Sunday, April 19, 2015

On Barely Not Crying at Mass

Oh yeah... this was supposed to be a WIWS post!
This is what I wore.
For more WIWS head over to FLAP!
We left Mass early today.

I was done.  Paul had just whispered "so what do you want to do?" and I could tell that he didn't want to leave but I whispered back "leave right now" and somehow managed not to burst into tears.  

It had been a rough half hour and I didn't have it in me to make it for another forty minutes until the doors opened up and we all tumbled back out into the sunlight.  

Maggie's been going to therapy two days a week at her therapy center.  She loves it there.  

In the mornings she waits by the door, hoping she's going to go out to play in the colorful playroom with her new best friend.  

She has a best friend.  

And this is where it gets complicated.  

For all the ups and downs we've dealt with, Mae's never been violent.  But she has a new friend and apparently her friend has "behaviors."  And Maggie thinks these "behaviors" are hilariously funny.  

So she laughs before she runs up behind me and hits me and when I tell her no she hits me again and then hits herself, hard, still laughing (as if to show me "look Mom, don't say no!  It really is fun), trying to get me to take up this new game that is apparently very, very attractive to my sensory seeking girl who has a very high threshold for proprioceptive input (in other words her joints need lots of input and she tends to think that things like getting hit by a swing and thrown ten feet should make her laugh instead of cry).  

Ignoring it isn't working.  Sternly saying no isn't working.  In fact, nothing that usually works seems to be helping at all.  Do I pull her out of those two days at the center, taking away the one friend her own age that she has?  If I wait will these behaviors continue to increase and become second nature?  Will she be a good influence on her new friend?  If I pull her out will they stop?  

Now you're probably wondering how this relates to Mass.  Or maybe you aren't, but I'll tell you anyways as I get to the point of this post in a round about way.  

Mae was having a good day at Mass.  She was sitting next to me in her stroller quietly, cuddling her mermaid doll, occasionally reaching over to squeeze my hand.  

Another mom brought a cute little toddler out of Mass and set her down on the floor.  She toddled over and looked at Mae.   Mae loves babies and toddlers.  Her face glowed when she saw the little girl looking at her.  

"Girl!" She shouted and started to squeal.  

"Yes, she's a girl."  I whispered the words.  "We need to be quiet right now, remember.  We're in Mass."  

The words didn't get in.  The squealing turned into loud, loud laughter as the little girl came closer.  Paul, who'd had his hands full with Patch, came over to try to help.  I stepped between Mae and the little girl as she walked up and tried to stand by Mae's feet and I looked over at her mother who'd glanced over and was now looking forward, apparently having decided not to act.  

After ten minutes of trying to redirect Mae, of trying to keep the little girl away from her for her own safety (Mae loves babies... Mae also doesn't know her own strength so any interactions with very small people need to be seriously monitored and managed) and trying to hush Mae's excited giggles and squeals I'd been hit may thirty times and was done.  

The little girl toddled away and tried to touch someone's empty car seat and was immediately reprimanded.  

I kind of felt like tearing my hair out.  It was very obvious that her daughter trying to stand two inches from Mae was causing huge problems for our entire family, that Mae had been sitting quietly until her daughter came up and stood right in front of her for ten minutes and nothing was done, but touch someone's car seat and she snapped into action.  

And so when I got slapped one more time I was done.  I was frustrated and tearful and James was now awake because of the commotion and done.  The little girl was still toddling to and fro and would likely be over with us again within a few moments and I just couldn't stand there for a moment longer.  

We left before the homily ended.  "It was obvious, wasn't it?  That I was trying to keep them apart?  That she should have done something?" I said to Paul as we waited for the light to change so that we could walk home.

"It was obvious."  He agreed as we crossed the street and I complimented Sadie on how well behaved she'd been.  

Later at home I began to turn the attempt at attending Mass over in my head.  

And for some reason another memory kept butting in.  

I remembered a day at Pediatric Rehab when a boy came in for his first appointment.  He was maybe eight or nine years old.  He wasn't as small as Maggie and wasn't nearly as easy (if it can be called easy) to contain.  

It was clear that it was his first day there, because his mother and father were buried under a mountain of paperwork and were checking off boxes and filling in insurance numbers, but right away, I could sense their apprehension. 

Their son seemed to be on the spectrum and they were nervous, and he was nervous, and while they checked boxes they tried to contain his movements and any time a child tottered by to look at the fish tank I could feel their stress level climb from five seats away.  

