Goldilocks, don’t let the bears win

I ensure that I have a full hour to devote to the babysitter prior to our departure. This enables me to run over the rules and remind her of where everything is. I am determined that this shall be a successful relationship for all of us.

“So there’s just one last thing that I wanted to draw your attention to.”
“Yes?”
“The boys sleep in the same room in separate beds. She’s next door in her own bed. Both the boys wear pull-ups and I’ve left them here on the side for you.”
“O.k. No problem.”
“Great, it’s just that a while back we came home to find that they were all in the same bed. The boys didn’t have pull ups on which meant we had to give everyone a bath and change the sheets, which wasn’t much fun at 11 at night, if you know what I mean?”
“How did that happen?”
“I’m really not sure, but they managed to convince the sitter that they all slept in the same bed and that they didn’t need pull-ups!”
“How strange! Did you tell the sitter that they slept in separate beds and that the boys wear pull-ups?” I look at her for a moment, uncertain how to proceed.
“You know to tell the truth, I showed her the bedrooms and the beds and the pull ups, but I can’t be certain that I made myself understood. That’s why I’m telling you now, just so that there can’t be any misunderstandings.” I smile, in what I hope is a warm and sincere manner.
“Well, you know, everyone knows that boys and girls don’t sleep in the same bed!” This was not the response I was expecting. We live in the Western world, where it is less common for children to share a bed. There are three children and three beds. Is it wise to leave an adult in charge who has no matching skills?
“Indeed.”


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Where on the chair? Right there!

I stumble into the kitchen early in the morning and trip on a crayon.  It is the soft fall of the not truly awake enough to hurt oneself, variety.  I feel around for my dislodged glasses in a state of temporary blindness and befuddlement.  I should have large neon glasses to aid me, instead of the apparently invisible pair that I invested in.  I notice the unusually dirty skirting boards.  I look more closely.  My nose is about to scrape the wood when I dart back in shock.  A mouse hole!

I scrabble around on the floor checking my skirting boards.  There are so many!  We've been invaded by an army of mice,  an infestation no less.  I grab a wooden spoon and poke tentatively at the hole.  How strange?  The hole isn't a hole at all, it's solid.  I touch the hole with my finger tip.  Definitely solid.  I look closely at the little grey archway, a cartoon mouse hole, or rather, many, many cartoon mouse holes.  I step on my glasses.  Well they were wonky anyway.  I arrange my glasses and go for a closer inspection.  There is also a small grey toilet cartoon, mouse sized, as well as a lamp.  The lamp is the clincher, I know which nocturnal child to blame.  I start scrubbing my skirting boards in-between gulps of tepid coffee.  Washable markers indeed!  What a nerve!

Within half an hour I have eliminated half of the invaders and the kitchen stinks of bleach.   My eldest son appears, he is in a dither, “hey mom something's freakin me out, kinda.”
“What is it dear.”
“Er, come wiv me.”  He leads me by the hand to his sister's bedroom.  She lies sprawled on the bed, still wearing her dressing up outfit.  “It's just dress up dear, nothing to worry about.”
“I know but it's kinda scary, er is she a witch or something?”  We look at the black curly wings protruding from her back.  “I think it's some kind of fairy outfit.”
“I know but it's kinda freaky when it's not Halloween.”  This is no longer a two and a half speech delay for my eight year old, it's something else entirely.  We leave her to slumber and trot back downstairs.  Our steps stir the little one who comes skittering down after us like a can on a string tied to a car’s bumper.

