To the Mom Whose Kid Hit Me with a Coloring Book at Church Today

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mom of children with special needsPart of our family routine includes attending Saturday evening Mass, and this weekend was no exception.  We drove separately, since my husband was going to take our daughter to a dance performance, while I took our son back home.  I came in about 15 minutes late with our son, as he was in the midst of a Prednisone-induced fit when it was time to go.  Sigh.

We were all sitting in the back pew, doing our usual Mass thing, and I observed the family in the pew ahead of me – namely because there was a little girl with redhair sitting with them.  I noticed their mom, and likely her parents, with three school-age-ish kids.  The mom and the grandfather sat between the son, while the girls were sitting betwixt the grandparents.

I quickly, quietly noticed the son likely had mild special needs.  I also noticed quickly how stressed the mother seemed.  It broke my heart to watch her out of the corner of my eye: I could sense the anxiety she felt.  She was nervous her son may act out, or simply act outside the norms of what’s expected during Mass, and perhaps “bother” parishioners around them.

In the midst of Mass, the son became engaged in the coloring books his family thoughtfully brought along.  They weren’t close to him, but he reached across the pew while we were all kneeling and started coloring one.  About two minutes later, he was ready for a new one, I suppose.

That’s when I got hit with a coloring book, folks.  Granted, it was completely accidental, and I *may* have been the only person who even noticed this incident, but I’m a big girl and wasn’t effected by the split second incident whatsoever.

After we said “Our Father”, it was time to shake hands with one another, and wish “peace be with you” to one another.  I kissed my kids and husband, then began shaking hands with parishioners nearby.  The boy held out his hand, so I naturally shook it and offered him peace as well.

And that’s when my heart dropped.  The mom -perhaps completely frazzled- pulled his hand back towards him and muttered “sorry” to those around her.

So, to this mother, I simply want to say this:

You are amazing.  You have three beautiful kids, loving parents, and you made it to church!  Your son knew before going up to Communion to cross his arms over his chest since he’d not yet received his first Communion.

You are amazing.  Your kids are also amazing.  I saw the coloring job one of them did, and it was impressive.  I caught a glimpse of one of your daughters writing in a journal – I promise I wasn’t trying to be nosy, my eyes simply landed on those pages.  I was impressed with both her penmanship and the length she wrote in such a short time.  (No, seriously, I promise I wasn’t being nosy – but the teacher in me just SEES these things!)

You are amazing.  I loved seeing your son interact with those around him.  I was honored to shake his hand and wish him (and secretly you, too, fellow mama!) peace.

Hold your head up high, and be confident in what you are doing.  Trust me, I know I only saw a small glimpse of your family and your life at church today – and I know there are moments with any child that can rattle your parental nerves to the core.  Remember why I was late to church?  See above regarding my son and his fit.  (His second fit of the day, I might add.)  We all have our highs and great lows as parents, and I can only imagine the highs and lows compounded by having a child with special needs.

Please believe me when I say, you are part of my tribe, mother who’s son hit me with a coloring book today.  Seldom will you find parents who have it all together, trust me.  You and your family have every right to sit and partake in Mass service, and you should be able to sit and relax and take away whatever you need from a church service.  I’m aware you may encounter folks who perhaps stare a little too long at your son, who may be trying to determine what’s going on.  You may also encounter the steely gaze of folks who choose not to understand, but want to blame someone for the behavior they deem inappropriate – people who use their blind knowledge, rather than their hearts to guide their views, without knowing what is actually going on, of course.

Enjoy your time with your family.  Savor your hour at Saturday Mass.  Partake in the mystery of faith, of the transfiguration of Christ, from bread to body.  Shake hands with your fellow parishioners and accept their wishes of peace for you.

Know that, for every person who openly displays their ignorance or lack of compassion towards your son, your family, or you – there are easily two or three or ten people who get it, who know we don’t know what it’s like to walk in your shoes.  Or maybe those who do get it, get it because they ARE in your shoes.

Chin up, my fellow mama friend.  Stop apologizing for your son.  He is fine.  You are fine.  You will all be fine.

God bless you, and peace be with you.

P.S.  I’m a (former?) elementary school teacher with a masters in special education.  I currently teach preschool and have a few special needs friends in my class this year.  More importantly, I’m a mother with kids who aren’t always perfect, but we stumble along together to figure things out.

