I can’t believe it’s true! But – my little boy is a sunbeam!!! If you don’t speak Latter-Day-Saint-eese, that means that now that he’s 3, he has graduated from the “nursery” class at church into Primary, or the big kid sunday school. Ok, so it’s only Junior Primary. But still, it’s a big deal. It means that instead of spending the Sunday School hour playing with toys with a short lesson and a short singing time squeezed in… now he spends those two hours learning about Jesus and scriptures and choosing the right… sure, with some coloring and a little snacktime thrown in… But mostly Sunday School. Reports are that he will stay in his chair for about 15 minutes at a time, which I think is pretty darn good.
Sending Patrick to Primary scared me. A lot. I wasn’t sure if he could handle the structure. I worried about teaching a new teacher. I was afraid that singing time would be too much for his sensory system. But I knew it was time. He doesn’t like for me to hold him back.
Thankfully, we have an amazing Primary Presidency who went out of their way to learn about his needs and be ready for him. They got a list of safe snacks for him. They assigned him two teachers (so they’d have enough hands in case of an emergency.) And one of them is an amazing woman who is a nurse and mom to four beautiful girls, two of whom are angel babies who had more than their share of medical woes while on this earth. He couldn’t be in more capable hands.
The week before he was supposed to start Primary, they had a “Pancakes and Pajamas” meet your teacher dinner. I came along for two reasons. First, breakfast foods scare the begeezus out of me. I mean, seriously, you should see what happens to Patrick when he accidentally touches eggs and breakfast has scrambled eggs, egg-filled pancakes, and milk to drink. Scary! So I packed some safe noodles in a lunch box. And Patrick’s teachers and class were SO contientious about making sure the kids washed their hands.
The dinner fell at a time that I could let Patrick go without tubes on and he thought running in the gym with his classmates was about the funnest thing ever. I don’t think he’s ever been allowed that opportunity before.
So we make it safely through my first fear.
Reason two for my coming was to show his teachers his pumps and tubes and other things. That went really, really smoothly and I knew that I didn’t need to be afraid.
But then I discovered new third reason to worry. After breakfast, we went back to the classroom so the kids would know where they’d meet. They gave them all a little paper necklace to color and lace. The other kids were coloring withing the pictures (if not within the lines). Patrick made a few marks, got frustrated because the papers were too small and wouldn’t hold still, and started throwing crayons instead.
Developmentally, physically… he is no where near his peers in the class. And that broke my heart to see.
Next, we went back to the gym where they gathered the kids for a game of duck, duck, goose. I had never realized before how ill-suited this game is for children with special needs. First of all, it required sitting in a circle with other kids. This alone was a challenge for Patrick, but I thought, “We’ll put him with kids he knows and he’ll do ok.”
Then, the rules of the game require that someone be able to walk around and touch everyone on the head. And if you’re tagged, you must get up and run- quickly.
Well, I couldn’t leave Patrick in the circle without me because had he been tagged, his backpack would have kept him from running… But I couldn’t keep the backpack and stand behind him because then there was a very good chance that the kids would trip on the tubes. Sitting inside the circle would have put me in front of his face to distract him from the group activity, and because I was sitting behind him, he didn’t even get tapped by the kids as they went around.
The final straw was that every time a kid was tagged, the group with cheer, as they should. But Patrick doesn’t do well with spontaneous yelling. He doesn’t understand it… and his sensory system doesn’t like the loud noise. He was terrified. And so I pulled him out. We played with the adults in the room instead. He tried going back for a pass-the-balloon game which went a bit better, but still it was too loud and unpredictable.
At last, we decided to call it quits.
I was really afraid of how this would translate into Sundays. Would he be afraid and left out every week?
Well, Patrick’s first day of Sunbeams I got him up and dressed on time for a new early schedule at church. We were a little late arriving, but made it nonetheless. All morning long, we talked about “Big Boy Primary” and he was pretty excited about “Mermerry” by the time Sacrament Meeting was over.
I took him into the primary room and showed him a chair. I gave the teachers a few last pointers, then kissed him goodbye. The other boy in his class came in, but was afraid to stay without his parents and was crying. Patrick did what he always does when a friend is crying.. he tried to comfort him.
And so I left him.
And they didn’t ever come for help. He did fine! He enjoyed it! He was proud of himself! He was even wearing a little paper headband… He NEVER leaves things on his head.
And he still loves to go every week.
I’m sure he’s not doing what the other kids do. But he is still enjoying it.
Because Patrick may not talk or play like his peers. But knows a few things about Heavenly Father’s love. He loves everything to do with Him and Jesus and scriptures and the gospel.
And that doesn’t mean all my worries are gone, but it does mean he’s going to be ok.
Because Jesus wants Patrick for a “BEAM BEAM!” And so far, Patrick loves Primary.