In the kitchen both are horrified but for multifarious and different reasons.  The artist is incensed at the destruction but unable to articulate his outrage as he pinches his nostrils.   Bleach.  The other one recognizes that we are under siege.
“I do not like mouses!”
“There are no mice dear, really, these are just pretend mouse holes.  See!   I can wash them off.”  I scrub to demonstrate, but they're hard work to remove.
“No.  I don't see.  Where are the mouses?”
“Mice dear.  There aren't any.”
“Where are the mouses?  They are in the houses, er, the house, er home, er here?”  His little brother picks up on the rhyme, guffaws with laughter and spins off chanting “mouses, in the house es, mouses, in the house es, mouses, in the house es.”  I foresee the day ahead of me.
“There aren't any mice in here and anyway, even if a mouse came in, we have two brave cats to protect us.”
He looks at me dubiously as I continue to scrub and push my wonky glasses back up my nose.
“But we had a mouse before, one time.”
“Good remembering.  Yes, you're right we did have a mouse but that was over two years ago.”  Fancy him remembering that?   Fancy him telling me about it!  His little brother spins back into the picture, “you must leave them, dey are dah jolly good joke dat is funny.”
“Really!”  I would like to point out that at this moment he is in the minority.
“Yes!  Dah mouse come in, he run at dah hole and go boink on his head, fall down.”  He is delighted at his wit.  I am less so.
“The mouse come in?” squeaks his brother.
“No dear.  A mouse hasn't come in, it's a joke, his joke.”  A bad joke.  We are in the midst of this cycle when spouse appears to see what all the commotion is about.  After a couple of repetitive cycles he's up to speed and in the loop.
“Oh well you don't have to worry about that.  We have two cats remember?”
“Mum is already said that.”  Good grief is this the same child?
“Good, so we're all on the same page then.  So really the only reason we had a mouse in the first place was because Jasper caught him and brought him inside for you as a present!”
“Jasper!  My old cat?”
“Yes.  Do you remember him?”
“Jasper bringed the mouse into the house!”
“Yes.”
“But mum said that cats stop mouses coming into the houses, er house!”
“Well yes, that is true but………”  He runs away screaming.

We debate how to proceed.
“I didn't know he was afraid of mice?”
“He isn't, or rather he wasn't, but he certainly is now.” The volume of screaming subsides.
“I wonder if he's always been afraid of them but never been able to tell us before?”
“Maybe?”  I'm uncertain if he's stopped screaming or is just so far away now that I can no longer hear him.
“Maybe the price of speech is more OCD?”
“What a trade off!”  I think of the many years I have spent moaning about how different they are.
“I wonder if there's a modern day equivalent of the Pied Piper of Hamlin?”
“I assume you only want to get rid of the virtual imaginary mice?”
“Well he's always had a thing about bears.”
“And faces.”
“What percentage of his inexplicable meltdowns were caused by fear  about something or other, but he wasn't able to tell us do you suppose?”  I hear another blood curling scream and the thunder of size two feet charging towards us.  On arrival he leaps into my arms, wraps his legs around my waist and clutches my neck, “it's freaking me out man! There is a huge spider in dere!”  The adults exchange glances as we collectively feel the floorboards reverberate.  He clutches me tighter, a stranglehold as I carry him to the front door.  Outside I point across the road, “it's just a jack hammer dear, they're digging up their driveway.”  I wonder how long it takes to dig up a drive way as I carry my quaking son back inside?  “They're, they're gonna dig up our house too?” he gasps.
“No dear, there's nothing to worry about.”  I squeeze him tighter as the 'no carrying under any circumstances' campaign dies again.
“They are strangers?  How can we tell if they're bad guys?”
“Um..”
“Do you think they are…. burglars?  Are they gonna come and steal me?”  I see tears welling up in his eyes as he nibbles the edge of the band aid on his finger.  I notice that I am trembling too!  Probably just insufficient caffeine intake?

Help!


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Thoughtful Thursday – The youth of today!

 

So you may have noticed that people do funny things on their blogs on “Thursdays,” like “Thursday Thirteen” and such like. Whilst I’m not a superstitious person, it’s more that I can’t count that high, even on a good day. So with the ‘th’ theme, ‘thoughtful’ was the best I could come up with. Ah well, you never know, it just might catch on! I probably need a natty logo or a code, or a clue! Then there’s all that link to this that or the other and don’t forget to widget something or other else, or it won’t work. Maybe I should ask the great High Poobah “himself?”

So, I’ve been thinking, briefly, about the youth of today, young people, no less, or should that be ‘know less’?
Well they’re a thoroughly reprehensible lot, I’ll be bound.

Whilst there may be one or two exceptions to the general rule, on the whole, most of them are an absolute shower.

My opinions are confirmed by a radio broadcast on “NPR,” which points to a certain population who are described as narcissistic, more so than any previous generations. It is always so gratifying to have one’s personal prejudices acknowledged as being mainstream.

One of the exceptions to this general rule, apart from my own “dear daughter,” is “Jade.”

I visit my youthful and enthusiastic pal's blog, because every so often, I am in need of an energy boost. Reality check. I suspect it's mere youth but I know a good egg when I see one. As I stand in my comfortable home, that is too frightfully clean, fret about all my children, write cheques for exorbitant sums and chastise the American system of medical insurance, other youthful persons are on the real front line.

In my idleness, I am privileged to have the opportunity to blog. Others, her clients amongst many others, are not so “fortunate.” Silicon Valley is the land of geeks, an international mix and hideously wealthy, by comparison to many.

