In our church, turning twelve is a big deal. Bigger than 13, turning 12 means you are can go to youth activities and the temple, and for boys it means being ordained in the Aaronic priesthood. It's quite a big change, you stop going to primary with the little kids, and go to classes for young women or young men.
As with his baptism, we did a lot of thinking and praying, and wondering how much our Redhead understood. He wanted to be a deacon.
He didn't seem super interested in passing the sacrament, which is a main duty of a deacon. The sacrament is the main purpose of our church meetings and is offered to the whole congregation. Of course if he didn't want to, we wouldn't make him or anything. As his friends turned 12 we would point them out to him, "Look! Christian is a Deacon! Look, Tim is passing the sacrament!" but he didn't seem to care.
The week before he turned 12, his new class asked his dad and I to come in and talk to the boys about our son. It's a very small group, and half moved in this year so they don't know him as well. We are really glad we did this. We talked about his sensory stuff, and how he handles church (it's hard). We talked about what he's good at and what he struggles with. We talked about his dad going on campouts with him and what they could do to help him. We talked about maybe having another deacon being his buddy while he passes the sacrament, at least at first.
We had concerns about the whole passing the sacrament thing. Most people know he is autistic, but few know the extent of his challenges, including some physical/motor/muscle issues. We were worried he wouldn't be able to handle carrying the trays the whole time, that he would spill them or drop them, or just say 'I'm done' and ditch it to go sit down. We were worried he would be silly, or get upset if a kid didn't return his little water cup to the tray. We were worried because church is hard for him, and our ward has the 'backwards schedule' where Sacrament meeting is at the end of the three hour block. So he's usually done by then. He is nothing if unpredictable.
At his ordination, a leader asked my husband to be his 'buddy', at least for a few weeks. We said okay, and asked him 'Want to go with Dad next week to pass the sacrament?' and he said 'No. I want to go with my friends.'
He and his dad went to the first young men's activity together last week where the Redhead insisted his dad leave. He didn't want him around. His dad has been his scout leader AND primary teacher for the past two years, so this was a surprise to us! But Aaron gave him his space and we chuckled about it.
Then, this morning, he had one of those mornings. Yikes. We weren't sure even suggesting passing the sacrament was a good thing. He was just on one. It may have been how he reacted to being nervous, actually. But he was calm in his first class and he and his dad skipped the second class to go into the chapel and walk through his route and practice passing the sacrament. The redhead told him he didn't want Aaron to go with him, that he would be embarassed.
That was the first time he's ever said anything like that! It was a shock, and kinda threw the plan out the window.
We respected his wishes, but Aaron sat with the Deacons at the beginning of the meeting just to get him started. He got the Redhead going in the right direction with his tray of bread, and then came and sat with us. It went great. He was quiet and patient. He got distracted and sometimes forgot to pick up the tray right away or continue to the next row, but it all worked out.
It was awesome. I felt so much love in that room.
We moved to this neighborhood when he was only 7 weeks old. Not knowing what challenges and strengths this little babe had.
I saw the Bishop watching him during the opening song. I could tell he noticed how much the Redhead loved sitting with those cool Deacons (he was pretty excited), and sharing a hymnbook with one.
I saw the first lady he brought the bread to help him continue down the first row, and kindly remind him to move to the one behind her.
The next row had long time friends who I know love our family.
We sat in the third row.
I heard people whisper his name if he forgot to continue.
I saw a few of his old primary teachers and scout leaders on our side of the church watching him with proud smiles and I knew they KNEW.
He did awesome.
He did the rest all by himself. He was almost running with the water tray at first, but there was no spill. He really really liked being a deacon.
He had so many people tell him afterward how well he did, and so many people telling us what a cool thing that was for them to see.
It was something. And we had a lot of people rooting for our family today.
If you were one of them, thank you, we love you, too.