Taking kids to church is hard.
Taking a sensory-sensitive kid to church is no exception. The music and echoes are just so overwhelming. Not to mention the big statues and crowd of people. We had tried the family room -- the speaker was louder than the main area! It was crowded and messy and not comfortable. So we resigned ourselves to limiting his attendance to the main holidays when we HAD to go as a family, but hubby had to go out with him almost right away. We were anxious parents. No one wants to make a scene in church. It was just a hard situation.
I confess-- it was a battle I had stopped fighting. For the sake of our family sanity, I have been just going by myself. It was just less stressful that way. I need church to fill me up for the week and a whole ordeal with an overwhelmed child was not cup-filling. I just tried to bring enough grace home each week for the whole family.
A visiting family member recently asked why I don't take him with me. "It's complicated," I said.
But I know that was a prompting. I had even recently given encouragement to another person in a similar situation about bringing their special-needs child to church. It is funny how sometimes we resist taking our own advice even if we hand it out so easily.
I used to go to church and sit with my Grandma. Some of the most tender memories I have of my grandma were from sitting next to her holding her hand in church. She'd give me a piece of candy -- Werther's -- during the sermon which I thought was so special, but realize now was so I would stay quiet, lol. At this past Sunday's mass I witnessed a young girl and her Grandma and memories came flooding back to me. The closing hymn was also her favorite hymn. Another prompting.
Last night there was an evening healing mass and I am so in awe of that and I wanted to be there. It was at a time of day where I wouldn't easily be able to do a handoff to hubby to watch my son and I felt called to try anyway.
He did so great being quiet. Since it was the "daily mass" format, there was no singing and he commented that he was okay with it because there was no singing. When the priest sang the Alleluia he said "when will he be done singing?" lol. He had an iPad and sat on my lap and kept himself as calm as he could which I know was a gift from God. He was starting to get restless after the homily and I said "this is the important part coming up: when they turn that bread and wine into Jesus" You guys! You should have seen the wonder in his eyes. He sure did pay attention. And when they rang the bells I told him, "It's becoming Jesus." He focused right in on that trying to get that wonderful mystery figured out, along with the rest of us. ❤️
He started getting wiggly; there's a lot of up and down and crowd responses during this point in the Mass. Then we started the Lord's prayer and I just watched this peace come over him as he began to recognize the familiar words and he beamed as he told me "Mama this is OUR prayer!"
We were probably disruptive with our whispering and his game music (which we negotiated to keep at level 1 so he could still hear it). He didn't sit perfectly and politely next to me and rise and fall with the motions of the crowd the way I see other 5 year-olds do in Sunday Mass. It was not perfect from the outside, but to me, it was perfect. He received the wonder and grace and joy of the presence of the Eucharist--probably to a greater extent that night than most of the parishioners who habitually do the motions. He gained confidence in his ability to handle an unfamiliar and uncomfortable situation. And so did I.
Not sure if you're the same as me but I get caught thinking it has to be a certain way. That people think something about me. That if I can't do it the RIGHT WAY, then I should be ashamed, or that I shouldn't try because we don't fit.
But the truth is, Jesus is for everyone. I know this but sometimes I get tricked into not believing that to be true for my circumstances. The readings yesterday and today happen to be about children, the faith of a child. Of course they were! Because Jesus wanted us there! He wanted us to receive the gifts that He had waiting for us last night.
There is no shame in bringing children to church. It is hard, no matter what, but it is so good. It is so important. I have a renewed courage to make this a priority. It's definitely not Jesus who makes us feel shame or embarrassment or fear about our children's behavior in church-- it is the enemy. Even though I know the scriptures and know that we will receive grace, it can just feel so heavy and hard to fight that spiritual battle. But He makes a way for us if we seek it. I am so grateful that way was made for us last night and that I could tell you about it so that I may encourage others of you who can identify with this. Tuesday night mass might just be our new routine. See you there?
I'm Lisa Yau