When I was 20 like Jade, I was also pregnant. When I was 21, I was briefly homeless with my baby. At least it was only one period in my 46, oopsie, 47 years on the planet. It is not an experience that I would care to repeat. Although, if I did have to repeat it, I would prefer to repeat it in a socialist country rather than a capitalist one. But enough of the politics.

The statistics are overwhelming. The news items are depressing. [translation – saddening] We spend so many minutes micro managing our own particular disaster area that I for one, lack the ability and energy to support “those who most need it.”

I want to propose a bill to Parliament, er…….Congress. Conscription! Every person must submit a period of time to those with special needs. I need a catchy phase and a good advertising campaign of course, but I’m much too old, crumbly and lazy to come up with my own. Maybe that’s something else that “Jade” can help me out with? After all, what’s the point of being old if you can’t delegate a bit?

In the meantime, prior to my recruitment drive, I am happy to observe Jades’ career path, as she’s sure to be a rising star.

Twinkle, twinkle.

There again, now I’ve adjusted my thinking cap to a more jaunty angle, I think that ‘Thoughtless Thursday’ might be infinitely preferable! What do you think?


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The power of ten

 

Last week

Now that their speech delays are less delayed, they will often ask questions, which is a monumental leap forward for everyone.

Their willingness to try and communicate with words, is still hard work for them. As parents, we have to make their attempts at communication successful. The theory goes, that the more success they achieve, the more willing they will be to keep going or give it another try.

Both my boys have a tendency to ask very precise questions for which they require specific and instant answers. Failure by the parent, frequently results in a meltdown in the child. If you are a child and you have a speech delay, talking, or using your words, is hard work. On the whole it is usually much easier for you to get what you want by skipping the words stage and screaming instead. You will find that if you scream a lot, your parent is likely to be much more efficient and far speedier at fulfilling your request. Works like magic every time, let me assure you.

The stumbling block for me, is whilst this progress is all fine and dandy, it's very difficult to make their experience successful if they leave out pertinent details, or reference back. Their questions come out of the blue with no clues attached.

In an ideal world, I'd like to change things. I would prefer to confine question time to a specific period of the day, where I would be more than happy to field all enquiries. That time, would be a time of my choosing. A convenient time, preferably one where I am already awake, when my brain is fully functioning and my power pack of patience is full.

I do not live in an ideal world.

Early in the morning my son appears before me in his pyjamas that are several sizes too small.
“Is it ten?” he asks with an anxious expression.
“Is what ten dear?”
“Ten yet?” I look at him and think hard. Is he waiting for ten o'clock? What, if anything, could or should be happening at that time? I think of the tick down chart that shows them how many more days of summer holidays they have left. We check it every day so that the first day of school doesn't come as a surprise of nightmare proportions. But that's still 6 days away. I think of other numbers that might be relevant, that he might have mixed up? None of the daily timers have been set yet. They advise them all of the high points of the day, like snack time and electronics time. Is this a reference back to growing older and his fear of reaching double digits? Ten. It is no-one favourite number around here. I dither. Is it to do with something recent or the ancient past if not ancient history?

I don't want to provoke a meltdown this early in the morning, as I am not mentally prepared at 5:50 a.m. A meltdown first thing in the morning is a pre-cursor to a bad day, a very long bad day. If I keep him waiting too long he'll have a meltdown anyway. I have nothing to lose by asking a return question, as I'm already out of the limited time allowance permitted at this stage of their development.

“Ten what dear?” He holds up his hands, palms towards my face, instead of using any words.
“Ten fingers?” I ask pathetically. His head slumps to his chest in exasperation. Stand by, here it comes, I've blown it, he's out of patience. He sighs wearily and then his body starts his little gallopy hopping dance, which means that his brain is processing and he's gathering speed and words are forming a sentence which very soon, he may be able to utter…….. ”No, I mean……..is it ten days…….for my finger……to take the “stitches out?”

Well I’m glad that one of us is with it.
Boy 1, mother 0.

And in my other “life.”


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Blink of an eye – Tuesday supplemental

Not so long back, they started Pre-school and such like. Their exposure was staggered. 30 minutes for the first day. Internment with constant screaming. The time was gradually increased until a whole morning of three and a half hours was achieved.

