UU and Us

11 02 2009

The Blister family has done something completely outrageous. Something so totally out of character that frankly, I’m a little shocked, even though it was my idea in the first place. We’ve started going to church. That’s right, all of us except the fish and the cat, who are staunch atheists. And church. As in getting brushed and washed and dressed every Sunday morning to go listen to a choir sing hymns, and a reverend deliver a sermon while the kids go upstairs to the Sunday school room for stories and songs and snacks. But this is not just any church. It’s the Universalist Unitarian Church.  A.k.a the UUC. It’s the only church we could really picture ourselves having any involvement in because the UUs are pretty much dogma-free, and very much interested in celebrating the human spirit and improving the human condition. It embraces social justice, social advocacy, science, philosophy, spirituality, and intelligent debate about God and mankind and the existence of both. It’s also the only church that might have us because they are all about tolerance and acceptance. And trust me, if there’s any family who can test a church crowd’s capacity for tolerance and acceptance, it’s us.

Any new foray into public is an intensely nerve-wracking experience for all of us. Especially me. And any new forays into public  that require all three of our children to  a) sit semi-still and listen quasi-quietly, b) interact with a bunch of strangers in a busy, unfamiliar place without looking in anyone’s purse, grabbing anyone’s boobs, or asking every single person what their name is and how old they are, and c) keep the nose picking, road salt eating, microphone grabbing, random-word-yelling, crying, screaming and explosive pooping to a minimum is an exercise in insanity-provoking futility. For all of us. Especially me. So why the hell would we voluntarily subject ourselves to just such a situation on a weekly basis? Because we all need it. Simple as that. Neener and Roo need the practice. Practice in the give-and-take-of conversation, in listening and speaking politely. Practice controlling their impulses. Practice being part of a group. They need the type of education that the UU Sunday school provides. The month of February is devoted to learning about earth-centred religions. They’ve heard the Mi’kMaq story of how our continent was born. They’ve sung songs about respecting and loving Mother Earth and all creatures great and small. And later this month they’re going to learn about Pagan celebrations and Wiccan traditions. Squiggles needs to see other babies, and to stack new blocks, and to chew on new toys every now and then.  Mr. and I need a place to explore our own ideas about spirituality, morality, mortality. To think about and talk about what we believe and why. Our whole family needs a sense of community, a sense of belonging, a sense of who we are and what we can do and be in the world. But none of that will come easily to us.

This Sunday was our second trip to church.  Mr. stayed downstairs for the church services – an enlightening, eclectic mix of music and sermon and conversations on everything from the dark side of our souls to Darwinism to the parallels between the human brain and the galaxy. Meanwhile, I escorted the kids to the Sunday school class, and subsequently spent that time fighting back tears, trying not to look like I was embarrassed out of my skull, wanting nothing more than to run away from that room full of pleasant strangers and back to the solitary, predictable sanctuary of our home. Back to a place where it doesn’t matter if  Neener freaks out because someone misspelled her name or because the apple juice is a different brand than she’s used to. Where it doesn’t matter if Roo doesn’t speak when spoken to, or can’t resist playing the piano during story time. Where Squiggles is the only baby, so I don’t notice how different she is from other babies her age. Back to a place where I don’t have to explain twins, or autism, or CP, or anxiety, or hyperlexia, or gross motor delays to strangers who , no matter how pleasant,  probably can’t help but think: bad, lazy, rude, inattentive kids come from bad, lazy, rude, inattentive parents. But running and hiding and crying won’t do a lick of good. Instead, if we are to get what we need from this whole church experiment, I’ve got to start conversations with these pleasant strangers. Get to know them, and let them get to know us. And in that process, explain. About autism. And CP, anxiety, hyperlexia, gross motor delays. About Neener and Roo and Squiggles. About us. All in the hopes that we will be met with understanding. Tolerance. Acceptance. Maybe even love.

Such conversations are not easy to have. Especially when every moment spent in the company of new people in a new place requires running near-constant damage control. Roo, get away from the piano. Neener, it’s ok, the apple juice will taste pretty much the same. Squiggles, sshhhh. Roo, don’t touch, Neener stop interrupting, Squiggles, sshhhh. Roo-get-that-out-of-you-mouth-Neener-calm-down-Squiggles-stop-yelling-cat!-cat!-cat!-there-are-no-cats-in-here-and-can’t-you-see-I’m-trying-to-have-a-conversation-with-these-strangers-to-explain-that-I’m-not-somekinda-hyper-vigilant-stressed-out-freakazoid-mother! It’s a slow process. But, I managed to mention Roo’s autism about mid-way through our first morning there. Had to get that one out of the way early for the sake of the  Sunday school teacher. And luckily, she had pretty much recognized it before I even opened my mouth. Which was a huge relief. And with that knowledge, on our second day, she welcomed Roo with open arms, but without the expectations of typical behaviour and communication, and the judgment that so often follows when those expectations are not met. But then, the older gentleman who came to talk to the kids about the beliefs of the Natives, approached me after the Sunday school class. I was panic stricken when I saw him walking toward me. Neener had interrupted his story several times and couldn’t keep her hands off his feather collection and turtle shell. Roo kept trying to play the drum he brought, and rolled all over the sacred ceremonial blanket. With her boots on. Meanwhile, I frantically bounced around the room trying to keep Squiggles from crying, and alternated giving Neener the I’m Warning You face, and hissing the word behave in her ear, with giving Roo the Oh Jesus Not Again face, and hissing the words stop it at her. I was ashamed of my own behaviour as much as my kids, and I was ready for my dreams of acceptance and tolerance and love to come to an unceremonious end with whatever this guy was about to say. But instead, he smiled kindly, and said simply and sincerely, “Your children are filled with such a wonderful curiosity. It was really great to see that.” Which was exactly what I needed to hear – and see – too. Suddenly, I felt a surge in my own capacity for acceptance, tolerence and love – not only toward the pleasant UU strangers, but for my own weird, complex family as well.

This whole going-to-church idea is so crazy, it just might work. So brace yourselves, UU s. We’ll be back.

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2 responses

11 02 2009
mammasaidtome

Wasn’t he the smart man. I am assuming ,native. Their culture is more accepting of differences than ours, especially of children and their natural curiosity.
We all want to be accepted for what we are. Sometimes what we are looking for is right under our noses but being too close, we don’t always recognize it.
Yoe keep right on going girl. You will all learn something.Every experience teaches you something. Roo can be Roo, Neener can be Neener and the Blisters can be the Blisters. Sounds like my kind of church!

11 02 2009
domesticblister

Nope, the man wasn’t native.

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