Sadie, who seems to think of herself as the personal welcoming committee of the waiting room usually flutters around talking to everyone.  She colors on the chalkboard and points out fish, gets coloring pages for other kids and hands out crayons and talks and says things like "it was lovely talking with you today" when her OT comes to find her.  Sometimes the other kids talk back and sometimes they don't and it doesn't really phase her because she's used to talking to someone who doesn't really talk back.   

"Come here," I told her a few times that day as her bubbly friendliness began to turn in their direction, because even at the distance I could tell that she was too close for their comfort and I wished that there was a secret handshake or sign, or even words that wouldn't sound as terribly awkward as they sounded in my head to let them know that in a way I understood. 

So mostly I sat frozen, wishing I could say something or do something to ease the incredible feeling of tenseness and finally not saying anything at all.  

I have a daughter with autism and I didn't know what to do to help.  

And I wondered if maybe that's how the other mother felt today.

With her squeals and sounds it becomes more clear every month that Mae isn't a typically developing almost-five-year old.  

Maybe that other mother was worried if she hurried over and snatched her daughter away that we would be offended by the movement and be upset.  There are so many articles and posts about how moms with disabilities wish you would treat their kids and maybe her common sense told her to let her little girl play with this little girl who was a little bit different (and outside of Mass I would be all for that!).

Or maybe she was just oblivious and happy that her daughter was being quiet while she was standing by our family.

Either way, we survived (if you call leaving half way through surviving).  And tomorrow I'll be making a few phone calls so that hopefully we can begin addressing this new "behavior" which I will be praying is incredibly short lived... At least so far it seems to be limited to me.  I hope it stays that way.


  1. Ugh, that's awful and I'm sorry. Abigail picked up a few bad habits when she started preschool that I really can't stand (little boys like to play rough in a way that babies don't) and sometimes I just cry. It is not fair to Eleanor to have to get such rough treatment. They have to be supervised *constantly* in a way that most siblings don't. It's really hard.

    1. I thought of you and your struggle with the pushing thing when I was writing this.

      I tell myself that Patch and James (and even Sadie) are going to be super, super tough kids as a result of all the rough and tumble antics... but the level of supervision can feel almost impossible sometimes.

  2. I've been there with the squeals and sounds. It will get better. You will eventually carry on normal conversation. There were a few years when I didn't even attend Mass because I was worried about her suddenly screaming. In the pew. Now she participates sometimes and when it's too much; she puts her head down and it looks like she's really pious and praying extra hard. Bonus! LOL

    1. I love the image of her looking like she's praying really hard.

      I'm eagerly awaiting the day when Mae has the sort of control that will make Mass a little easier. I think it's going to be so exciting because she's so excited to be there... I can hardly wait to see what it's like when she's actually out of the vestibule!

  3. sorry that happened. It sounds like that mom was just clueless. If the toddler was her first child or she didn't have a 5-year old, she could have no idea what was typical for a 5-year old. And it sounds like she was just focused on her child and not aware of your stress. I think for people who don't have special needs children, it can be hard to be aware.

    1. I think cluelessness was a big part of it. I think also, since her little girl was really remarkably good (and totally silent) she was focusing way more on the Mass than those of us with older ones and might have been a little oblivious to what was going on.

  4. (((hugs))) I don't have any great words... just giving you a cyber hug.

  5. Hugs and prayers for you Cammie. You did the right thing. You are a wonderful mother.

  6. I'm so sorry.
    I hate the feeling of wishing my child was normal and battling in my mind about how to handle a situation at a park, a birthday party, a whatever. Luckily, he always had a quiet spirit at Mass that I can remember. I am sure, while typing this, that statement can't possibly be true. I know my situation is different than yours. I just wanted to say I understand.
    It is hard to know what to do. But I do think the other mom should have moved her child away. I would have.
    Praying for you.