Now as they start 4th, 3rd and 2nd grade, I rather think that this would be a good approach again. It seems grossly unfair that they should be expected to spend a whole day in school, 6 hours and 25 minutes. Draconian. They should be allowed to gently ease into the new school year by small increments, after weeks of idleness. It's not that I won't enjoy my child free hours, it's more a question of sharing. Recently, my eldest son has been talking prodigiously, for a whole 4 days in fact. This means that for the many other days in the long summer holiday, he wasn't. I need to rewind the summer holidays to the beginning, so I can have the benefit of all those missed talking days. Why should the school get them instead? Maybe I could rewind to when he was two and a half, a re-run? Then it was that all the lovely little baby words started to fade and fizzled out like a damp squib.

I have no evidence in support, but after 8 years, I know that the school squanders his word bank during the day and then returns my son to me, silent. I am not a good sharer. I content myself with the knowledge that the first fortnight consists of two four day weeks.

I focus on the label of the liquid multivitamins, give up and take a glug to wash down a couple of Ibrupofen.

I pick up the abandoned play things, the toilet brush, screw driver, curtain pull and magic wand. I look across at the bank of idle timers on the table that have no-one to sequence, coax and calm. I need a complete rest. Six hours and 25 minutes.

Instead I commit myself to hard labour in the garden because my cherry tomatoes have a personality disorder. They've invaded the Honeysuckle . I need to prune their ambitions as they dangle over the 10 foot fence. Maybe? I dither. I decide to conduct a scientifically, controlled experiment. How long does it take to turn your body into a pickled walnut? Bath or shower? I pick up the timer, the egg one. I set it for two hours and 15 minutes. I don't want to forget that appointment at the manicurist. I turn the timer on and my brain off.


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Too much to process

 

From a week or two ago.

As often as not, one becomes so used to the status quo that progress can be a smack in the face.

For us, the issues of time and sequencing are very old friends. This is why we are a household with more timers than the average clock shop. They come in every kind of variety. During the summer holidays I have occasion to use nearly all of them. 8 hours and 55 minutes until bed time. 27 minutes until snack. 8 hours and 25 minutes until electronics. The tick tock of one, fights for attention with the tickety tockety of another one.

Once words emerged and were used with greater frequency, we began an exchange.
“How many minutes until……..?” fill in the blank.
“Look at the timer dear.”
Always the same response, for years. Now during the summer, we add an extra line: “which one?”

Yes, and on and on we go, forever, without end. Yes, they're just like everyone else's children, where we all repeat the same phrases, except the boys ask more frequently. I don't choose to examine the OCD elements and try to remind myself how well their voluntary speech is coming along.

The tick down chart on the window tells them all that there are only 8 days left of their summer holidays to go, until school begins again. Every day, I make a big hoo hah about taking them to the chart, so that they can be reminded of the dwindling days of freedom and avoid shock tactics. An unexpected benefit has grown from this practice. Inevitably, when small people are herded together and forced to keep their own company, tempers can sometimes become frayed. This is especially so as the temperatures climb in August. Fights, skirmishes and scuffles break out at regular intervals.

I think the habit began at the beginning of the holidays as I intervened to break up the latest wrestling match. It was something along the lines of, “if you think we're going to behave like this for the next nine weeks……!” delivered in an unpleasant tone of growing exasperation. Thereafter, the OCD amongst us, would race to the chart to check how many happy days there were left and how many days of war had passed. When the mid point was reached, panic ensued. Every moment must be spent extending the happiness quotient.

Meanwhile, my youngest son hurtles around the house chanting his latest phrase: “Lights, camera, action!” at fifty decibels. This phrase is followed by a brief interlude before he reaches the conclusion, some minutes later: “Cut!” at 75 decibels. This is definitely a new development, one that has my nerves all of a jangle. I'm quite content with the new phrase, it's the surprise ending that makes my heart miss a beat. In view of the fact that he has been using this phrase for more than seven hours now, I should have adjusted to the new sequence, but I'm having a hard time recalibrating my own alert system.

Another alarming development is how he is able to hold a conversation with his Pokemon playmates and siblings, whilst in Pokemon character, and yet still manage to punctuate each exchange with his favoured phrase without pausing for breath or missing a beat. I find the whole experience quite mind bending. I try and imagine having a conversation with someone where I would interject an irrelevant phrase and tack it on the end of anything I said? I cannot imagine how this would impact my ability to keep track of the conversation, to say nothing of the effect on the person you are talking to. I am further alarmed to realize than none of the three young conversationalists are in the least bit perturbed, disturbed or annoyed by this.

I am so wrapped up in unraveling this feat that I miss the rumble.

