in the parking lot. I thanked her profusely and gratefully left. My hands were shaking and my vision was blurry from the high blood pressure induced by my panic. We went to eat pizza and discuss why Mommy was worried about Chrissy and how to behave next time. Trust me, the next time is a LONG time away!
The next day I came without Christina and sought a manager, I told her this story, offering to pay for the $15.00 watch. She said it wasn't necessary, and was pleased to hear of her sales clerk's efforts to help me with my daughter. She agreed that the salesclerk deserved props for her out of the ordinary consideration for a needy customer.  I am very grateful to Sears for hiring three employees who care about the dignity and the safety of customers with special needs. Its easy to judge Christina as the blonde lady did, as just a spoiled brat who needs discipline, and I can't claim perfect parenting, however that is not taking her complex challenges into consideration. Instead of judgement, a  little compassion goes a long way to make my and Christina's life easier.

Someday Christina and I will walk through the mall like I do with her older sisters, calmly shopping and enjoying one another's company. But it will take time and patience, and its a far off goal at this point. In the meanwhile, its good to know some of Sear's employees have my back.


CJSmith said...

Dearest Christina, how you bring the kindness of others to the fore! What a lovely reflection on those lovely girls! and of the manager who cleaned up the watch! I totally understand wanting to run through the mall, tempting! What a hard day, Mom, but isn't Our Lord so good, allowing you to see the goodness in others <3

Unknown said...

Wow, great piece about challenges and kind clerks. I would bet they understand because of someone special in their lives. It is so refreshing to know people aren't completely aloof or judgmental out there. My son has a history of eloping, so my adrenaline was up just reading this! For a time I wanted to train him for shopping, but it took time (and a dose of humility for me) to realize all of the sensory and cognitive issues involved. We have more pressing things to work on, especially because I already dislike shopping!

Judy said...

Oh my, God. Less you for your love and faith, which opens your heart to the graces flowing, from Jesus, through our loving Mother,Mary.

Your daughter is very special, and you, Leticia, are, too. We have a grandson with autism and know the challenges, so for Chrissy's added challenge of down syndrome I personally think you are all doing very well ! Malls are VERY busy environments, with so many distractions and new experiences....

Christ's peace be with you all, every day. We will remember your intentions in our prayers, daily.

Judy Capistrant

Leticia said...

The lessons in humility when I lose control over situations like this and the openness I have gained to allowing others to show forth their kindness are priceless CJ Smith.