Tuesday, June 26, 2001

Pray for peace

A bit of a miracle took place when we were at Mass this Sunday. It's something I've long been hoping for, working for; something I never thought would really happen, but something that seemed the very best solution to a difficult situation.

My son fell asleep.

Now, as my father used to tell it, in the old days of the Catholic church, falling asleep would not be tolerated: A man with a long stick would come by and bop you on the head. Even now, the priest would probably not be happy to look out upon the congregation and see a sea of nodding noggins. But for my son, the loud boy, the wiggly boy, the boy who sings the hymns loudly after everybody else has stopped and jingles keys while everybody else is trying to pray, sleep was sweet. I don't think anybody within hearing distance begrudged him that.

All his life with us, his in-church behavior has mostly been a matter of fighting sleep. Thanks to sensory integration problems, he's a kid who has to move to stay alert, no two ways about it. Put him in an environment where movement and noise are not allowed, and he feels himself slipping away. I've tried to encourage that slipping, assure him that alertness is not a necessity, that indeed the majority of adults are not at their most alert during a long church service. I've tried to get him to stop fighting and sleep, but he's fought the good fight. This Sunday, he lost.

And maybe I'm a bad mom to let him lose, too swayed by the harsh looks of worshipers disturbed by my boy's disruptive behavior. Especially now, when he's on the track toward First Communion next year, I should be encouraging him to participate in the Mass, stand up, sit down, say prayers, pay attention. I should do this even if it means everybody in a ten-pew radius has to listen to him talk and complain and scream and kick and rock and roll. But oh, just for the moment -- just let me enjoy the quiet and the peace. He's so peaceful when he's sleeping. Surely peace isn't an inappropriate thing to enjoy in church.

My hope, anyway, is that if we can make this sleeping a habit -- if he gets a little peace and quiet in church, too, and doesn't constantly experience it as an hour-long epic battle -- God's house will be a less stressful place for him. And if it's less stressful, he will be more calm even when he's awake. And eventually, as his religious education increases, his interest in the proceedings will, too. The formula works in other areas of his life: Less stress + more interest = better behavior.

That's what I'll be praying for, anyway, during those quiet, sleepy times.

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