Stickers be damned

I would like to point out that this isn't a religious statement more a declaration of independence. Quite frankly, far too much independence, but that just goes with the territory. The world of mothers are busy motivating their kiddie winkies with tokens, stickers, prizes and hard cash, but not around here. I'll have you know that I have more stickers than is healthy for a woman of my advancing years. Their variety is exhaustive but it never quite hits the mark.

The motivation key has always been a bit cloudy for me. I couldn't imagine myself as a child being persuaded to do, or not do something for that matter, with the bribe of a 'sticker,' but it may be just because 'stickers' hadn't been invented in those dark old days. But I digress.

What is the issue here? Motivation! Don't we just love it, but what exactly is it and where do we find it? I can tell you one thing with confidence, it doesn't have anything to do with stickers as far as my autistic sons are concerned.
The magic of stickers has long been a mystery to me, but I'll try anything once, and then six months later, and six months later and so on.

Now we did have a couple of obstacles in our way as far as the sticker debacle was concerned. The first of these was that the average sticker is made of paper. [translation = the substance from hell for the tactilely defensive one] For senior son, the issue is more complicated, in that in order to peel off the sticker successfully from it's backing you need a good finger grip in the fine motor skills department, which until fairly recently, eluded him completely. There are additional issues for my two. It's can't just be any old sticker, it must be a carefully chosen unique choice to most closely match the current obsession. Failure to observe this basic criterion will result in certain failure. Heaven forgive the woman who buys 20 variety sheets of Thomas the Tank engine stickers only to be able to use the one “James” sticker per sheet. Just shoot her now and put her out of her financial weak willed misery. Someone needs to protect her from herself.

I mean, you think she would have learned over the years that this is never going to work, to say nothing of the heebie geebie meltdown that ensues when one of the precious stickers is torn.

I'm afraid that my sympathies are with the children in question;
“Yes mom? You want me to do what? Eat something I hate and in return you will give me a vile paper sticker that I need to peel off myself with my own inky dinky little fingers and then place on another piece of disgustingly textured paper, which incidentally is a very poor colour choice? Right! What exactly is the purpose of this exercise again? Remind me of whatever inherent logic you're attempting to achieve? You think this is helping? You are so out of your tree! Who is it supposed to be assisting and how? Go away lady, back to the drawing board, you are just so out of line, I can't begin to even explain it to you.”

I think he covered the salient issues.

Our only ever single, individualised, successful, nearly ‘sticker’ campaign!

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What I am?

I appear on the scene with my limited powers of speech and a wipe board as back, up in case I get out of my depth. A heated debate has ensued, but no umpire is near to hand. Actually there are a couple of umpires handy but both of them are busy with 101 domestic responsibilities.

“I am a vegetarian because I don eat meat!” he squalks at his sister with venom.
“Tell him mom, tell him he's a big fat liar. Tell him that to be a vegetarian you need to eat vegetables.”
“Yuk, I am hating dah vegetables. What I am then?” I try and write sweet potatoes and fries on my board as evidence to the contrary but my hand writing is too squiggly, they're already several sentences and topics ahead of me and no-one will look at the board anyway.
“I don't know what you are? What is he mom?” Senior son comes to my rescue as I start to scribble on my wipe board.
“Hey mom, I know. He is an omnivore coz he is eating dah meat but he is not eating dah vegetables.” The last word has four very distinct syllables when spoken in this deliberate tone. He beams at me with the satisfaction of knowing that answering before anything has been written on the board, absolves him from a duty to read anything. His diction is so pronounced and evuncular, his eyes are so large and his face so close to mine. I have a strange vision of Mr. Bean and an ulterior motive. Junior protests, “dat is stoopid, I am not eating dah 'oms' either. What is an 'om' anyways?”
“It's from the Latin! 'stoopid yourself'!” I wonder if it is from the Latin? It sound's convincing to me, but my brain capacity is incapacitated and I’m easily swayed if someone sounds like they ought to know what they’re talking about.
“Maybe he is a herbivore,” his brother offers with exaggerated helpfulness and three crisp syllables, whilst his hand rests on mine, that rests on the wipe board that is holding the pen. He beams at me, guileless and engaging. I could swear he fluttered his eye lids at me! I wipe my board trying to get three sentences ahead, or two questions ahead, or simply ahead. I resist the temptation to tell him that he is in fact a neophobe, as not only is that not terribly helpful, it will only further confuse the issue between omnivores, herbivores and carnivores.
Spouse and the spare umpire arrive at my side and remove the wipe board, “Mum needs a rest now, but I know one thing that you all are!”

