Sunday, April 1, 2012

When Man Plans and God Laughs

Have you ever heard that old saying "Man plans and God laughs?"  Being Jewish we always considered it an old Jewish saying...but I am certain  no matter what your religion or background you have heard the same thing time and time again.

So Saturday was my nephew's bar mitzvah. This is a religious-coming-of-age ceremony where a 13 year old reads from the Torah and leads the congregation in Saturday services. Most of it in Hebrew. The boys each had a bar mitzvah and while their services and Torah portions were a little shorter than most, they learned Hebrew, and led most of the prayers.

We knew that this might be a hard day for the boys so we began to prepare them for the change in schedule about a week before the day. We talked about what would happen at the synagogue and then at the party afterwards. I even went so far as to bribe them.

I told CM1 since he was 21 he could have a glass of wine at the party. He is allowed one glass of wine a week on the weekends and definitely not in the middle of the day. So the lunch time glass of wine was going to be the bribe. We are trying to teach him good habits about alcohol. We are trying to teach him to be responsible. While I know we could always just tell him that alcohol is not a good idea period, I think that flies in the face of reality and since technically he is of legal age, teaching him moderation is the best way to go.

With CM2 we told him he did not have to stick to his diet at the party. No, he is not on a GFCF diet. He is overweight and he began seeing a nutritionist. We are trying to teach him to make good and healthy food choices and while doing this lose the extra unhealthy weight he has gained. Everyone talks about the freshman 15 that kids put on at college. Well CM2 has put on the freshman 20 or more. Yes he lives at home...don't ask what happened. Not really to sure myself.

We did hit a bit of a snag though when the boys found out that the service was approximately three hours. The boys' bar mitzvah services were only a little over an hour. We attended a less religious congregation than my in-laws, but the boys' service was also cut back for them to make it easier and less overwhelming. (Our rabbi was very understanding) Religious Jewish services tend to be rather lengthy. The boys were oh so not happy about that.

One issue that did arise of course was the fact that CM1 does not believe in God and while he is very attuned to the history and the culture of the Jewish people, religion he could do without. Also as a Holocaust major, God is basically on his shitlist for letting that happen. (Can you say that about God? But where CM1 is concerned that is the truth of the matter.)

Now, when you go to synagogue out of respect men wear kippote or yarmulkes on their heads. It is a scullcap. That is a symbol that God is all around you. Well forget that one where CM1 was concerned. But I did get him to put on his tallit (prayer shawl).

I told him that the tallit is not a symbol of God but of all the 613 commandments that Jewish people are supposed to follow in life. (And you thought there were only 10. Hah) That his tallit also is embroidered with pictures from Jerusalem and he could wear that as a political statement that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel and  will never be divided. Well he was happy about that one. (Listen to my Jewish readers, I got him to wear the tallit and that is what matters..OK?)

Jerusalem tallit
CM2 didn't mind wearing a kippah or his tallit. He may have a complicated relationship with God but not an antagonistic one.

Now we explained to them that we would sit in the back row and yes we allowed them to bring their handheld gamers with them. CM1 hid his behind the prayer book and under his tallit (prayer shawl). He also had in his earbuds. CM2 actually didn't use his handheld and listened to the service.

After about an hour CM1 had had enough. He wanted to go back to the car to do homework. CM2 was actually content to stay at the service. So I took CM1 to the car and sat there while he did work. Hubby and CM2 stayed and listened to the Torah portion. Hubby told me that our nephew did terrific.

CM1 was insisting on going home to do homework when hubby and CM2 got in the car. Not that he would sit for the entire time at home and do work by any means. But he needed to get home and did not want to go to the party. Even though I promised him a glass of wine. Nope he didn't want to go. He needed to do what he wanted to do when he wanted to do it.

CM2 then became  upset because he wanted cake. He did what he was supposed to do. He behaved and actually even participated so he wanted what he was promised. We told CM2 that we would go to McDonald's and he could have chicken strips which are not on his diet and that we would get a cake at the bakery on the way home. Afterall he did earn it. He accepted that compromise.

Well we left. I emailed my SIL from my iPhone and we went home. We did not go to the party. We did not even try.

I can't say that I wasn't upset and disappointed. I really had thought that we would be able to go for a little time to the party. I thought that the boys might actually even have fun if they gave it a shot. But no, CM1 would have none of it. He wanted to go home and do what he wanted to do. I don't know if it was the need to be on his own schedule and/or that social gatherings are so very hard for him. But he didn't even want to try. Hubby was in no mood to make him try either.

We had talked to SIL before the occasion and warned her that something like this might happen. The last thing we wanted to do was for either boy to have a huge meltdown at the synagogue or at the party. My nephew worked too hard to have anyone's behavior ruin the day for him. Not that any family member would have really cared I think (we are lucky that everyone has always been very supportive), but it would not be fair to the bar mitzvah boy, his parents and grandparents either. Also it would not be fair to either of my boys to allow them to embarrass themselves that way. They aren't babies anymore and it is not accepted behavior in adults.

So we went home. I emailed SIL and told her we were very sorry. She called later that night to tell us she understood that our concern was for her son and his day.

I have to be honest. I really thought CM1 could go for a small period of time. I know that CM1 does not like these events.  Heck he was the only bar mitzvah boy to not attend his own party. He stayed in another room the entire time his party was happening. But I thought he might have made a little bit of progress over the years. He has gone to other parties and stayed. He does go out and about in town and even into NYC once in a while. But no, it was not going to happen that day.

Hubby and I are going to have to talk to the behavioralist and the therapist about what to do. He can't spend his life running away from these situations. There will come times when he has to attend huge gatherings and participate in situations that may not be the most comfortable for him. He needs to learn how to process these events and cope.

We need to figure out our next move. He has speech therapists, behavior therapists, psychologists and a para to help him learn to deal with all the new events in his life, but none of it helped this past weekend. We need a reevaluation of his program and what he is working on with them. So far they have been working on interviewing skills in case he gets any call backs on his resume.

Maybe taking him out and about a little more will help. Hubby did that today with CM1. Took him to buy refills for the sodastream contraption that he likes. This is where you can make your own soda a home. That seems to have gone well. Going to have to see what we can do and how we can help him.

They say that every stage is a challenge for those with autism. This has been a rather challenging year for CM1 in the social department. We need to figure out what will help him get over the hump of hiding he has found himself caught in.

We also need to figure out a job for him for the summer. Something inventive and unique. Alot to do and alot to think about as usual.

Until next time,