*Note: I’ve had this post in my drafts for two months. I have debated on whether or not to post it for various reasons. I finally had the push needed to post it, and hope someone finds this post useful, or that it makes others feel not so alone.*
Monkey has been in school for two weeks now. He’s doing pretty well, and we’re so proud of him! It’s still a huge adjustment for him, and he does struggle, but he has a great team working with him, and we’re just overall very pleased with how things are going. We’ve seen so much improvement in his speech, and his fine motor abilities!
We decided to take him to church recently. Now that he is in Junior Kindergarten, he is able to go to Sunday school, which is held during the scripture readings and homily (for reference: we are Catholic). Mass has been really difficult for us for years. I think we stopped actively attending Mass as a family when Monkey was 10 months or so. As we believed to be typical, he was unable to sit quietly for an hour, even if we brought toys or quiet activities for him. For a long time we would take turns taking him to the back of the church (none of the parishes near us have cry rooms). One of us was always ending up missing Mass. We assumed things would get better for us, but it didn’t. In fact, it got worse. We hit Monkey’s 2nd birthday, and still he couldn’t last more than 5 minutes in Mass. Then we started learning that he may have autism, and things started making sense. We stopped trying. He couldn’t do it, and it was really frustrating for us, so we just stopped going. Every once in a while we tried, but no luck. Monkey has not attended Mass properly since he was a baby. It became even more obvious that it was not just a typical behaviour when we had Baby Bear. He IS able to attend Mass, and can sit mostly quietly for almost the entire hour. We don’t expect young children to be perfect angels in Mass, just that they are able to keep relatively quiet and sit mostly in the pew. Monkey has not been able to do this. We have learned that he has a “fight or flight” mentality with things that overwhelm him, and his usual response is flight. The social expectations in Mass are a lot to handle. One second it is loud without warning, the next it is quiet, one second we stand, the next we sit. There are unfamiliar smells, and lots of people, and unknown things happening up front. It’s just a lot for him to handle. We decided to be okay with that. It’s not what we’d imagined, but it is what it is. We ended up with a routine that worked for us, with taking turns going to Mass (me on Saturday evening, Doug on Sunday morning). Truth be told, I have skipped Mass more times than I have attended, but that’s neither here nor there.
We were pretty excited when Monkey was old enough to go to Sunday School. In our minds, we thought that would mean at least half an hour of Mass we could both attend. We talked to the teachers about Monkey, and they assured us they would take care of him, and he’d be fine. We got there last week, and Doug took him to Sunday school, and he freaked out. I ended up sitting with him the entire time. The next week, the same thing. Sunday school, as it was set up, was not going to be a good fit for Monkey. It was, again, more sitting and listening to someone tell a story/read scripture, and more reciting prayers, and then a few minutes of colouring. Not that this is a flawed set up, it’s great for the typically developing 4-8 year old. The typical world is all about round pegs fitting in round holes. Autism, as we’ve learned, is a square peg world.
I’ve spent a lot of time being embarrassed by our inability to attend Mass, and my lack of desire to keep trying. I’ve spent years being frustrated about not being able to go to Mass as a family, I’ve been guilty about it for a long time. Now, I’m not sure where I stand, and I still think Mass will eventually be a family thing again, but for now, we’re content to continue as we are now.