Yesterday was Ash Wednesday, one of my favorite days of the year. Work was slow enough that I was able to leave in time to take Boo to the special church supper and Ash Wednesday service. As excited as I was to be able to go, I did have concerns about just how Boo would handle it. As is the case with most kids with ASD, he has a very hard time with unexpected changes in routine. In Boo's memory we've never gone to church in the evening before. I wasn't sure how he would take this since we would be going to supper at church where there was likely to be nothing he would eat, then going to an unusual church service which was not preceded by Sunday School. He handled the supper quite well. He was uncomfortable at first, but once he discovered the saltine crackers he sat down at the table with me and ate. I had the most delicious chicken soup, a ham sandwich and a yummy dessert. He ate saltine crackers. That was it. He wouldn't even touch his applesauce.
He was a little jittery and reluctant to go to the sanctuary at first, but acquiesced once I agreed to carry him. We went in and set our things down and he was playing with his toy cars. All was well at first, until he realized that we had not been to "the eating place." Our church has a special fellowship time between Sunday School and church service where they serve refreshments and give everyone time to gather and conversate. Boo has dubbed this "the eating place" and it is probably his favorite part of the Sunday morning routine. I told him that they don't have eating place on Wednesdays, they had supper instead. He was not satisfied by this explanation and things began to go downhill. When it was time for the imposition of ashes (congregants come forward and Pastor places ashes on their foreheads in the sign of the cross) Boo requested to stay in the pew while I went forward. I had my reservations but he handled it just fine. But when I returned to my seat it didn't take long for him to become very agitated about that "stuff" on my head! He hated it! He kept begging me to clean it off and asking what it was. I couldn't come up with an explanation that would satisfy him. I pulled out my emergency reserve: Reece's Pieces. He settled down just long enough to eat the small amount I had packed for him, and then he began testing my limits. He was trying to play in the aisles, and being generally argumentative and was in constant motion: climbing, kicking, flailing, you name it. He also would NOT stop talking and would NOT speak quietly! I was at my wit's end and sat there silently praying that SOME DAY I will once again be able to actually hear a sermon.
In the midst of this mess, a miracle happened! Ok, "miracle" might be an over-dramatization, but it felt like almost that big of a thing for us. Right in the middle of the service, Boo announced "Mommy, I have to go potty!" I said "let's go!" and we left the sanctuary. I took him into the ladies room, fully expecting a battle. You see, Boo has an abject fear of public bathrooms. He refuses to use them. Especially when they have seats that are split in the front instead of being a full circle. Normally, if he takes one look at such a toilet he runs away screaming. The best we are able to do usually is give him a disposable cup that he can potty in, but I had no such thing with me at the time. I offered to let him stand up to potty and he said ok. But once he pulled his pants down he shocked me by sitting right up on that public toilet as if it had never even been an issue! It was all I could do to keep my cool and act nonchalant. Then he leaned backward just so, and accidentally pottied on his pants a little bit. I quickly reminded him to watch where his potty was going and he did. Then I was really worried! Normally the tiniest bit of wetness on an article of clothing requires that we must change. I hadn't brought his bag into the bathroom with me. I was picturing him throwing a huge fit about putting his pants on. I pictured having to haul him naked back to the sanctuary to retrieve spare pants. EEEK! But he surprised me again by not even seeming to notice the slight wetness on his pants. I was more elated than I can find words to describe.
We returned to church and Boo continued his antics, but nothing could deflate my joy at the miracle that took place in the church bathroom! After church was over we had another big meltdown because he wanted to go to Grandpa's house, as we are in the habit of doing after Sunday services, and I told him that it was just too late. So while the evening was a little tough on him, Boo excelled overall with the experience of an unexpected change in routine and an unfamiliar situation. I couldn't ask for more!