A year ago our local scout group organised a table top sale at the nearby church hall from which a percentage of the pitch fees would go to charity. I decided that this would be a great opportunity to not only support a worthwhile cause but also to sell my childrens’ old baby and toddler toys. So, excited about this new venture to ’make money’ and boost my children’s savings accounts which had been rather neglected during the recession, I decided to sort through the understairs toy cupboard. This was no mean feat – our understairs toy cupboard used to be so stuffed with ‘stuff’ that I had been avoiding the job of sorting it out for far too long.
Now with a motive I started working through the cupboard, cleaning and labelling the things I intended to sell. But along with the work came the emotion as each toy I found stirred a particular memory and I would often find myself just sitting there, near to tears, as I reflected on the days when my children were babies and toddlers. Even though my toddler son was a challenging child due to his autistic behaviours, I still couldn’t help but lament the passing of time.
Not surprisingly it took me a long time to work my way through the cupboard, but buoyed by my son’s optimism for our mini venture into retail, I soon collected a whole load of children’s stuff to sell. In fact, my son was so excited by the thought of having some extra pennies in his piggy bank, he decided to help me at the sale.
I was so thrilled by his response as he was recovering from agoraphobia and going out was still very difficult for him. I decided I would try and make this a positive experience for him and gave him a job. He was to have a box with small items which he could sell for 10p each. At long last all those small toys that we had collected over the years, the rubber balls, the mini dolls, the characters that you get with certain meal deals had suddenly found a new use. And my son – he liked the idea though he was adamant that his small toys would not be put up for sale!
On the day of the sale, we crammed the car full of stuff and drove to the church hall where we set up in the corner of a rather musty room. It was a typical church hall, typical in the sense that it had a stage at the one end and a kitchen and serving hatch at the other whilst upstairs there were a couple of rooms which were used by the local community. Whilst it had that slightly run-down feeling, it was also a friendly and inviting community space that was home to various groups including guides and scouts. Indeed, whilst we and the other sellers were busy setting up, the scout group were arranging a fabulous array of homemade cakes, biscuits and other refreshments that they would be selling to raise money for their chosen charity. Even before we had finished setting up, I could see my two younger children eyeing up the food and I knew it wouldn’t be long before they were nagging me for a fairy cake or two or three …….
And I was right. The sale had barely started before my son, now bored with the selling business, started to nag for food whilst his younger sister started to become visibly stressed. It is interesting having two autistic children like mine because it shows how differently they respond. My son, if he is engaged or distracted by something as he was with the sale, can appear to manage a situation though we often get problems later at home in terms of difficult or challenging behaviour. In comparison, my daughter seems not to be able to cope and often pleads to go home. Her strain is obvious, though once at home she rarely explodes like her brother but acts in a moody almost depressed manner.
On top of our children’s restless behaviour, the sale was not that successful. Very few people turned up and those that did I’m sure were ’heavily encouraged’ by the organisers of the event, so unenthusiastic they were. I also didn’t realise how hard it was to sell, particularly to difficult buyers who were trying to haggle me on everything I was selling, even the 10p items! Yet I’m pleased to say that I did manage a profit of £15 though some of it was taken up by the numerous cups of teas and fairy cakes that we bought.
But the real success of the day was not the fact that I made a profit or even the fact that our son came along (which in itself was major progress) but the fact that our son suddenly declared that he wanted to go to the scout group there. For an autistic child who had been gripped by agoraphobia and severe anxiety this was an absolutely massive step and one that totally took us by surprise. Naturally we grabbed the opportunity to talk to the scout leaders and arranged for our son to try out a session in the summer of 2010. We were hopeful of better times.
In my next post, I shall you about my son’s experiences with Scouts.