Part 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)
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