Three little faces turn towards him with anticipation,
everyone's eyes drift towards his mouth and wait,
little sparks emit from junior's fingertips……
”you're all choccivores,” he announces with a flourish
and a bowl of chocolate mousse.

He should come home more often.

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Found in translation

As a mum and housewife, I go about my daily tasks, tedious, repetitive and tiresome. I can think of no rational reason why a child should observe his mother during this period of time but he does. He is draped across the kitchen counter, his eyes follow me. Now, would be the perfect time for a casual mother son conversation, but I shun this opportunity. If I talk to him I am likely to break the spell and provoke a meltdown. I turn my attention to the cats and chat to them, the way you do. He sidles up closer to me,
to drape himself on the door jam for support.
“You are talking to dem?”
“You can talk 'cat'?”
“Not really. It's a bit like babies, they don't understand your words, but you talk to them anyway.”
“They can understand your words?”
“Not really. It's the same as if you were talking a foreign language, Chinese or Portuguese perhaps. You don't understand the words but you can understand the sound of the words, if they're kind and friendly, or angry and mean.”
“I talk to dem.”
“I know.” He talks more to the cats than to anyone or anything else, not that I'm jealous of course.
“They are understanding me?”
“Oh yes! Very much so.”
“I fink maybe dah cats are more cleverer dan dah humans are.”
“You may very well be right about that.” We sprawl on the kitchen floor together, alternately stroking a cat apiece. He is careful to count the strokes, take a note of whose hands are on which cat, so that any errors can be corrected to ensure that each cat is psychologically assured of the equality of the bond of affection between them.

“I fink dey are dah clever ones because they can understand us but we cant understand dem so very good.”

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A Troglodyte lives upstairs

I awaken late in the afternoon to the sounds of bath time. I can tell that it's bath time because of the screaming and sounds of braking foot flesh outside the door.
“Noo eeee, I don do bahves, remember! I am dah melting one!” he pleads. He has come to a halt unexpectedly. He has unexpectedly bumped into his brother, who is a heap on the hard wood floor, not because he is protesting bath time, just because he happened to be there at the time. The sister comes up the stairs in a nonchalant fashion, commenting on proceedings at hand. “Well I sure ain't gonna have a bath with them, no way, I'll have mine after.” Spouse attempts turn taking and efficiency at the same time, a tall order at the best of times.

“It's too difficult tonight, you're all going to have to go in together and then it will be done!” Junior goes into automatic screaming protest together with flailing arms and legs, just case anyone isn't already getting the message loud and clear. His legs pummel his brother who lumbers to one side a bit and exhales wearily before asking, “Why we are having dah bahf?”

“Because it's Sunday and you always have a full scrub on Sunday ready for school tomorrow.”
“We are dirty?”
“May be yes, maybe no, it's just a safety feature.”
“Dirty people have bahf on Sunday?”
“Mummy is having dah bahf?”
“Er, no. She's too ill to barf, er, I mean bathe, er, I mean have a bath right now.” I pull myself up on my pillows to pay closer attention.
“You don have to have dah bahf if you are dah golden?”
“She's not really golden is she Dad, more like yellow.”
“Yellow? Golden?” Spouse pauses whilst trying to remove three sets of clothes from three small people who are not co-operating and are semi clad on the top landing in full view of the neighbourhood for approximately half a mile on an early Sunday evening.
“Remember, you said this morning?”
“What did I say this morning?” he queries. I sit up taller and lean toward to the closed door.
“You said that mum looked like she's been in a train crash because of the surgery. She'd change from mustard yellow, to blue, to purple to black and soon she'd be back to normal again.”
“Is that what I said?” Is that what he said?
“Yup. So the point is, she's not dirty, the 'golden' won't 'wash off.'”
“Er. Den she will be dah different colours every day?”
“Right! Right Dad?”
“Er, yes, sort of.” I scoot down into the duvet cover as the door opens and they file past to use the really big bath together. As the water rages out of the faucets I here a little voice say, “I'm gonna tell my teacher dat my mom is a rainbow.”
I hear spouse fight with extraneous clothes, pyjamas, towels and small uncooperative bodies and mutter, “great, that will really confuse her.”
But spouse doesn't
appreciate how clever those special education teachers are.
Actually, most of the time he does, he’s just currently
to overloaded to remember that.
I snuggle down into my bed with my golden glow,
confident that all their teachers are excellent translators.

