Mother's Day here in the UK.
Today I got to be both a Mother and a Daughter, the first time I have been a parent in the eyes of the law. Little Fish made me a Mother's Day card in the creche at church. Very cute!
A big day for Mog at church too. We have a fairly large congregation, with a lot of children. Actually, we have a fairly large congregation with a complete mix of ages, which is really great. The younger children's groups are split into under 3s, 3-5s and 5-11s. Goldy sat in the group for 3-5s her whole life with me, and Mog has been there for three years too. It's a big step, moving up. It has been very easy for the children's workers to place all the children with learning disabilities into this group, and in some ways, it is the most appropriate place. It was certainly the right place for Goldy; she was very happy to listen to music and a short story, and to spend the rest of the time dancing with her hands with her headphones on. In this group, she was welcome to do so. With the older children, she would have been a major distraction. In fact, when Goldy first moved in with me, we started in the group which was appropriate for her age. We moved to the group for slightly younger children, before being asked to move down to this group. As the children's worker in question put it "we are just teaching the children to ignore her, and that's not the message we want to give". Looking back, I'm not convinced that removing her from the group altogether was the answer, but then she was happy with the little ones, so worked out alright (funny how God-related things tend to work out ok in the end isn't it?).
That was Goldy. This is Mog. In the years since Goldy found her home with the little ones, the older children's programme has been completely redesigned. It is now a totally separate child-orientated church service. The children have cell groups, there are dozens of teenagers as well as adult leaders assigned to each small group, and they have been really keen to get Mog involved.
I'm staying with her for a couple of weeks to interpret for her until people are ready to read her for themselves. She really enjoyed herself this morning. Lots of music to start off with and we were parked up by the loudspeaker; I think she was a bit shellshocked! A quiet time, which she listened to very gently. And a Bible reading which she clearly followed and got very excited about (Jesus raising the widow's son - Luke 7:11-17). Exploring Mog's faith is interesting. She listens to prayers, and joins in (loudly) with prayers she agrees with. her "Uhh" emphasises what she considers to be important points. We as a congregation tend to sit silently through sermons. Not Mog. Sometimes she's silent - usually when she has fallen asleep. Otherwise, she listens, and gives great shouts of agreement. I used to think she was just responding to an amplified male voice. But having listened to her over the years I notice she always agrees to the same things. Her Uhhs and Ahhs and great body-kicking-agreement-spasms often come as a response to similar themes. Jesus loves children. God loves you. God is Love. God is with us. These seem to be the things she gets most excited about. She's also pretty interested in Heaven, and in the idea that Goldy is now somewhere with a new whole and perfect body, although I think she is cross that Goldy doesn't come and visit to show it off. Talking death to a five year old is not easy.
But this morning, beyond the widow's son, we are not talking death. We are talking small groups, and Mother's Day. The mission for Mog's small group is to draw a picture of "Mummy", and then to think about things you want to say thank you to Mummy for.
Mog decided she wanted to think about her other Mummy. I think that surprised the other children in her group, but why not? People can easily make assumptions about Mog's family background; much better to have it out in the open and reinforce the point that all of Mog's family is important to her, whether they are family through birth, through fostering or through friendship.
So what did Mog want to say about her other mother? First to draw the picture. Apparently, Other Mother has dark brown hair (accurate), and a green and purple body (interesting but unverified, and if true, she is surprisingly good at full body makeup). Then the things to say thank you for. This bit is always the tricky bit for Mog. She has thoughts, she has ideas, but she can only communicate them with a yes and a no. So I run through a list of things I think she might be thankful for - clothes, shoes, chocolate, music, singing. Nope. More suggestions, wilder than before. Nope. Mog is clear that she has something in mind. She does. We discover what, eventually. Mog wants to say thank you to Mummy for her sisters, for the opportunity to be in lots of photographs, and for visits. These, especially the photographs, are not things I would have thought of myself. Mog is an interesting child.
All too soon church is over and people are piling into the hall ready for coffee. Things aren't perfect here - ordinarily, this small group would meet upstairs. But there is no lift (and no space to put one), so that is not an option. So for now, the group is meeting in a corner of the hall, covered with screens. Not ideal, but a lot better than it could be, and up for review if anyone has any better ideas.
Meanwhile we have just a few short weeks before Little Fish leaves creche and moves up to the 3-5s group. This group meets in the perfect room. Set apart from the church, the little ones can be as noisy as they need to be. There's a carpet to cushion falls, there's space for plenty of toys and running around games as well as a corner for reading and space for tables. It has for years been the place considered most suitable for the disabled children in the church. Little Fish is the first disabled child they have had who uses a power chair. Suddenly, the "wheelchair accessible room" is no longer wheelchair accessible. The single step in the middle of the corridor, which I have bumped Mog up for 3 years, and Goldy up for 4 years before that, is an insurmountable barrier when approached with a power chair. We are experimenting with ramps. I'll let you know how it goes.
After church, a quick trip home to get lunch sorted. Salmon followed by Queen of Puddings (still using up that milk!). Time for me to be the Daughter again.
Happy Mother's Day to all the other mothers out there,
PS, I'm thinking of one mother in particular who could use our prayers today - pray for Trina and Jophie.