Trolley? What trolley?

Some of you may remember when I waxed lyrical here about the simple pleasures of being able to take Alex supermarket shopping. On the face of it, I appreciate, it may seem odd getting so excited about taking him food shopping. Surely it’s nicer, easier, quicker… without him? And, you’d be sort of right. When I go without him I take the ‘single person’ trolley… I fly round the aisles and can weave with abandon through the people safe in the knowledge that my usual travelling companion is safe, elsewhere, not about to try and nick someone’s shopping from their trolley. Or pull stuff off the shelves.

But shopping is something we do together. In some ways it’s obviously not the shopping itself it’s… being together, sharing an activity, sharing some time… somewhere that is, crucially, warm, dry and accessible. I think I’ve definitely said before it’s not so much Alex’s disability that limits where we go, but the accessibility of the location we’re considering. Supermarkets are winners. And whilst it wouldn’t necessarily be my first choice… you compromise a lot when you have a child with additional needs and just getting Alex out of the house, somewhere different with lights, friendly people. It’s a winner.

As part of that post I know I explained how grateful we were for the Firefly/ Cerebra trolley that Sainsbury’s had bought as it just added years to the time we can take him out. Now, thanks to tireless campaigning Asda have them in stores and Tesco are trialling them too.

We all like choice. So I decided to branch out this weekend and thought I’d try Morrisons instead. They have nicer bread (I think…). Without wishing to sound like ‘Disgusted from Tunbridge Wells…’ imagine my surprise…

‘Hi, I haven’t shopped here before, could you show me where the additional needs trolleys are?’
Pause. ‘Hmm, well, I think we’ve only got the wheelchair ones. Would that work?’
‘Not really, he’s only 6 and his wheelchair is small. You’re sure you don’t have any?’
‘Well, no, but let’s have a look…’

We look.

‘No, sorry…’
‘You don’t have any? Not even the old school ones?’
‘No. I think head office are trialling some…? Would you like someone to go round with you to help?’

Here’s what I didn’t say: ‘That’s really kind, but I don’t want someone to come shopping with me because then I will feel inhibited in every aisle… feel silently judged at every purchase… I obviously wouldn’t be able to double back if I’d forgotten anything because I’d feel like I was totally wasting their time… and I really couldn’t browse. It would be miserable. Moreover, I find our independence chipped away at every day and an additional needs trolley just puts that off a little’.

I just said: ‘No, thank you’.

She was very kind, didn’t make me feel awkward and took my details saying someone would be in touch.

And I slung a bag off the wheelchair.

I checked the website later. It says: A trolley with padding and straps for disabled children up to the age of 7 years is also available.

There wasn’t any evidence of that at the store. And it wasn’t something the staff mentioned.

Morrisons, I think you’re the last of the Big Four? It’s time to do some catching up.

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Mummy, what kind of bag is that ruining the look of my chair?? Flowers?? Leaves?? Where’s my usual trolley??

All about a trolley

Full disclosure. I like going supermarket shopping.
There, it’s out.
There’s something about an unnaturally overlit store with shiny produce I didn’t know I needed that I just enjoy.

With children it altered the experience, but in a good way.

When we first had Emma, I don’t know about you, but just physically getting out of the house became an achievement in its own right. And around about that witching hour time of day (you know, that hour before you can reasonably have the ‘well deserved’ glass of wine) I found that a trip to the local Sainsbury’s was perfect. I’d truss her up in our front carrier, where she could be up with me and see all that was going on, I had my hands free and perfect strangers could have a quick coo and… we would enjoy it. I could chat to her, stroke her head and tell her all that was going on… and as she got older I’d pop her in the trolley seat to push her round. Our new games then became ‘How many items of shopping can I hand you and how long can you hold them in your hand before you drop it dismissively?’ and ‘Ooh, I wonder if you can unwrap that babybel before I’ve finished the rest of that shopping?’

I gained company – a shopping companion – and it became a Mummy/ Emma ritual. It felt weird when I went without her.

It also reminded me of going shopping with my own mother (*waves*). Things you did with your parents come back to you when you have children of your own don’t they? I remember standing on the trolley as she pushed it round and the Friday treat of what ready meal should we choose? (oh those heady days when we knew no better. I miss them).

With Alex it has been the same, although with added layers. I’ve always taken him, ever since he was little. He fitted in the bucket seat way longer than any child would do usually but he loved to lie there and I’d chat to him whilst he stared up at the lights. When, finally, it was time to admit he was really a long way over the limit for those seats we took the step of moving to the toddler seats. Anyone who saw me trying to get him into this would have laughed at the comical nature of my trying to feed his legs through the holes. With Gary or Emma with me it was fine but if I was on my own… half the time I managed it, half the time I had to ask a passing stranger to help me thread his legs through. They were always incredibly obliging.

As first he wasn’t actually sitting up so we’d prop him up with coats, scarves, magazines and as he wobbled his way round the shop I like to think it helped his core strength! It was just important that we were able to do it. How… Didn’t really matter.

Alex – as I’ve mentioned before – really unfurled after this time. He became engaged with the world. He would flap and chat his way around the shop and people responded to him. They smiled at his antics, the staff in the shop have got to know him and they come and say hello – and he has become acclimatised to people and noise. And once he worked out what his hands were for he’d happily – in the same way his sister did – take items from me, play with them for a while then drop it without warning on the floor. Ooh sorry Mummy *grins*.

Of course, he hasn’t stopped growing and we faced quite the quandary as he got bigger and heavier. We couldn’t keep using the toddler seat forever. The idea of not taking him, of not including him in this most basic social activity (we always, without fail, meet someone we know and they’re always so lovely to Alex)… it made me sad. It marked a moment in time where the world wasn’t keeping up with him. We could go without him, online shop or just do small shops, hang a bag off the back of his pushchair. All not ideal, all not inclusive.

Hello lovely Firefly chair.

I love it. I just love it.

It looks comfy, he’s secure whilst still maintaining freedom of movement and I can talk to Alex whilst we move round the shop as he is facing me and (here’s an unusual housewife-moment bonus) because the seat eats up a little trolley space I have to be a little circumspect about shopping. Or pack it as carefully as we used to layer our salads from Pizza Hut. Far more importantly… we get to keep doing those little ‘together’ things that don’t mean a lot individually, but add themselves up to a whole family life.

Thank you for helping us maintain that.

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Mummy, Mummy, you forgot to mention the yummy chewable straps on the seat too! What do you mean, ‘Ssssh?’