Thanks to those who left comments. I loved to read how some churches have gone above and beyond to minister to special kids and their families. I love the idea of personal buddies, and matching mentors to kids, and allowing them to participate in 'normal' Sunday School activities, and even having opportunities to greet or usher! How awesome is that!! I can just picture Joseph and Ava at the doors of church greeting someday!
And to those who have not had such positive experiences, I am sorry. We have had mixed responses from people. Many times we have walked down the halls wondering who is going to be our worker that day, and hoping that it is so-and-so who has an Uncle with Down Syndrome. Can't you immediately tell who loves your kids and who doesn't?
We haven't been to a church with a specific special needs ministry so we have put Joseph and Ava in with the 2 year olds as that is about where they are developmentally. But I'll be honest. We always worry about how big and strong they are in comparison to the other kids in there, and we are always praying they aren't in there pulling hair or shoving, and hoping we aren't despised by the other parents. I wonder, do the workers feel burdened by our kids and should we be in there volunteering instead of enjoying the luxury of sitting through a service? And Zoya. How would other parents feel to know the truth about her, and should we keep her with us in big church, just to be on the safe side? And really if you think about it, it sure is a lot of trouble getting to church without anybody wetting their pants or disrobing or pouring milk all over themselves right before you leave or on the way, let alone on time. :) When you are able to pull all of this off you almost feel as if you have earned the privilege of sitting in church without your kids and without feeling guilty. But then you feel guilty when they announce from the pulpit their desperate need for volunteers in the kids church, and you just can't stop wondering what is really going on in the 2 year old room while you are trying to listen to the message anyway.
We visited a new church the last couple of weekends. Last week, the staff had a meeting to see how the church could better reach out to families like ours. By the next Sunday there was an note in the bulletin requesting volunteers to work one on one with special needs children. I got an email yesterday saying that 10 people volunteered and were excited to be a part of it! I was blown away. The children's church director said I would be getting a call this week to see what our needs are and how they can reach out to other families like ours. Wow! Now that is God's heart and a very necessary ministry! I have talked to so many families who would love to be more involved and want to feel more comfortable at church. Parents whose kids are overstimulated too easily, parents whose kids make a lot of noise and a lot of messes, parents whose kids are wheelchair bound or incontinent or have severe food allergies or who do not know how to display socially appropriate behavior. It would be a wonderful feeling to believe that your kids' caretakers are genuinely happy to see them each week (as opposed to wondering if they're saying to themselves, "Boy I sure do hope the Urban family decides to skip church again this week!")
(NOT that we have had any really negative experiences at all in previous churches. I just want to add that for the record. Just mentioning the thoughts that go through the minds of moms like me every Sunday. And by the way we are only church shopping because we really need to find something closer to home).
We have been totally TOTALLY blessed with wonderful babysitters. We all were super sad when Christina, our favorite babysitter, grew up and moved away to college. We had her for about 5 years.
But then Emma came along and she has been just as awesome. We LOVE Emma!!
Sunday night Emma took the littlest ones to her church where she volunteers in the preschool so that we could have a quiet night out with the big kids. Hope had the choice to come with us but without hesitation she wanted to go with Emma!
We had the most amazing, peaceful.....QUIET and stress free dining out experience with "just" three big kids at the Cheesecake Factory. Nobody threw their bowl, spit their food out on the table, hollered loudly, or tipped any chairs over. And nobody grabbed the waiter's crotch! It was truly a heavenly experience!!!
Then we jeans shopped and people watched at the mall. Wow,it felt like being in a 'normal' family for once. :)
It was a great night for everyone, I think even for Emma!