Never assume it’s because we haven’t tried.
Trust me, we have.
We have learned to listen to the things Ethan can’t say; we’ve learned to read him and we now know which situations are best avoided for Ethan’s sake.
Experience is the only way to learn this, unfortunately for all involved especially our Ethie.
The last time we brought Ethan shoe shopping was 2008. He had just been diagnosed with Hunter Syndrome.
Ethan has needed AFO’s and Pedro boots since he was four years old. Before they were introduced, Ethan only ever had three pairs of shoes, yes, three.
Ethan’s feet grow but they grow so slowly that, he rarely out grows any pair of shoes.
We decided that we would bring him into a new children’s shoe shop in our local shopping centre. I hated those boots and AFO’s, they were heavy, clumsy looking and I just didn't like them.
My kid was battling a lot, we were facing a lot, but damn, those ‘special’ shoes really annoyed me.
The shop assistant could have been an extra in “High Five” – (a really, really annoying children’s programme, think Barney with adult overly nice friends). We smiled as she looked for shoes wide enough for Ethan’s little feet. Ethan’s feet are tiny but, boy are they wide!
“Hopefully she won’t take long” D laughed as Ethan ran around the small shop yelling,”NEW SHOES”. J was only three and quietly sat in his stroller.
The lady brought over six boxes while we patted the seat for Ethan to sit beside us. He happily walked over.
“New shoes” the lady smiled as he threw off his old ones, hitting her in the face. We quickly apologised, she joked about it being all part of the job.
The first pair, Ethan refused to try on, we didn’t force the issue. The next pair, he simply yelled “NO WAY” and kicked D for even trying to hold them close to him.
The third pair, “TIE DEM” he ordered me.
He jumped up, “WHOO,HOO, NEW SHOES”, we all laughed. He now had the full attention of everyone in the busy store. “You can check the fit when he calms a bit” D smiled as he watched Ethan march, run, hop and jump in his new shoes.
“There’s the mirror” she pointed at the full length mirror, “If you want to see your new shoes Ethan” she added, then pointed again at the mirror.
There happened to be only one mirror. In front of that mirror stood a beautiful little girl, who was admiring her own new shoes.
Beside the mirror where neatly stacked boxes of more shoes, from the floor right up to the ceiling.
Ethan ran over to the mirror knocking the little girl to the floor, she fell into the boxes knocking them over, which indicated to Ethan this was play time.
Ethan threw the loose lying shoes everywhere, I mean EVERYWHERE.
The little girl was now being sheltered from the over stimulated Ethan, who was trying his very best to see how well these new shoes of his kicked. D was trying to calm him, while I was apologising and picking up the shoes.
I may have even apologised to a few shoes too, who knows, I just wanted to get out of there.
Then I looked. I watched my son, scream, cry and shout while his Daddy tried to calm him. I watched Ethan look frantically around at all the faces staring at him.
He roared as his tears came fast, “NO NO NO”, he roared as D hugged him, tight, from behind, trying to regulate him.
I felt my cheeks burn as my eyes stung, I was simply upset, while my son, my poor little boy, was having a complete break down over a simple task such as getting shoes.
I approached the sales assistant, thanked her, apologised again and I handed her the money.
She smiled, tilted her head and handed me a tissue.
We left the shop with a screaming Ethan, an oblivious J and two heartbroken parents who promised Ethan we would never, knowingly, let him go through that again.
Those ‘special’ shoes don’t seem so bad anymore.