Friday, August 31, 2012

Boo, Moses, and the Gospel

Last night at bedtime Boo and I were reading bible stories. We are reading out of two different bible story books right now. One is very simplistic and one is closer to the original language of the bible. From the first, more advanced one we read part of the story of creation. When we got the the part about the seventh day, and how God made it holy, I stopped to check for understanding. He did not know what the word holy means. I explained that it means set apart, made different than the others. Then I asked him what was different about the seventh day. I got the blank stare. Then I rephrased the question.
"What did God do on the first six days?"
"He made all the things in the world."
"And what did he do on the seventh day?"
"He took a rest."
"So what is different about the seventh day that makes it holy?"
"God rested."

We moved on to the other story book where we picked up from our previous reading about Moses. We read about Moses growing up in the palace, then running away, then seeing the burning bush. When God spoke to Moses he told him to remove his shoes because the ground was holy ground. I paused again to check for understanding. Again, we discussed the meaning of the word holy. I asked him what was different about that particular ground where Moses was that made it holy. He thought and studied the picture. His response was "It was made of sand instead of sidewalk." I bit my lip, stifled my giggle, and continued.
"Well, that's one thing that's different. But what special thing happened in that place?"
"God talked to Moses."
"That's right!"

We also talked about how we would feel if God showed up and talked to us. Then we went on with the story. When Moses approached Pharaoh (In this book described as "the mean king") and told him that God said to let the Israelites go, it really bothered Boo that the king said no. He couldn't understand why the king would be mean to the Israelites, why he wouldn't listen to God. His tender heart shone through as he pointed to the picture in the book and traced his finger down from the top of the page onto the face of the angry looking Egyptian king, and he spoke the simplest, most sincere gospel message I think I have ever heard. "He needs God's love."

Friday, August 24, 2012

Boo's First Day of Kindergarten!

The night before Boo's big day, I was a nervous wreck. Ok, the whole day. Ok. Week. FINE....MONTH! Sheesh! Thankfully, I was the only one showing signs of anxiety. I packed up his lunchbox with a large variety of items, not knowing what he would be willing to eat come lunch time. I sent peanut butter, sandwich crackers, graham crackers, fruity cheerios, a granola bar, fruit snacks, a blueberry muffin, yogurt, and a Capri Sun. I set it in the fridge and went to bed...and tossed and turned.

The next morning, when it was time to wake him, he did not want to get out of bed. He informed me that he did not need school, and he would just sleep all day. This is the same kid who woke me up at 5:30 am just the day before! I tried everything I could think of to motivate him...finally I stumbled upon just the right thing. I reminded him that his backpack was filled with his supplies for school, and I told him that one of the pencils I had put in his pencil box had SPIDERMAN on it! I invited him to come with me and check out the pencil, and that was all it took. We looked at all his pencils, repacked his backpack, and put on his favorite Spiderman outfit. After that, it was all I could do to keep him in the house long enough to get my shoes on and grab my keys. He was on his way!
It was a thirty minute drive to his school. My stomach was churning. About halfway there, he suddenly announced "I don't want you there." I assured him that I wasn't planning to stay, just to walk him to his classroom and get him settled. He rebuffed me. "I know where my classroom is, Mom." So I just told him that I needed to talk with Mrs. W and he was satisfied. We arrived at the school and Boo marched right in the front door without even checking to see if I was with him.

Just inside the door sat a lovely lady, Mrs. M, whose sole responsibility at school is to greet each child as they enter, give them a hug and greet them with the heart-felt words "God loves you and so do I, have a great day." She has been doing this as a loving volunteer for many years. She is 90 years old, and the kindest soul. Boo seemed a little distrustful of her eagerness and turned down the offer of a hug. But when she told me that she offers them to parents also, I gladly accepted. I told her I really needed one that day. And I did!
Each year Mrs. W chooses a different theme for her classroom for the year. This year's theme is Whales: We Have a Loving, Everlasting Savior. There are whales everywhere! Beginning here, outside the classroom, and all over the place inside. It looks totally awesome. We entered the room and Boo began to wander around happily. He was checking everything out, just doing his own thing. When he saw the reading area with the big pile of pillows, he could not resist diving right in.
He gazed longingly out at the playground.
He and Mrs. W investigated how dark it is inside the bathroom if you close the door without turning on the light. (She was trying to tell him the importance of remembering to turn on the light switch outside the bathroom before entering, and he assured her that he could see in the dark because of his great eyesight. LOL)

