Saturday, April 14, 2012

Quiet mouth. Calm Body

Last week, on Easter Sunday, I decided I was going to attend church with my family. It seems like such an ordinary thing for a family to do on Easter Sunday, but for our family, it is a monumental decision.  For the most part, I accept the adjustments and accommodations that come with parenting a child with special needs. Sometimes though, I want to be like any 'typical' family.  Sometimes, if just twice a year, I would like to sit with my family in church.

I don't attend church with M as often as I would like as he has a very short attention span for sitting and listening.  He's pretty good for about ten minutes.  It happens sometime after the first hymn when M will usually announce with loud determination, "Done!  I go home now!  Goodbye, friends!"

This is the reason why I sit on the side in the pew closest to the door.  
It makes for a clean getaway.  
Regular church attenders have "their spot."  
This one is mine.

As with all areas of M's life, arrival time at church (and all the other you-must-sit-still-and-be-quiet venues) is meticulously orchestrated.  Knowing you have a limited amount of time that M will sit still and quiet, sitting down as close to the start time is key.  

This works for us most Sundays. 
But not on Easter Sunday when EVERYONE attends church.
When everyone arrives early to get a good seat. (Or rather, to get a seat.)
When someone else might sit in my seat.

We formulate our plan.  We will arrive early and Mr. A and Miss J will sit in 'our' spot.  I will walk M around the church until the moment service starts.  Perfect.

I would also pack my purse with 'reinforcements' I may need to get through the service:  Fruit snacks (also strategically planned as they offer a longer 'chew-time' resulting in the candy lasting longer.  They are also able to be chewed quietly) and a discretely hidden iPad (which, with volume off would buy us more time.).  Miss J's eyeballs roll at the sight of these reinforcements.  I know exactly what she is thinking but is not saying:  

That is so unfair.  You never would have let me eat candy and play games in church.  Never. You only let me draw on the bulletin.  The only reason you'll let me eat candy in church is because he gets to.

We arrived at church someone was in our seat.  It was a full thirty minutes before the start of the service and the sanctuary was filling fast. 

There was still room.
Far away from the door.
Close to the front.
Just a feet from the wind and string orchestra.

It would have to do.

Mr A and Miss J found seats.  M and I strolled the hallways of the church.  M was happy.  He smiled and greeted the congregation.  He watched the choir assembling outside the sanctuary, preparing for the processional hymn and wished them a happy Easter.  He looked out the vast windows at the blooming flowers in the garden and pointed them out to me.

I turned to him.
"M," I began.  "We are going to sit in church now.  They are going to sing and play beautiful music.  You will need to be very quiet so you can hear the music.  No talking, okay bud?"

"Quiet voice. Calm body."  He parroted back the phrase we'd told him countless times in his life.  

The music began to play and we took our seats.  Since we were not in our usual spot, a quick getaway was not possible.  I had to form another plan. I whispered to Mr. A,

"Let's just stay through the first hymn.  We can leave while the congregation is still singing."
With the congregation already standing and singing, slipping out  unnoticed would be easier.

The service began.  The pastors spoke.  M sat perfectly still and quiet.

The first hymn was sung.  M listened but remained still. He said nothing.

I whispered to Mr. A, 
"Maybe we can stay a bit longer.  We'll leave when they have the "Time With Children."  

The pastor invited the children to join him in the front of the sanctuary.  A blur of children rushed to the front to join him, Miss J included. He asks them what the best gift they have ever received was.  (Miss J declared her hamster was her best gift.)  The pastor finishes his time with the children and Miss J returns to her seat.

The service continued and M remained silent.  He inched closer to me and rested his head on my shoulder.  The choir sang again and the orchestra played. M watched and listened. 

M climbed up onto my lap and his 5 foot tall self curled into a tight ball, which M often does this in loud and crowded places.  M is so still and so quiet that I feel the tension leaving my own body and I relax. 

We remained in the service but  I am aware that my good fortune will not last forever.
Finally, when the pastor was about to deliver his sermon, I suggested to Mr. A that now would be a good time to slip out.

I am content and calm...and quite surprised that M sat so uncharacteristically still and quiet.  I am pleased by his stellar behavior in church, but it comes with suspicion.  As soon as we arrive at home, I stick a thermometer under M's tongue:  97.2.

No fever.

A pang of guilt sears through me for assuming that M's quiet behavior must mean the he is ill. With a fever-free M, we enjoy the rest of our Easter.

The following afternoon my phone rings.  The caller ID shows that it is M's school.  It is the nurse.
"I'm here with M.  He's very sleepy and he has a fever.  Do you think you could come and get him?"

I collect my coat and purse and drive to the school.

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