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The Pet Police

I have decided that the evils of television may not be quite as bad as I am prone to preach about. The children have discovered 'Animal Planet,' a channel showing non stop wild life of every kind. There is a particular programme [translation = show] where abused animals and their misfortunes are displayed. The RSPCA [translation = Humane Society?] have been dubbed the 'pet police' by my offspring, all of them. Yes, it’s a joint venture. They discussed it amongst themselves, and when the ‘moment comes’ they all shout ‘send for the pet police.’ Really gladdens a mother’s heart to see her children working with one accord for a common goal.
Additionally, this has given me a new and powerful weapon against the ever growing developmental progress that they keep making when I’m not paying attention. ‘Be nice to cats/ pets/ snails/ living creatures of any kind or I’ll call the pet police!” It’s my new mantra. I use it often, even when it’s not strictly applicable – don’t bite the leg on that plastic bear or I’ll call the pet police!’
‘But it’s a toy, a plastic toy!”
“Don’t argue with me, it’s the principal that counts.”
“What will the pet police do?” I think carefully, as I don’t want to get this the wrong way around and have to pay for a few decades of trauma therapy for them all. “WEll, if you’re mean to animals then the pet police come and take the pets away and give them to someone else who will love them properly.’ I pause for breath and to run a quick inventory in case I have mis-spoken in my longer than usual, completely off the cuff spiel. Three pairs of saucer eyes indicate that I was about right.

I know that I’m over doing a good thing, but it works so well! It’s so effective and get instant positive results. It’s hard to resist. After a few days, I can tell that the magic of the words is beginning to wear off. I retreat muttering to myself about ‘consumer over – use,’ and ‘come to think of it, as the responsible adult I think they'd cart me away first.” I mutter to no-one in particular, although of course that is the phrase that everyone hears and understands all too clearly, despite the speech delays and the auditory processing difficulties. “What do you mean?” she asks, her face a study of incredulity.
“What? What! Oh what? Well, if any of you do anything wrong, you are all under 18, which means that you are not adults, which means that I am responsible if you do something wrong.”
“You mean you'd go to jail,” she gasps. I think hard for a nano second before answering “yes.” I am still in two minds about that answer, which I know will come back to bite me.

When it comes back to bite me within the hour, “go on! Phone them, phone them, I want them to come and take you away,” in joint response to a refusal to do one's share of tidying up, and the prospect of a mother free evening, I am more than ready. “Oh bliss I get to spend the whole night in pet prison with all the lovely cats, dogs, bunnies and guinea pigs and no horrible children.” A little underhand, I know, but the effect is electrifying. “You can't go, we'll be all alone, you have to stay with us!”
“Oh no I don't, I'm of to prison with the animals, I can hardly wait.” A tad cruel but she speaks on behalf of the junior members of the family as a collective.
“You don't know the number!” she sneers, the one that is always emblazoned across the television screen.

“Oh yes I do, it's 408 626 8859.”
“What it's nearly the same as ours!”
“That’s right, we want the local branch not Detroit or Houston!’
“You're making it up, you're faking, you're lying.”
“See you later alligator! Oooh, I wonder if they have any alligators there too?”
“I hope it eats you!”
“Excuse me, I need to use the phone.”
“Oh no you don't!” She rips the cable from the wall.

“Your choice dear! Tidy or bye bye?”

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Fictional Police report filed Friday, January 12, 2007

Nobody eats fruit around here!

The Sheriff arrived at 5:15 p.m. minus horse but with very shiny, pointy star badge. Please not that any errors in transcription are due to the indeterminate country of origin of the police personnel.

Quote – I was called to the property in question, responding to an anonymous tipster regarding a noisy disturbance. On entering the premises, I noted three semi clad children leaping about the place in an uncontrollable manner. An adult female identified herself to me as their parent. Fortunately the old crow was not scantily clad, however her wild behaviour indicated that she was in fact the ring leader. Although virtually incoherent, I did manage to piece together a few irrelevant details, as to the cause of the disturbance.

Note evidence 1 – item = the peel of an orange
The parent appears to be irrationally fixated upon the different sub species of orange, insisting that the peel in question, was not that of an orange but indeed, that of a Satsuma. I had to endure a long treatise as the options available, which included, but was not limited to: Clementine's, tangerines and Minolas……….. Their significance or the importance of their distinctive characteristics was lost on me. I took this as an indication that the inhabitants are vegetarians, devoid of the karma afforded to us meat eaters.

It may well be that the parent’s real complaint was of a ‘littering’ nature, although I am given to understand, by the said parent, that citrus peel is ‘bio-degradable.’ I advised the parent that I was familiar the term ‘bio-degradable’ but failed to see it’s relevant in a domestic, interior context?

The parent declared that her eldest son had eaten a Satsuma of his own volition. I tried to determine whether the said food item had been tampered with, adulterated or interfered with in some other manner, such as to provoke fear and consternation throughout the family. Parent denied credibility of my ascertions.

