Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Higher Power

Yesterday my 9 1/2 year-old son told me, out of the blue, "I think I do believe in a Higher Power like you do, Mom." After I recovered from the abrupt change of topic, we discussed his ideas as to whether the Higher Power was a machine (he's a big Bionicle fan :) or spirit, or something else. We decided it was probably spirit, as in the Force from Star Wars, since machines really didn't seem very likely...

Religion-wise, we are Unitarian Universalist, which is a tiny denomination found mostly in the US with scattered congregations in Europe & around the world. The denomination (originally two denominations that merged) came out of the Protestant tradition, but each UU church has its own flavour & style of worship, & we are herded, like cats, by administrative/training/support organisations like the Unitarian Universalist Association, in the US, & the Canadian Unitarian Council in -where else?- Canada. We are a non-creedal denomination, though we do have stated "Purposes & Principles" (see here: http://www.uua.org/ for more info if you're interested). My husband was raised UU & I have been one for nearly 30 years, having grown-up Catholic. We met at my church, which he began attending when he came to town to attend medical school, & we were married there 17 years ago. Our church community is one of the biggest parts of the "village" helping us to raise B & we are active in many roles including teaching Sunday School & singing in the choir. For his early years we decided it would be easier if we taught his Sunday school classes, but we stopped being B's teachers when he entered 1st grade, and though we are available to consult with his teachers & RE Director, we are all happily involved in different classes every Sunday. Ok, well, B isn't always happy about it, but he has made friends & found mentors all on his own there, so it's been worth the time & trouble. We have been open at church about all of B's diagnoses as they have occurred & this has been a good experience for us &, judging by the conversations we've had with many people there, a good one for them, too. I think we are lucky to have been members of this community since before B was born, since I suspect it's easier for a community to accept & support people they already know & are invested in.

Back to Higher Powers... this sort of conversation is not terribly rare in our home, although B's usually asking questions rather than stating what he believes. C & I decided early on that the best way to teach a child about religion is to share one's own beliefs & be willing to explore & explain them. Since C & I do not have identical religious beliefs, it's been interesting to see how B is evolving his own. I think what's sparked B's thinking about Higher Powers has been his reading Diane Duane's Young Wizards series (http://www.youngwizards.net/) combined with having received for Christmas the BBC version of the Narnia stories by CS Lewis. The Narnia movies have been B's first introduction to specifically Christian imagery & ideas & it's been interesting to discuss them with him since we are not Christian & he hasn't enocountered some of these ideas before. The Young Wizard stories are some of my favourites & I've been waiting anxiously for B to be old enough to share them with him. These books are deeply religious on a global (bigger than religion) level & I find them very satisfying. Diane Duane has restated the eternal battle of good (The Powers that Be) vs evil (The Lone One) in ways that allow evil to be empathised with & even redeemed. B, C, & I read the first book of the series together & cried together at the end when one of the characters sacrifices himself to save the planet (made even more poignant by the fact that this character isn't even from the planet he's saving). We discussed the events of the book on rides to & from school & he was eager to keep going in the series. I was, too, for a number of reasons, although I am very aware that a good deal of what he reads is going "over his head" this first time through...

I haven't mentioned yet that one of B's difficulties is that he was born without binocular convergence- which means that he did not have binocular vision. We didn't discover this until the summer before he began kindergarten (more on the "falling dominos summer" later). We found an excellent visual/perceptual therapist & B started intensive, weekly therapy in September of that year. After 1 1/2 years of therapy his brain finally learned to direct his visual tracking at a near-normal level & he began "seeing" faces & print on pages & other important things (!). Since he came to reading relatively late, it has taken him a long time to get excited about reading, so finding books he's excited about reading is a gift from on high! The other reason I was glad to get B hooked on Diane Duane's books is that the 5th book in the series, "A Wizard Alone" is about a wizard with Kanner's autism. I was blown-away with how she handled autsim in the story & couldn't wait to get B's reaction as well. We skipped the 4th book,in which one of the wizards' mother dies- C & I were afraid it would bring up fears for B that would not be helpful, & which I'm sure he'll pick up when he's older. What DD has done in this story is turn the old "cripple as saint" steroetype on it's ear, & she also has the character use his autism against evil- & win! B really enjoyed the book & it was a great opportunity for him to get a sense of the autism spectrum from outside his own perspective of it. We talked a lot about the ways autism can manifest & also about how it affects him.

Discussing the book has added a new dimension to the on-going conversation we have with him about his "disorders" (his word) & how they affect him. The ideas in this book may have also sparked B's contemplation of his own place in the universe (since the autistic boy in the story is very important to the Powers), how he affects those around him, & what he believes organises & sustains us all. It's comforting to me, as his mom, to see B beginning to see where he fits in the scheme of life. I think this sort of understand & grounding can't help but be of assistance as he & we work on fixing what needs to be fixed & living what can't be, in all of our lives!


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