Off to Shul We Go

Sorry for not being around for a few days.  We ended up going (without much forethought) to the Renaissance Festival on Sunday – I’ll write about that in a day or two – and then we ran smack into Rosh Hashanah.

And I’m going to dive right into my topic of the day – we didn’t take the Monster to services for Rosh Hashanah, and I’m perfectly fine with that decision.

Obviously, Rosh Hashanah poses a problem with the Monster’s new school.  Unlike where I grew up – where Jews were a major portion of the school-aged population – the schools in our district don’t close for the holiday.  So we were faced with a choice, to either take the Monster out of school (an easily excused absence due to our faith) for the two days and for Yom Kippur next week or to let him go to classes.  Last year, when he was in nursery school at the JCC, that was easy – the school closed, so we didn’t have to make a decision.

Those of you who do know me offline know that I’m fairly observant as it goes for a Conservative Jew.  (As if the rest of you couldn’t guess that based on my username showing up in Hebrew. 😉 )  I do go at least once a month to Shabbat morning services, I read Torah, and I serve as a gabbai at my shul.  I’m the son and grandson of Hebrew school teachers, and I taught as well for a few years to make ends meet.

And ordinarily, it’d be a no-brainer – the Monster would be coming to synagogue, with us and the baby.

And yet, the autism makes it harder.  For starters, no child his age – neuro-typical or not – is going to sit in the main services quietly for the entire service.  So it’s not a huge deal that he’d act out at least a little bit, and our shul has a quiet room with windows (and speakers) back into the main service.  Prior to this year, he’s also been a hair too young for the family services to mean anything to him – we would take him to Tot Hag for the activity, just as we do with Tot Shabbat, but there’s no clear indication he’s getting anything out of it.

In past years, we’ve actually put the Monster into the provided babysitting service so my wife and I could go pray in the main congregation.  The problem is that he really hates the babysitting.  The autism makes it impossible to ask what it is that he dislikes about it, but it has us getting a meltdown from him whenever we go to services these days, as if he thinks that going to synagogue means he’s getting dropped off somewhere.

The additional complication is that he is, actually, seeming to react well to going to school.  He gets a thrill out of waiting for the schoolbus, of running out there, and he seems to genuinely like his schedule now.  Pulling him out for three days over the next two weeks for a holiday he doesn’t seem to understand seems to pale in comparison to that.

So, this entailed a serious conversation about what we were going to do this year.  Obviously, my preference would have been for the entire family to go to shul.  But it has to come down to what’s good for him… and what seemed best for him was to send him to school as if it were any other day.

So yesterday and today, we got up at our usual time, didn’t show any signs that our schedule was changing, and put him on the bus before changing for services and going.  We were home before his bus returned in the afternoon.

At some point, I have confidence he’ll be at a point where he can get something out of going to shul with us for the holidays.  This year isn’t that point.

And I’m comfortable with that.

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