Barrett Goes to Church

bearHPI realize that I vowed to not write about religion, and I assure you, this post isn’t about religion.  Stay with me, because it’s about autism, milestones, and my Barrett!

One of the benefits of belonging to our Catholic church is that there’s a Saturday evening mass. I love this, because my weekend mornings are very precious.  We haven’t been to church in a while, I won’t bore you with the reasons, but my little man has to start getting ready for his First Communion.  That means we need to show up.  Believe it or not, we’ve never been to church together as a family.  Barrett has never been able to sit still or remain silent for that long.  Unfortunately this has meant that he’s been absent from major family events (weddings, funerals and his sibling’s First Communions). 

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The kids AFTER Audrey’s First Communion (which Bear didn’t attend).

On Saturday, the weather reports were calling for rain and my husband was out with a friend for most of the afternoon. I decided to take the kids to a movie, and then to church.  What to do about Barrett?  I was taking the kids to a show that wasn’t close to our house (next town over) and it wasn’t feasible for me to drop Bear off at home before attending mass.  I considered a rendezvous exchange with dad, but it wasn’t doable.  With no alternative, I decided to throw caution to the wind and give it a try.  For the past year, Bear’s teachers have been taking him to various performances, both on and off campus, so technically he’s been practicing – in a round-about way.

It’s only been in the last year that I’ve been able to even take Bear to the movies. I still get butterflies in my stomach every time we go into a theater.  You just never know what might set him off, or make him want to leave immediately.  The movie we saw was Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. There were very few people in the audience and it was very loud, conditions that worked in our favor.  At one point, Bear burst into a fit of giggles that I suspect had nothing to do with the plot.  I gave him some popcorn, which managed to muffle him until his hysteria passed.

After the movie we headed to church, and I must admit I started to panic a little. I was taking a risk, especially given that he’d already sat through a movie for a couple of hours.  But I was committed to going.  Adding to my resolve was the fact that Hunter and Audrey were complaining about how they didn’t want to go.  Now, I certainly wasn’t going to give in to that.

We got to mass just before it started, so no aisle seats were available. Aisle seats are key to making a discreet exit, in the event we have any issues.  With that option off the table, I scanned the pews for the next best thing.  I zeroed in on two women who were seated in the second to last pew.  They didn’t look too pleased to see my motley crew stop at their aisle.

“Excuse me, can we sit there?” I asked, as I pointed to the empty seats beside them.

They looked at me, but didn’t answer, smile or stand up. They merely pulled their feet under the pew.  In their defense (for not standing), they were a few generations ahead of me.  We scooted in, and I tried to make sure Barrett didn’t plow into them.  Aud and Hunter poutfully plunked down in their seats, Cammy joined them and I led Bear, holding his hand because he was excited and flapping.  Once we were seated, Audrey suggested that maybe we should sit in the children’s room – a section of the church that is sequestered behind a glass enclosure with a door.

I thought about the potential fireworks with Bear and decided she was right. We scooted past our annoyed neighbors and entered the “crying room.”

I’ll spare you the play-by-play, but the crying room sucks. Believe it or not, in all my years of attending mass, I’ve never been sequestered in an environment like that (although I did spend one Christmas Eve in a vestibule).  It’s very loud, with many distractions.  I couldn’t wait for the mass to end! Not a good attitude to have.

Although my children’s behavior was exemplary, compared to the other minors in the room, three out of four of them failed to meet my expectations. I was disappointed.  Next time, I may have to bring a ruler with me to rap some knuckles!  Can you guess who the best behaved Smithie was?  None other than my Bear Bear!  I was so proud of him.  Many thanks to all his teachers and therapists who helped him get to this point.  Halleluiah, indeed.

You know what this means? We can now go to church together as a family.  That’s right dear hubby, time to get your big boy pants on!

All kidding aside, this is a huge milestone for Barrett. As we stood in line to receive communion, I had him cross his arms on his chest to receive a blessing and wondered about the possibility of having Bear prepare to receive his sacraments.  You never know, stranger things have happened.

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If you have a special needs child, do they attend church services? How do you deal with typical children who misbehave in church?