It is hard to accurately describe what we witness and of course there is no warning, or maybe I wasn’t paying attention. My six year old erupts from the carpet like a rocket, remains air born momentarily, to land seconds later in a frenzy of movement, as if someone had fitted a live bee hive on his head. His siblings roll around with guffaws of laughter at his latest explosion, immune, de-sensitized and entertained. I mine for clues but keep out of contact range. I assess whether he is winding up or down. He charges to the trampolene where he expends a considerable amount of energy for several minutes. A heart warming display of self management. He collapses in a heap, drained and closes his eyes with a sigh, “dats better,” he confirms. I debate whether to ask and risk rekindling a burning ember?

“What was it dear?”
“I fink maybe a dust was being falled on my head.” I am uncertain whether I am any the wiser? I suspect that if you are on heightened alert and over stimulated, that maybe a particle of dust might be enough to trigger an almighty reaction.

I am still contemplating the meaning of life, or at least, the underlying triggers, when the other one distracts me with the same old spiel, “er, um, how many minutes until electron…” he pauses, mid sentence as he often does, before he skips a step completely, “oh yeah!” He jumps to his feet and lollops across the room to the table, with the bank full of timers. His hands reach out and lift the correct one as he says, “look at the timer.”

Other aspects of my life are every bit as “bewildering.”


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The temptation to eat worms

 

I spend the early hours of Sunday morning making perfect pancakes for my children. I sweat, or rather, 'glow,' over a sweltering hot plate because I am an unappreciated martyr with an incomprehensible need to get eggs into my children. The maple syrup that they sampled in Trader Joe's, awaits them at the table. A special and expensive treat. This is the only peaceful meal per week, that we enjoy together. Once they are happily ensconced in mid munch, I will sneak away to telephone my mother.

They all appear just after six, no doubt drawn by the tempting aroma. Instead of evoking blissful happiness, I appear to have provoked mass hysteria for some unaccountable reason. In-between the skreiks of agony, I am given to understand that their expectations have not been met. It would appear that some foolish, tired old woman promised waffles instead of pancakes today. I make a mental note that my memory bank is in need of a reboot, or maybe just a kick. Breakfast is a fiasco, or rather no-one breaks their fast. The syrup is condemned as inedible due to it's excessively runny nature. No-one comments upon it's taste. The garbage disposal unit takes the hit. I do not fare so well. I toss bottles of Ensure and the ever growing masses of non eating persons in my family. I remind myself that I am supposedly an adult and therefore banned from throwing a hissy fit of my own. I attempt clean up, when an additional wail demands my ever waning attention.

In the hall, my neglected daughter takes issue with the computer that is mal-functioning. She has used all the usual tricks to tempt it, but they have all failed. I repeat those same tricks that I have already taught her, just to be on the safe side. She voices the exact same complaints that we share when it comes to malfunctioning technology.
“I'm sorry dear, you'll just have to wait until Daddy gets up and see if he has any magic left.” She pouts. I pout in sympathy. I worry that I am producing another generation of Ludites?

I stand in the kitchen and listen to the tirade. The filthiest child in the world, as opposed to his little brother, the cleanest child in the world, is berating me. “Look! I just don't get it? I washed my hands and now there's no towel. Where is the towel? Who took the towel?” He is incensed with my inefficiency. For the last 8 years he has had no use for a towel, apart from the occasional wipe of a snotty face, the dab of a bloody toe or the smearing of primary coloured paint. Now, suddenly, I have acquired another critic. “Don't just look at me! My fingers are dripping! Find me a towel!” To hear my speech delayed, son speak without a stutter and in complete sentences, several seamless sentences, is too much for me to process. I “recent developments” overwhelming. I am too stunned and tired to quibble. I oblige. My fragile hold on reality, if not sanity, is severely challenged.

It's official. I am now in a thoroughly bad temper and it's not even 8 in the morning. I am also a bad mother. I have no energy, no patience and no humour. My milk of human kindness has evaporated, curdled. As soon as spouse's toe touches the bottom stair, I depart and take my cheesy self elsewhere. I fight back the waves of self pity and the under tow of self loathing. Bad wife.

I shut myself in an empty room. I take it out on my mother. I dial, long distance. I decide that I have no time left for the petty trifles of the elderly, infirm and defenseless. I pout as I listen and count the list of crimes against my person, my unhappy lot. Nobody in the world knows my woes. She stops prattling for a moment, presumably so that she can draw breath. There is a brief pause, followed by “are you still there dear?”
“Yes.” The international line is fraught.
“I'm sorry dear,” she continues, “I don't pretend to understand your busy life, and mine is so dull by comparison. I only wish I could wave a magic wand and make it all better.”
“Thanks mum. You just did!”