I finally got him focused on the job at hand. Together, we found the desk with his name on it, and filled it with the school supplies from his backpack. When he first opened the top of the desk, his eyes widened and he exclaimed "This is my secret lab! This is where I keep all my things that control my robots!"
Once this was accomplished, there was no putting it off. It was time for me to go. I had to leave my baby in his kindergarten classroom for an entire day. I took a deep breath, gave him a kiss, and said goodbye. I walked to the door, looked back across the class, and choked back tears. There sat my Boo in his big kid chair at his big kid desk in his big kid school. I was SO NOT READY for this! But he was. It was clear he was ready. He barely took notice that I was leaving. I walked out into the hallway and found some other mothers and staff out there who chatted with me. I wanted to run out the door and let out the sobs that were pushing at my throat. Another mother of a child in Boo's class joined the conversation, and she asked me if I was still in the room when Boo made his announcement. Mental head slap...oh boy. I said I hadn't been, and asked what he said. She told me he had stood and informed the class that whales are actually called orcas, and that they are really a type of dolphin. Yep, not even five minutes into the first day and he was trying to lead the class. That is the Boo that I know and love!

Soon it was time for chapel. The students begin the day with chapel every Wednesday, and the parents were invited to join. I waited in the lunch room so that Boo could go with his class and not be distracted by seeing me. I came into the sanctuary and he was seated so still and quietly with his class that I had to do a double take.
I sat in the back and swallowed back tears as they began the morning by singing these songs:

At the end of the chapel service, the children were asked to meet out front for class pictures. Oh boy. I did not expect this on the very first day. I had not prepared Boo. He hates having his picture taken. He almost always refuses to cooperate. I hung back and watched him go out with his class, hoping that going with the crowd would work in our favor. Sure enough, by the time I got outside, he was posing pleasantly with the other kids. His combined kindergarten/1st grade class is composed of eight girls and two boys. They are all totally adorable. After the class pictures I hugged him one more time and wished him a good day. Then I told him to go back to class with his friends. He walked down the sidewalk hand in hand with Mrs. W, never so much as glancing back toward me. I sighed. Then I thought again of this sign hanging just inside the front door:
And I knew that my Boo was in exactly the right place.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Say What, Now?

So, I had a doctor appointment this morning. Because it was a new doctor for me, they asked me a lot of different questions about my medical history and that of my family. None of it was surprising to me. That is, until they asked if anyone in my family had any birth defects. I thought about it for a moment and said I couldn't think of any. The nurse then began to name a long list of possible conditions that would belong in this category.

Cystic Fibrosis...Sickle Cell...Down Syndrome...Cerebral Palsy...Spina Bifida...Autism...

Back. The. Truck. Up.

Autism? As a birth defect? Are you serious? This completely threw me for a loop. I stammered a bit. Well, yes, there is autism in our family. But never in a million years would I have thought of it as a birth defect! Which is exactly what I told the nurse. It was an awkward moment, and she tried to offer an explanation, but I stopped her. I told her it was ok, I just don't think of it that way. Frankly, any explanation she would have tried to give me would have only made it worse.

My son is not defective. He is not damaged. He is not flawed. He is not less-than-whole. He is uncommon. And the nature of his uncommonness presents challenges to him and to those who interact with him. But just because we don't fully understand autism doesn't mean that it is a defect! Who knows, perhaps it is an evolution! Perhaps, as my pastor suggested just a few days ago, it is a glimpse into the wonder of God's creation. He proposed that autism gives us a peak into the vastness of the capacity of the human mind as it was originally created, before sin entered the world and fouled up all manor of things.

It is our nature to want to categorize things. We want everything to fit into neat little patterns and hierarchies. When everything fits into its proper pigeon hole we feel that we understand where we stand. We feel that we are in control. But this is an illusion. We can't control life. We can't contain misfortune. We can't bottle difficulty. And in trying to do so, all we manage to do is build walls between people. We tell our children there is an "us" and a "them." Anyone who is not like me is "other." Anyone who doesn't do things like I do is "defective."

Well, let me just set the record straight. My son is not defective. He is not other. He is not wrong. He just is. He doesn't need to be fixed. He needs to be loved and understood and supported. He needs to be valued, encouraged, and protected.