God And Autism

Tonight is Yom Kippur.  And we’re going to synagogue for Kol Nidre.

Unlike a lot of families that I grew up with – and a lot of families I know – we take our children with us to synagogue for Kol Nidre.  I spent more than one such evening babysitting for neighbors when I was younger, to make sure they could go to services.  We’re fortunate enough to have a synagogue with a soundproofed quiet room that looks into the sanctuary and is wired to the same sound system, so we can daven along with the congregation while our children are acting like crazy people.

And, like on Rosh Hashanah, the Monster is going to go to school tomorrow, while the rest of us go to services.  It worked out very well for that holyday, and we’ll spend tomorrow appropriately praying and whatnot with our co-congregants and family.

We’re just not going to Neilah.

This is the first time in years we’ve not gone to Neilah.  The concluding service has always been very meaningful to me, and moreso since our congregation started a tradition of letting people stand before the open ark for a few moments   Those few moments are very powerful, to me – it’s a moment of closeness to the Almighty that I don’t feel in too many other places in my secular life.  (And yes, I’m well aware that God is everywhere.  There’s just something about standing there, though, that’s different.)  We haven’t avoided going for any reason in past years – we went before kids, we went after the Monster was born, and even last year, when the Monster was already clearly ‘delayed’ and having trouble behaving at the hour, while my wife was pregnant with #2.

And normally, I’d argue that having the diagnosis doesn’t make anything different.  I’m the last one to argue that things should be ‘shifted around’ to accomodate it, that ordinarily I’d just keep things as they should be.

But I have to be fair to the Monster.  His schedule on weekdays is fairly fragile – he’d be getting home from school around 4:30, only to get bundled off to synagogue for services which don’t let out until 7:30 or so, and then off to dinner… and with a 7 PMish bedtime, it’s just guaranteeing that we’re going to have a meltdown, if not at shul, then at dinner.  It’s bad enough that we’re going to be stressing his schedule tonight between having to rush to eat before services and going to shul (meaning we’ll have to do homework in the morning probably).  He’s doing so well lately with trying to be good and work in that framework, and I’d hate to sabotage it two nights in a row for the sake of a religious observance.

And to be wholly honest – it’s not going to impact the vast majority of my observance.  I’m still going to fast, I’m still going to Kol Nidre, and I’m still going to services tomorrow. The only thing I’m missing is the concluding service and standing before the ark, and those are little things in comparison with the rest of life.

To all of those who are observing Yom Kippur, גמר חתימה טובה and צום קל.

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