Monday, May 15, 2000

Motion-free Mother's Day

Yesterday morning, my son gave me the best Mother's Day present I could wish for. No, it wasn't a card or a plant from his school's plant sale, although he gave me those, too. It wasn't a piece of jewelry or breakfast in bed or a coupon book full of chores. No, it was something much simpler, and so much harder.

He was good in church.

This is a big deal for my little guy. Sitting still and staying silent are not his strong suits. Low muscle tone and sensory-integration disorder conspire to make him feel best when he's in motion--preferably jumping--and asking him to stop moving is like asking us to refrain from shaking our foot when it's asleep. We could probably do it, but it wouldn't be easy. And at some point we would probably say "Aw, to heck with it" and start a-shaking.

My son's "to heck with it" point has been coming later and later in the service, but come it always does, and then there's trouble. We've set up permanent camp in our church's "cry room," a glassed-in retreat at the back of the sanctuary meant for wailing babies but also convenient for impulsive, motion-driven seven-year-olds. On the plus side, a boy can walk around or lay on the floor lining up cars or talk a bit or even sing softly with the choir back there if he has to. (Singing loudly with the choir, or after the choir is done, is another story.) On the minus side, he doesn't have much of an incentive to behave properly.

And so it was that yesterday, on Mother's Day of all days, one day on which I want there to be peace in the kingdom, one day in which I do not want to have to yell at anybody, or discipline anybody, or pull anybody screaming from the building, on this day we decided to try sitting in the "big church." And darned if he didn't pull it off. He spent most of the time fully reclining on the pew, as if he might take a few winks (we should be so lucky). He asked to go to the bathroom once. He asked for keys to play with a couple of times. He asked if he was being good a little too loudly. But if church behavior can be measured in stern looks from fellow parishioners, his was well on the "good" side of the scale. He even got a smile or two.

So perhaps--dare I hope--we are moving into a phase where he can hold it together, against all odds, for at least 40 or so minutes at a time. We don't require it often, but when we do, it would be awfully nice to have. Just a little leeway. A little normal behavior. A little normal life. Too much to ask for Mother's Day? Probably. But the small installment I received was pretty keen nonetheless.

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