Janey is happy right now, watching TV and cheerful. Which is amazing, considering our ride home from afterschool today. The great high school student that often is with Janey at afterschool reported she had a good day, but started crying just before I got there, which is not uncommon. I think she knows when it's around time for me to be there, and if I'm not there right when her mind tells her I should be, she freaks out. She was crying hysterically all the way to the car. I told her I had chips for her, which made her settle for a minute, until she saw they were cheapo Lays BBQ chips, not the Pringles Salt and Vinegar that I am SUPPOSED to have for the ride home. She pushed the chips away and screamed "CHIPS PLEASE!" It wasn't really the chips, I know, but that didn't help. She screamed the first 10 minutes in the car at an unbelievable volume and in an unbelievable tone. I was just barely able to drive. She stayed in her seat belt, but writhed around so much I thought of a new fear, that she could unbuckle and jump into the front and cause an accident. I made a decision---we would stop at the CVS for the chips she wanted.
I tried to use it as a bribe. I told Janey "They don't allow loud screaming at the CVS. You need to take a deep breath and calm down if you want to get chips" She tried. She really tried, but there was just no calming down. She was too far gone. I drove into the CVS parking lot and sat there a minute, trying to decide what to do. Janey would cause a scene. There was no avoiding it. I hate being in a scene, hate being the center of attention. But I needed to get home. I knew the chips would buy me 20 minutes of quiet driving, not fearing for my life and hers. So I took the deep breath instead and took her into the store.
It was as much hell as I thought it would be. Janey was screaming the unearthly scream the whole time. To add a little more of a bizarre twist, she also occasionally screamed out a phrase I have no idea where she learned "Ashes to Ashes! Dust to Dust!" I haven't taken her to any funerals lately, and I can't imagine any of her kids' videos feature that exact phrase, but who knows? It added just the little touch of seeming possessed that made the whole thing that much more fun. Every eye on the crowded store was on us.
I decided somehow, through the screaming and the stares, to just pretend Janey and I were alone in the world, and to do whatever I could to get us through the store and keep her calm. I held her hand, talked to her in a low voice saying things like "I know how scary it is to feel the way you do. Mama loves you. You are being a good girl. Let's get the chips. Let's get in line. I am right here with you" I was far more patient and loving sounding than I felt right then, but I figured I could control my part of the show, and the gawkers didn't need to see a crazed mother too. I was hoping against hope someone would take pity and let us go ahead of them in line, but no such luck. The woman ahead of me seemed to go as slowly as she possibly could, while repeatedly glaring at me to let me know how much she was being disturbed. When I finally got to the counter, the cashier asked for my CVS card, and I said as cheerily as I could "I have one, but I can't get it right now!" Yeah---because if I started searching for it, my daughter would escape and run screaming around your store, lady. I handed her cash and got out of there.
In the car, as I expected, Janey ate the chips and I made it home. She had a few more crying spells, but overall, she's over it.
Now, did I do the right thing? I don't know. To an outsider, it might look like I was giving in to Janey. But I don't think I was. She was upset, but not really about the chips. The chips were just a part of the routine that wasn't met, and a tool to calm her down. I needed to get home safely, and that wasn't going to happen unless I did something, so I did.
I can understand why people stare at Janey when she is acting the way she does. I can't really blame them. But I wish they would just catch my eye and smile, or at least not be quite so open with the staring. I would think they would realize that I don't enjoy going in the store and disturbing their evenings. I'd rather, quite frankly, do almost anything else on earth. But Janey is a human being, one who, despite her sometimes very tough behavior, is part of the world, the community. Figuring out how to make that work is not easy sometimes.