Upon further questioning it became clear to me, that the family was not in fear of an incident of poisoning, as I had at first assumed. I soon determined that 'fear' was not the paramount emotion coursing through the family members, but rather 'elation.' I am still at a loss as to why it should be that a celebration had embraced the family following consumption of an orange by one member.

The member in question addressed me as follows “are you dah cop guy?” I confirmed that his powers of observation were correct.
“You see I dah one who does not eat dah fruit. I don eat the vegetables evver.” Whilst I fail to register the significance of such a statement, the child was obviously happy and I saw no need to detain them any longer. I gave a brief consideration as to whether to file a 'wasting police time' report, but though better of it.

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Trading, a reality check

He accosts me in the kitchen, “hey mom, I wanna play shops. Get me the stuff.” At last! Horray, he wants to play something normal, something that other children want to play and it's only taken five and a half years. I think of all the packets, boxes and jars I saved from the recycling a couple of years back, so that we could play shops, together with the till and pretend money so that we could model ‘how one behaves’ and ‘what one does’ in a shop. Needless to say it was one of my more spectacular failures. I don’t think I broke down the entire sequence into small enough bits and I failed to take account of all possible phobias and unexpecteds, as I didn’t know their full extent.
“What do you need dear? Shall I go and get the till?”
“Till! Till? I don need till. What I need till for?”
“The till has all the money in, the pretend money.”
“Money! Money? I don need money. What I need money for?”
“Well what do you want then?”
“I want bricks.” [translation = blocks] O.k., not quite the answer I was expecting. I haul out the box of bricks.
“Shall we play together?” I offer, even though I should be cooking supper, but it's too good an opportunity to miss.
“No I don want to play with you, I want to play with him.” He stabs his index finger towards his brother. I am rejected as potential playmate. His brother is inaugurated into potential playmate status. Better and better. Do I have the opportunity to observe some parallel play perchance?

“Here you wan dis one or dis one?” he asks his little brother in rather an abrupt tone, but within socially acceptable levels of appropriate.
“I wan the red one, no, no, no, de yellow one.” They trade bricks.
“You don want dat one! Dat one is no good!” the little one warns.
“Look!” he shoves the brick under his brother's nose, “it has a bad bit.”
“Where I don see it?”
“There! Right there! Look with your eyes, on the corner!” his finger nail identifies a tiny flaw. His anger rises at his brother's inability to see what is so obvious to him.
“That's o.k.” he says magnanimously, “it don't bother me, I'm o.k. with that.”
“You are?”
“Sure, what's the problem anyways?” His little brother's face is a study of disbelief. Where minute discrepancies are blatant and unacceptable to him, to his brother, they are hardly discernible and of even less bother.
I predict that the bigger brother will be like his father, happy with a bargain, a good trade. I predict that his little brother will also be like his father in other ways, unable to make a decision, overwhelmed by choices, fearful of missing the best offer, “shopping” for hours but returning empty handed. Spouse appears by my side, I check to see if his ears are burning red, but he asks “what are they doing?”
“Playing micro economics in a very closed ‘perfect’ society, still based on the barter system, without the use of a token system of exchange, yet.”

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Food Police

“But I'm hungry!” he screams.
“There are grapes on the table if you're hungry.” He continues to stare at me, hands on hips, forehead thrust outward ready to charge. I keep my countenance bland, hoping that this will deflect the head butt.

Bull? [translation = full body charge] or goat ?[translation = head only.] My ribs may be bruised but there is no other indication of capitulation on my par. I am resolute and immovable. His nostrils literally flare, a skill I wouldn't mind acquiring myself. His shoulders shrug attached to rigid arms and clenched fists, “o.k. then, if that's gonna be how it's gonna be!” He stomps off past me, in nearly a huff, I think? Yes, I think it’s definitely a huff.

I think I like huffs. I think I consider a huff to be progress.

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Tentative Steps

He sees his name on the envelope. I can’t think of any teacher in their right might who would have written to me, their pupil at the same age. Times have changed.

I open it for him because it is made of paper and his fingers do not function well with such materials. [translation = paper, such as the wrapping on wax crayons, and on many other everyday paper examples, are aversive due to how they feel, which means that he avoids touching them] Even though this is technically a missed 'therapy' opportunity, I'm more anxious that he makes the human connection, the social interaction, which is especially tricky since the 'human' isn't present.

It's only us, him and me, not the writer of the note. It is from his former Pre-K teacher. 6 cursive lines of thanks. He reads it smoothly, his pupils trundle over the font until the end, where the 'Ms.' makes him stumble, until he recognizes the name that follows. His face is a picture of wonderment and delight, just as it should be.

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