    1. Thanks Em. IT really does help to know that others, even in different situations, have been there and understand.

  7. I am so glad you brought up this kind of "inactive" stance so many parents seem to have these days. I see it all the time. I often ask myself what is going on in the parent's mind. Can they not see their kid is a) misbehaving, b) disruptive, c) needs to be corrected? I grew up in a different generation. In my generation kids out in public were closely monitored to prevent them from crossing personal boundaries of others, and to keep them in line depending on the activities - playground behavior different from expected public inside (like at a church or movie) behavior. There were no 'play dates' or, unless the child was under 6, outside monitoring of their play. But today, on one had you see you see the parent's helicoptering, solving every problem for the kid, 'supervised' play dates, and yet on the other hand, looking away and not actually intervening when the child is acting up. I watch parents let their kids leave the pews at church to go wherever, without supervision, and wonder, do they not know this is a kid who is 'bored' with Mass and is taking a 'break,' to the disruption of everyone around who sees the comings and goings? I guess it's just the times we live in. All I know it when I was a kid, there was no leaving the pew unless I was sick, and my parent took me out. I didn't have a 'bathroom' break, or a 'drink of water' break or any other kind of tolerated wiggling around or goofing around (age appropriate, of course.)
    At the very least, the mom should have been looking at her toddler to see if things were going well, and should have seen (but surely could hear!) her child was being disruptive. She should have come to retrieve the child, saying, 'is she bothering you?' and then if you said, 'no, it's fine' then let it be, but you said anything other than that, or gave a weak smile, she should have taken control of her kid.
    I wonder if it's this kind of over-involved parent who makes mistakes on both fronts - afraid to let their play outside alone, or go to the park alone (I mean when they are 8 or 9) and then in other situations, thinks ignoring them in public is giving them freedom.
    I really think you should have spoke up to the toddler, and said, 'go by your mommy.' in a sweet voice and shooed her away. Some of your frustration seems to be not wanting to overstep with someone else's child, and act. In your case, it would be best to control the situation from your side.
    I think someone who knows about autism would be be able to best address Maggie's new found aggression question, but I think I've read aggression like that is quite common in autistic kids, and can be a real problem. Sounds like it would be best to nip that in the bud, even if it means no more outside therapy sessions and no new "friend." Your safety and your other kids' safety would seem to take precedence here.
    I hope my little rant about parenting these days wasn't beyond what your post was about. But I see it too.
    God bless. ~ Bonnie

    1. Hi Bonnie,

      I think you touched on so many good points. And I think you're right and I should have said something (nicely of course). I always hope other parents will notice (especially since we kind of have to be hyper vigilant with Mae, and forget how other people can be more relaxed and maybe not even see what was going on (especially since her daughter was totally silent, it was just her closeness to Mae that was getting Mae so excited). I stepped in on Easter Sunday and asked parents to step in when their toddler was trying to feed Maggie graham crackers (after really hoping they'd hear me say "No honey, that will make you very sick" and putting my arm between them several times.

      I talked to one of Mae's favorite therapists today and she couldn't think of the little girl who hits, so that made me feel somewhat better that maybe it's not an all the time thing. The big problem I'm having is that I can't get Sadie and Patch to their therapies if Mae's at home now that Paul's gone all day during the weekdays, so if I pull her out I'll have to pull them out of their sessions completely.

      Her therapist thought it was an attention thing and suggested looking away and I did that this afternoon and was amazed. She tried to slap my arm (not hard enough to hurt) about four times and then said "Hello!" and I ignored her until she stopped and started doing something positive and she reacted favorably. I'm really hoping it's an attention thing and will be that easy to stomp out altogether! I think that the one really positive thing is that at least she doesn't do it when she's angry... it seems to be a happy thing.

  8. That sounds terribly hard on all of you; I'm so sorry. What an awful morning!

    To be entirely fair to the other mom, I'm not sure how I would have handled this, either. Assuming I knew less about autism than I do, I'd probably see a kid with special needs who was very happy to see my daughter. And if my daughter was okay with it, then I'd probably worry about telling her not to go near this different-but-wonderful kid, lest I teach my daughter not to go near different-but-wonderful kids, or that there was something wrong with them. I'd also worry that by calling her back, I'd make you feel even worse: you're at Mass and wrangling four kids, and now I'm pulling my kid away as though there's something wrong with you...ugh. I mean, there are so many stories out there (understandably!) by special-needs moms or the kids themselves that talk about how hurtful it is to be ignored or feel outcast.

    All of that having been said, I'd like to think that I would have come over with her, smiled at you both, and given you some sort of opening to offer a brief explanation or comment. Surely that would kind of be SOP anyway if one's toddler is interacting with another mom and kid?

    What a situation. Again, I'm so sorry you're having to deal with this. I'm very curious now about how the therapists will suggest dealing with this particular behavior pattern; if you don't mind, once you and they have figured something out I'd love to read about what sort of solutions work (or even just reduce the behavior) if you have a chance to blog about it! :) Peace to you all!