17 thoughts on “Barrett Goes to Church”

  1. Oh I understand this completely. I’ve taken Boo off and on to church since Abby had to begin for First Communion. Each time I enter Mass I have a knot in my stomach. I refuse to sit in the crying room. How will Abby know how to behave? There are some days Boo is wonderful and quiet. But most? Um….yeah it’s been bad. One time when the Priest was giving the blessing she was heard in full volume: OH COME ON. One guy told me “good luck with that one” during the giving peace. Yet we go back, because it’s worth it and because if Boo isn’t welcome in God’s house than we have a bigger problem than I thought 😉

    1. I cannot believe that someone said, “Good luck with that one.”! Was he joking? I agree though, if our kids aren’t welcome in Church, oh boy! I actually received a private email from someone (who read the blog) that my church is starting a special needs program. I’m going to check it out.

  2. Sam wakes up Sunday morning saying “kid church” all day. He attends a special needs classroom at our church at the Sunday 6pm service.

  3. Wow, that was quite an adventure – but hooray!!! That is a huge step!!!
    I hate the cry room – makes no sense to me. I think many years ago when people went there to soothe a crying child – literally – and then returned to the “big” church, it served a purpose. But now? A mess! Kids run and play – and EAT – all over the room and no one in that room does anything like actually participate in the Mass. Drives me nuts! It’s why we’ve never used it. And I’m with Kerri – how in the world do you ever expect a child to learn to behave if all you do is allow them to escape to what has clearly become the playroom!?
    I fear I’m soapboxing here…I’ll step down. :)
    My Kidzilla has ADHD – so Mass or anything else like it is a challenge for her. I never really thought too hard about how we handle behavior in church because we just do pretty much what we’d do anywhere – if behavior is not corrected via our standard system, we excuse ourselves to the lobby or outside (never the cry room!) to resolve the issue. Is she perfect? Not by a long shot. But no different than any other child her age, really – I watch them. They all wiggle and talk and whisper. It’s normal. Eventually, they get it. All we can do is keep explaining why we behave a certain way and model for them. I also think explaining to her what’s going on and what we’re doing is helpful – at least for my girl. She likes to understand things and does so well when she gets it and can totally “buy in” so to speak.
    Congratulations on such a big milestone! :)

    1. Allie, I just read your about page and laughed out loud at the bottom (your “old” info). So many things we have in common I just couldn’t help but laugh. I think the one that got me was “recovering vegetarian,” probably because I fit that category, too. Anyway, there was no comment spot there so I just came back here.

      1. Thanks Lisa! I didn’t eat meat for five years. Then one day, my husband enticed me with a bite of his steak, and I don’t know why – but I ate it. I only eat grass fed beef, no chicken or pork. Interestingly, my blood work from my annual physical vastly improved once I re-introduced meat into my diet. I did a little research and apparently my blood type needs a lot of protein. Who knew?

        1. That’s interesting about the protein – never heard of that!
          I often underestimate Kidzilla and kind of “expect” that something will go “wrong” where behavior and sitting still is concerned. We Moms do that, don’t we? I’m working on flipping that around because the truth is, kids take their cues from us, don’t they? Simple tactic that as a long-time teacher I know and use in the classroom. But when it comes to our own kids, all bets are off!

    2. Thanks Lisa! When Bear was younger, it was less of an issue, because he did seem like other children his age – just a naughty version:)!. He’s thirteen now, and quite tall, so it has the potential to be interesting. That being said, I think I have a tendency to underestimate him – shame on momma.

  4. I’m not very religious but I believe “enough” to believe, I guess, as in I flew Tucker to Denver at 6 months to have him baptized in the same church I was baptized in… even though part of me *knows* babies go to heaven anyway….
    We’ve tried to go to church three times, with Tucker, but, admittedly, not recently. We tried the church daycare, and they came to get me after 10 minutes (this was before we knew Tucker wasn’t typical) both times. Then, we tried to keep him in the pews with us at both our own church and at my inlwaws, and had to leave. Then, still, we didn’t “know” he wasn’t typical and were simply embarrassed that he didn’t act like the other kids in sunday school or in church. I’m ashamed now, actually, that I was so dumb that I didn’t realize something was up with Tucker. But well. I didn’t. And neither did they, except that he wasn’t welcome, which was enough to have made me not go back. Which feels sad and cheated in a way, but well, um, you know. .

    1. Don’t be embarrassed! You haven’t described anything that a typical child wouldn’t do. And never feel shame. You are a SUPER-Mom! The shame should be on those who didn’t welcome him.

  5. That’s wonderful! And a huge adventure, as someone said above.
    We are a confused and mixed religion family but I grew up with more of a background and it’s a BIG deal. My parents would take all five of us.

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