This past Sunday was our children’s play at church. The title was Christmas in Joyland. It had everything that makes a great kid’s play: cute kids who tried hard to get their lines correct (but were actually cuter when they didn’t), songs that fluctuated between kind of quiet and incredibly loud depending on how fun they were to sing (trust me there is no doubt you are supposed to “GO! TELL IT ON THE MOUNTAIN!”), some great dance moves, a super sweet message about giving at Christmas that has really hit me hard, and a few exhausted adults who worked so hard to give parents a memory to hold tight to for years to come. And there, a member of the “chorus”(which sounds large and grand but was really just the four kids without speaking parts) enjoying himself to no end, was Collier.
I am well aware that most “typical” sixth-grade twelve-year-olds have moved past Children’s church and into the youth group. But we’re just not there yet. That’s the thing about autism in our family – we seem to get stuck for so long in one place and just when we start to feel like we are never going to get anywhere else… all of a sudden he jumps ahead like six places. In the last year he’s gone from Paw Patrol cartoons to not being able to get enough of Miles Morales and Into The Spiderverse. He’s also recently starting to push for a cellphone when he turns 13 (I’m pretty sure I’ve got an entire post on how I feel about that 😉).
We are also working hard on trying to make socially appropriate conversation, but this is one of those areas we’re moving pretty slow at. We also still struggle with attention timespan, especially when we have to be still. So right now, fun songs and learning Bible lessons through active lessons and crafts are more his speed. And that’s okay. I’m confident that soon we’ll get to the point we are ready to make that leap from the children’s group to the youth group. But for the time being, we’re thankful our church has allowed him to stay where he is comfortable and “fits” right now, rather than just move him along because he’s reached a certain age.
So here we are, spending one more year in Children’s Church, which means one more Christmas play. He’s been working hard over the last few months to try and learn all of the words and the motions that go along with them. We’ve listened to the play CD in the car while we were on the way to therapy, Boy Scouts, to run errands, and even with his grandparents when they took him to Chattanooga. I think I could have performed a one-woman version by the time Sunday rolled around. 😊
Then came Sunday morning. We dropped him off in his toy soldier costume (which was really just camouflage pj pants and a black t-shirt) and wished him luck. Then an hour or so later, it was curtains up (well, really just moving a music stand but you get the idea). He gets right up there and tries his hardest to keep up with the other kids, even though his motor planning issues means he may be a step or two behind. He sings all the words he can remember and tries his hardest to keep his body still when the other kids are talking.
I’m sure there were people in the audience wondering why the kid who was a least a head taller than everyone else is singing in the chorus with the younger kids. Why he would sometimes walk across the stage sounding like an elephant or why he couldn’t seem to lift his hands above his head (honestly I’ve got nothing for that one, he just says he doesn’t like to). But I couldn’t have been prouder of him if he was playing Huck Finn in Big River. Collier made his joyful noise to the Lord, and I have no doubt his creator enjoyed it.
I’m hopeful that next year, we will continue our forward momentum and be able to move up to youth group. I know that will present new challenges and hurdles we can’t even imagine yet. But for right now, I’m going to enjoy this small moment and rest in the peace of spending a Christmas in our family’s Joyland.