Keep on saving!  :o)
--Barbara

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Comments

  1. A great read for any Mama who is feeling like she’ not up to par with the challenges she faces. <3

  2. Robin Rue (@massholemommy) says:

    You are very understanding, but sadly so many people don’t get what it’s like to be in her shoes. I have been in her shoes, however, so I totally get it 🙂

    • Thank you – and sadly, you are correct. I was in church a few years ago in the cry room, and there was a little boy who I knew almost immediately was on the spectrum, whose parents ultimately removed him. There was a snarly couple in the corner who practically applauded when he left. It really hurt my heart.

  3. I love this. I’ve seen so many “to the mom who” open letters that are just nasty. It’s nice to see an encouraging “to mom” note.

    • Thank you Stacie. I think the nasty notes can be left behind in junior high. Life is too short to do -or offer- anything but an uplift to fellow mamas.

  4. Catherine S says:

    What a great post. I love how you handled that. I think a lot of people would have handle that situation differently.

    • Thank you Catherine. It’s probably neither the first nor the last coloring book to come across my noggin. As I said, I’m a big girl so I could handle it. 😉

  5. Kristi says:

    Perfectly said…. and something all Moms should read. No day is perfect and no kid is perfect but we all need to take a deep breath and enjoy those around us.

  6. It’s so hard as the mom to think anything less than our kid is causing trouble or annoying other people…when in fact, most of the time the other people love it.

    This mom is doing great. We all are doing the best we can!

    • Agreed, Krystyn – I think as a mother, much of our child’s misbehavior lives largely only in our perception.

  7. I am a former Special Ed teacher, so my eyes tend to gravitate to children with special needs also. 🙂

  8. HAHA I love the title. It takes a village!

  9. LOVE This! It’s always nice to see people who understand others. If only more people would act and think the same way! Thanks for the reminder.

  10. What a sweet letter. So many people judge other parents when what they really need is encouragement.

  11. I’m totally in tears now. I expected a very different story and a very different ending. What a generous spirit you are and my heart fell too for that little boy. You clearly shine your light brightly in the world and undoubtedly radiate those around you. Hopefully that little boy walked away not feeling ashamed.

  12. This is a great post. Sometimes you need this kind of encouragement when you’re going through a tough time.

    • Thank you, Liz. Yes – sometimes we all need a little encouragement, no matter what shoes we walk in. 🙂

  13. I will admit I did not expect this type of post given the title, but as the mom of a son on the autism spectrum, I am in tears reading this. I too can often spot a child with special needs, while I can guarantee I have been this mother on more than one occasion. I relate to both sides of this story and really appreciate your love, kindness and understanding.

    • I have been this mother many times, too, Marcie – and neither of my kids are labeled special needs, but some days they need MANY more hugs than other days. 🙂

  14. This is such a thoughtful post, thank you for sharing it. I think we could all use a little more understanding, we can be so hard on ourselves

  15. I actually love reading a post or blog when it comes about to mom. I always feel so touch and inspired.

  16. Felt so touch. This is a great post!

  17. Jeanine says:

    This is wonderful. I wish more people were like this and could reach out to other moms like this especially when in need.

  18. Over the years I’ve learned not to judge moms whose kids are “acting up”. Or the kids, for that matter. You never know what that family’s going through, or their story.

  19. This was so encouraging for me as a frazzled mom. I was completely expecting this to have a negative turn on the kid, well done

    • Thank you Christie – I’ve often been the frazzled mom myself, so I’ve got nothing but love and encouragement for other frazzled mamas. 🙂

  20. This was a great post! I have 2 kids 3 and almost 2 and we try so hard to get our kids to do good in church and they really do pretty good. The people behind us are angels and so sweet about our girls but the people in front are not so much. They glare and have told my husband we should move to the cry room. It can be so challenging and stressful knowing that we are being judged all through church. I continue to pray that they will change their minds but we just continue to try every day.

    • Thank you Autumn. I’m sorry you’re struggling with critical eyes at your church. Keep bringing your littles, and doing what you need to do for them. It’s not about what the other people think, particularly if your family is being respectful of those around them. You do you. 🙂

  21. Tracey says:

    What a heartwarming post. I wish there was a way for that mom to see this so she could see how someone else sees her through their eyes.

  22. This is such an awesome, inspirational post. I think that as moms, we should definitely stick together and help encourage one another through tough times.

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