Umpire

My other job when I'm not cleaning or occupied with other duties is that of referee. [translation = mediator]. With junior daughter and senior son I am the interlocutor. I try and sort out the dispute but I might as well be invisible.

There is a school of thought that suggests you step back and let children sort out their own disputes. I think this is generally a European model. It has it's advantages. I think this would be a good model if you have first provided the children with the skills with which to resolve their dispute and allowed them the opportunity to practice. If you fail to cover these two preliminary steps then you are likely to end up with a bear pit. And that's with the normal [translation = typical] population of children. If one of the children is on the spectrum, namely atypical [translation = quirky] then things are out of balance. It's my job to redress this imbalance. It's an unfair fight, quite literally. One of the players is handicapped, in the gaming sense of the word, so I need to intervene and start teaching each of them how to go about sorting out spats [translation = fights.]

It's far easier to be the judge and give them my ruling. I'm comfortable with the role of dictatorship. It's also quicker and guaranteed to be fair, well most of the time anyway. I'm not so comfortable in the role of mediator and facilitator but that's probably because I haven't got the faintest idea what I should be doing. It's an act of faith, blind faith on my part that somehow or other I'll manage to guide them into making the right choices, to make compromises, to play fair. But in the long term, they will be better off if they can discover ways of solving problems, preferably by themselves. For right now, they can't do it on their own.

So that's what I'm trying to do at the moment. I'm sitting on the floor between the two of them trying to help them work it out. I am being a facilitator. I have no idea what I'm doing. I'm being a method actor; if I pretend that I know what I'm doing, then I'll look as if I know what I'm doing. I'm not sure who I'm trying to convince, them or me?

There's a horrid little whiny voice running through the inside of my head saying 'I can't do this, this is too difficult for me, I don't want to do this, I'd rather being doing anything else including the laundry.” I need a manual to explain to me what I should be doing and how. But even if I could find such a book,I wouldn't have time to read it. I have shelves of unread or speed read books, as evidence of my ignorance.

Why wasn't I born an American? This stuff is so easy for you lot. I see you in the park and the supermarket, with your lovely little children being patient and kind, sympathetic and understanding, loving and giving, selfless and enduring. What I'd give for just a teaspoonful of that? You make it look so easy and intuitive. I need to climb up this learning curve faster. I need a jump start, an immersion programme, a fast track.

How can I teach something to someone else that I can't even do myself? How can I teach something I don't know about to someone whose perspective is a mystery to me?
As I dither waiting for an expert to intervene, someone taps me on the arm, “you are not doing the good listening mummy! I have idea, we put dah timer on and take the turns.”

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