Today’s heartwarming and hilarious story is from Sharon Peterson at A Stone’s Throw from Perfection. I think you’ll love her words as much as I did.
One of my dearest friends attends the same church as us. She and her husband have three adorable little girls and every Sunday these three little girls sit quietly with their mother and father. They look like stair steps, going from oldest to youngest, dark hair-light hair-dark hair. They may color or draw or sometimes play on a Kindle quietly. Once and a while, one of them will curl up and fall asleep in one of their parents’ lap quietly. If one of them has to use the restroom or get a drink of water, they ask for permission quietly.
Did I mention how quiet they are?
Our family sits in the second to last row, way, way in the back. Because when you look at our row, it’s not sweet little ones sitting quietly.
No, our row is more like a rodeo.
I wish I could tell you Sundays were easy but they aren’t. If I’m not careful, I start to resent them. Six days a week, at least one of the boys has therapy, and the seventh day is Sunday.
It’s not a day of rest, folks.
First, there’s getting everyone ready. Racing around to find “church clothes” (I know, I should done that the night before. Don’t judge) and then getting them in the “church clothes.” Someone doesn’t like those shorts, this shirt has a hole in it, and is that even clean? (Must have grabbed it from the wrong mountain of clothes. Again, no judging).
I’m not even going to bring up the shoes.
Finally, we’re on our way. This is usually the point where my husband and I get in our weekly fight. I have no idea what it’s about, why it started, or who wins. I just know by the time we get to church, there is some door slamming and walking off in a huff.
Sunday school is next and it’s not so bad. There’s some singing and some chanting and then everyone goes with their respective age group. At this point, we have taken our six year old son, Gideon, with autism (who is still potty training) to the bathroom 14,671 times and had one success and threatened Daniel, our oldest son, also with autism, 9,643 times about appropriate behavior in Sunday school and had one success there too. But we’re okay. We’re fine.
Then 10:30 rolls around and it’s time for big church.
One of the things I love about our church is that it’s very family-centered. Children are encouraged to stay with their parents during the service. Our pastor has four children of his own and he’s learned to block out “kid noises,” like most parents. Everyone settles in. But, for us in the way back, we’re just getting started.
In the last year, Daniel has decided that he no longer wants to sit with us. So he sits across the aisle. Each Sunday, he tracks down his First Thousand Words in Spanish book and that’s what he reads. While I’m not certain he could pronounce them, I suspect if I gave him a test over those words, he’d nail it. Ben, our middle son, tries to finagle his way into sitting with those three sweet girls (because who can blame him?). I might add, he is an angel when he sits with them. When he sits with us, well, not so much. Gideon stays with us through the first 20 or so minutes of the service before he goes to children’s worship training. Gideon likes to lie down. He’s not too picky about where he does it. Draped over several chairs, the floor, on top of me. It wouldn’t be so bad if Gideon were not a very, very big boy.
This is the rodeo part I was talking about.
Daniel tilts his chair back, looks at me, grins at my stern look of reproach, laughs, tilts chair back again. He carries with him a small cloth monkey, a fidget toy, which he employs to annoy the ever-loving snot out of me in various and sundry ways. Yes, I would like that monkey to disappear. I never, ever want to say, “Stop playing with your monkey at the dinner table,” ever again. But for now, the monkey stays.
Gideon is laying on my lap. “I want water,” he says. So, I take him to get a drink and Ben follows to go to the first of fifteen bathroom trips. I wait for Ben so we can go back in all together, but he is taking forever so I knock. No answer. I whisper loudly that I’m going to come in if he doesn’t come out. I’m not paying attention to Gideon who is back at the water fountain and had given himself a shower somehow and water is now all over the front him.
Ben finally appears. “Sorry, Mom, I had to go . . . you know.” Yes, yes, I know. That means I make him go back into the bathroom to flush the toilet and wash his hands.
We’re five minutes into service now. Five minutes.
We’re back in our seats. We’re singing. Well, some of us are. Others refuse to stand and yet another is stimming with loud vocalizations and jumping up and down. Thankfully, our church family is used to us and no one seems to blink an eye. Ben has to use the bathroom again. Then the worst thing happens. A new family sits behind us. I panic. Sometimes I want to carry around business cards that I can hand out quickly that read, “Please excuse us. We have two children with autism. We apologize in advance.” Instead, I smile (nervously) at them. Ben comes back from the bathroom and then proceeds to spill 1400 Legos all over the floor. (Who was the dummy that let him bring those? Oh yeah.) And Gideon wants more water and he’s gonna pinch me until he gets it. These chairs should have seat belts and complimentary rolls of duct tape.
I am exhausted at this point.
Finally, Gideon is whisked away for worship training by a buddy (another way our church has been amazingly supportive of our family). Ben gets to play with his Kindle during the sermon so he commences to blowing stuff up or building spider spawn or whatever Minecraft stuff it is he does. Carl and I can relax. This may be the first and only 20 minutes of our whole week where we aren’t worried about Gideon breaking anything. Katherine, the youngest, is safe in the nursery. Ben is quiet. Daniel is occupied for now. We can finally be still and listen to the sermon.
But I have to make a confession.
Sometimes I fall asleep (we still aren’t judging). It’s not intentional. I’m not doing it because I want to. It’s just so quiet and I can finally relax for 15 minutes and before I know it, my eyelids get so heavy and then I’m jerking back awake. I’m sure God doesn’t approve but then again, God also knows how just plain worn out I am and maybe He understands.
He does give rest to the weary, right?
Being part of a church body is very important to us. And, may I just say, we have an amazing church family, one that has loved on us, taken care of us, prayed for us, laughed with us, cried with us, and still seem to want us.
So, we will put up with the rodeo that happens in our row in the back. We will apologize when one of the kids is having a rough day . . . or a normal day. We will smile (mostly) and feel blessed to be part of our church family because they accept each one of us as a child of God. Through them, we can see God’s love in a very tangible way. Maybe some of our children aren’t able to fully understand that, but they can feel it and they know they are loved.
That makes the rodeo worth it.
Sharon Peterson lives in Texas with her husband of fifteen years, four children, two cats, and a hermit crab. Two of her children have autism, one has dyslexia, and the youngest is three and the only girl. When she’s not hiding in a closet, she also homeschools, writes, reads, is actively involved at her church, and dreams of a bathroom trip uninterrupted. Finding laughter and beauty in a crazy, mixed-up world is one of her passions. She is currently working on her first novel.
New here? Glad you made it! I write about my unique joys and challenges as Mom to Henry, a smart, tender, quick-witted, train-loving, autistic 7-year-old with an infectious smile. I long to encourage autism parents and empower all to see inclusivity doesn’t have to be difficult - it can be beautiful. Like what you see? Sign up here to receive news and occasional freebies just for insiders.