Wednesday, March 19, 2014

New Experiences, New Results

I live in an interfaith family.  Dad was raised in a Christian household, I was raised in a Jewish household.  Both of us feel our religious heritage is important and we look forward to sharing it with our 3 children.  However, when we got married, we agreed that we would have a dominant religion in our house and by the time Big Brother was born, we had agreed we would have a Jewish house.

That decision has had consequences.  I was concerned about how the balance would be maintained, so I held off for quite a while sending any of the kids to religious education classes.  But this year, Big Brother began Sunday School, and next year the twins will begin as well.  The rabbi has been very supportive and has copies of each of the twins' IEPs so that she can make whatever accommodations are possible to make this experience successful.

But this weekend was Purim.  This is probably the favorite Jewish holiday of most Jewish children.  It's kind of like Halloween and Christmas rolled into one.  This is the holiday where gifts are supposed to be exchanged (secular world has made this Chanukah).  Kids dress in costumes, eat sweet treats (usually in the form of cookies [known as Hamantaschen <the word literally translates to "Hamen's Hat">] which are triangular cookies filled with some type of fruit jam).  The story of Queen Esther is read and every time the name "Hamen" is mentioned all of the children make as much noise as they possibly can.  They use noisemakers as well as their own voices and bodies.  It's a very fun service, but it's easy to see it overwhelming any child, not to mention a child with sensory sensitivities as seen as those on the spectrum.

But this was the service I chose to take them both to.  Their first service.  Ever.

We had tried to prepare them.  Ballerina I wasn't very concerned about.....she may be overwhelmed at first, but would quickly recognize the fun of the activity and I expected she would be able to enjoy the experience.  Music Man, on the other hand.....he's always my loose cannon. I never know what will cause him discomfort and I can't be certain when he tells me something that he's describing his feelings or his mood accurately as he hasn't demonstrated that level of self-expression yet.  But sometimes, you just have to go for it.  So, I did.

We spent Sunday morning talking about the story.  And, every time anyone said "Hamen", we all made as much noise as possible.  He really didn't seem to get what was going on.  But we thought we had to do SOMETHING without being too obvious about the whole thing.  Then it was time to go.  The service started and many of the Sunday School children were dressed in their costumes.  My kids weren't (not sure what made me decide to not dress them for the occasion).  Then the groggers (noisemakers) were distributed.  All the kids were practicing making all the noise they could.  Still, Music Man looked intrigued but not excited.  Ballerina, on the other hand, was getting into it right from the start.  Then the story began.

Things started quietly.  Then, it happened.  "HAMEN".  And there was chaos.  Noise and screams and laughter and music.....everyone was making as much noise as was in their power to make.  And Music Man was SMILING.  He tried to spin his grogger.  When I noticed he was having problems with it mechanically, I gave him some hand-clappers and he joined right in!  And this continued, all the way to the last 5-10 minutes of the story.

Then things started to get to be a little much.  But he didn't complain.  He handed me the noisemaker (and wanted me to use it), but his hands went to cover his ears.  Whenever he heard the name "HAMEN", he looked at me and was clearly telling me that I was supposed to make the noise.  But then, when the signal for quiet was raised, he calmly told me to stop and be quiet.  He enjoyed the remainder of the service, sitting on my lap and watching.

2 years ago, this would have been a scream fest from the beginning and it wouldn't have ended until about 3 hours after the event was concluded.  How far things have come!!!!!

The service was followed by some snacks and the carnival (small stands put together by the teenagers in the youth group.  Big Brother won a cake for us to have for dinner and we headed home for lunch and to spend the rest of our Sunday doing our normal "Sunday" things.

But for dinner, when we were enjoying the cake, Music Man took a bite and said "HAMEN"!!!!  So what did we all do?


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My name is Ilene.  I'm a Stay At Home Mom and I spend my time taking care of my 3 amazing children (nearly 9 year old son and 7 year old twins), my puppy, and my husband.  I also spend a lot of time working with our school's PTA where I serve as the Volunteer Coordinator and as the Special Needs Liaison to the PTA.

I have (historically) blogged regularly, but it has been AGES since I've sat down to write a blog post (this is my first post this year, period)!  But when I do, it's generally at My Family's Experience With Autism.

Please come by and read our stories.  And, hopefully, I'll be back there soon (as I greatly miss it)!

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