    1. I think that's really accurate. I was totally thinking of those articles when all this was going on.

      I think it probably doesn't help that while our kids can be total hand fulls at Mass we're also kind of strict about what we allow... so no running around and playing with the other kids, which seems really, really common at our parish.

      It's kind of like, on the one hand I totally would love for Maggie to be able to play with all these other little kids... just not during Mass itself. And while I totally don't mind that other people have different rules during Mass, I do wish there was a way we could divide the groups of those trying to get their kids to pay attention and those who are okay with them running back and forth and being rowdy.

  9. I’’ve been on both sides of this one (although with no autism involved). I’ve left mass sobbing over behavior problems and non-sleeping babies and just too much to handle. So I am so so sorry about that. BTDT and it sucks.

    I had a little boy, maybe a year or 18 months old in front of us at Mass yesterday and he was fixated on Thomas just like my own kids can be when a baby is involved. And even with my own kids I have difficult guaging when their involvement is distracting or problematic and when they are helping keep a child content and quiet. Obviously, I wasn’t there and I believe Paul that it might have been ridiculously obvious that you were trying to intervene so as to deter the little girl. But I also think it is possible she thought her little girl might help Mae, help calm or distract her. Maybe she was having “one of those” Masses as well and was desperate for her little girl to be distracted for a few minutes as well. Regardless, it sounds like an unfortunate event all around and I am so very sorry.

    Teresa has a tendency to hit, though I think she just picked that up - no friend necessary. She will sometimes hit me though we reprimand her and it can hurt. I hope you figure out how to stop the hitting. :/

    1. I don't think it was one of those Masses for her (and I totally know what you mean!) just because the little girl was totally silent and seemed pretty content when her mom redirected her from doing other things.

      The way it sort of played out was that Mae was sitting, totally silent. The little girl came over and Mae started scream/screeching and laugh/screaming and I tried to hush her. I physically put myself between her and the other girl about four times in a minute and she kept trying to go around me. I spoke to Mae and told her we were in Mass and she couldn't play right now, although yes, the little girl was very, very cute. It was kind of a spectacle, which is why it felt so obvious to us.

      A lot of the parents in the narthex are totally okay with kids running and playing and doing whatever though, so I'm not totally sure that that wasn't it...

  10. It's hard to know what to do. If she had come and snatched up her daughter, she might risk offending you or appearing like she didn't want her kid around someone aith special needs. I hear from so many moms that they want typical kids to approach and play with their "different" children. She probably should have asked if her daughter was bothering you, but maybe she was ahy and felt awkward. I know you are also a shy person, so you probably did not feel comfortable asking her to take her child away. So sorry.

    1. Thank you Anonymous. Outside of Mass I totally would love for them to be able to play. In Mass we're just a little stricter (even though there's still a lot of wildness in our group) and don't really allow playing. I think that might have been part of it two, either a feeling of awkwardness like you mentioned, or just that a lot of the parents I've seen don't seem to mind if the kids are being wild when they're in the vestibule and are okay with all sorts of stuff that our kids would get in big trouble for.

  11. Perhaps a big punching bag could be installed at home and she could be taught that THAT and not people are to be hit? That way she might get what she needs and develop the habit of only getting that particular need at the bag?

    I cannot say I have a handle on mine at Mass. We sit in the cry room or hallway or where-ever crying babies go, all because I have yet to succeed in getting the 3 yr old to use an indoor voice, or be quiet, the 5 yr old is so stimulated by people she will not be quiet either, and then I have the baby and go to Mass alone-- so while I haven't a Mae to contend with, I do have my in everyone's face 5 yr old who just cannot seem to comprehend that other people do NOT like their space invaded, and the 3 yr old who never sits still--ever-- and is loud, and the baby so I have too few hands.

    I so relate to leaving early-- I do that often. A good day is when I actually get to receive Communion before becoming so over-whelmed that I give up and go home. I have long since given up getting to hear the readings or the homily.

    1. I love your description of your five year old because that totally describes Sadie. The words "let's not be a Space Invader" have been said many, many times in so many different situations (and I now say it before we go places too) with differing levels of success now that she's getting older (six was the age when it started to make sense for her! I hope that gives you hope!).

      And receiving communion is what I call a good day too! When people disparage people leaving early (and I know sometimes there isn't a reason) I always feel the need to pipe up and point out that you never really know why they're leaving. Sometimes making it through communion can be a huge victory!

  12. You are an amazing mother and an amazing person. <3


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