Bad daughter. Royal flush.


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Not a misdemeanour offence

 

It is because of these kinds of experiences that I worry about the effects of early “childhood” as you can see from my tiny “book review.”

I stand at the kitchen sink washing up. A small person inserts himself between my body and the sink, face to face, or rather his face to my tummy. His head tilts back to reveal a huge cheesy grin. I smile back and wait. I wait a bit longer, wondering what it will be this time and whether I shall ever finish the washing up?

“Are ya done?” he asks in a voice that is several octaves too low for a six year old.
“Nearly, just a few bits and bobs to go now.”

 

He flits away, apparently satisfied. I stack the last of plates and dither as to whether I should fold laundry or wash the dining room following breakfast?

“Are ya done yet?”
“Yes! Do you need help with something?”
“Nope.” He stands still, watching me.
“Are you sure, you've been asking me again and again, when I'll be finished?”
“I need ya to be done.”
“I am done, er finished.”
“No! I mean……I need you to be goned.”
“Gone? Gone where?”
Away,” he says breathily, a B actor in a horror movie.
“O.k. I'll go away.” I walk slowly out of the kitchen in the sure and certain knowledge that he is up to no good.

I hide next door and listen intently. I imagine the many forms of mischief that he has planned. I hope none of them involve mess or danger? Maybe he wants to steal some food. Now that would be great. Perhaps some new food, or is that beyond the realms of imagination? I tip toe back towards the kitchen in case I can catch him in the act.

I catch him in the act. A shiver passes through his body as he slips into freeze frame, the cariciature of a thief, hand poised, thumb and finger pinched together to hold the egg slicer. The tableau crumbles, “don't look, don't look, don't look!”
“Why?”
“Coz it might be blood,” he says in an ominous tone, a baritone for a boy.
“What might be blood?”
“Dah egg slice! It is a cutting fing. It is danger!”
“Oh I see!” I think? “Do you need help?”
“Um, no I am being dah danger, er…I am being dah brave.”

I consider bestowing bravery awards but decide that empowerment might be a better alternative. I dither. Maybe this is too much?
“Would you like to help me?” I suggest tentatively.
“What?”
“Help me?”
“What help are you?” How very disconcerting.
“I was thinking you could slice an egg for my sandwich with the egg slicer?”

 

He gasps, open mouthed and probably aghast, before blasting me with “dat is dah greatest idea!” I whip a hard boiled egg out of the fridge before he has a chance to change his mind, pop it in the cradle and guide his hands into the correct position.

“Off you go then, push it down.”
“Ooo, it is dah bouncy.” Why do they love eggs, even though no-one eats them?
“Push a little harder.” After all these years of occupational therapy, he still doesn’t have the strength of force to resist an egg.
“Ooo dah egg is dah strong!” What is the magical property of an egg?
“You're doing great, just a little bit harder.”
“Ooo he such a lovely cutesy wootsy eggy poos. I am loving being dah good helper.”

 

He uses his most persuasive tone as he woos the egg into submission. As the wires break through and reveal their slices, his tone changes to a nasal protest, “but you sure are dah stinkiest too!”

So much progress is such a short passage of “time.”


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Classic extra

If you had to sum up your child in a few sentences, how would you do it?  Why would you want to anyway?

I want to.  I need to clarify but not diminish.

If you met my son you’d know that there was something different about him, even before he spoke, if he spoke at all.  Maybe you’d think he was a  bit of a klutz.  He certainly looks lethargic.  He doesn’t have much to say for himself, but he’s well liked.  He is a kind and sensitive child, tentative and definitely an indoor type.  He sleeps like an angel nearly every night.  His primary interest at the moment happens to be Pokemon.  Should I mention that we love him dearly as all parents do?

We take the first tentative step after 8 years and visit the psychiatrist for another evaluation of my highly atypical autistic son.  The prescription is exorbitant.

Within 45 minutes, the son we are familiar with, is invaded by an interloper.  We panic, dither and fret.  Who is this child?  Where is our son?  We have no idea who this boy is?

There is nothing to be done.  We have to wait for it to wear off.  We know that no permanent damage will be done and it will be out of his system within 24 hours.  We have another quick panic or two before we give up and decide to get to know the visitor a little better, before he disappears again.

We sit in the garden at the table.  The other two children have finished their breakfast and disappeared inside to watch telly, while we watch our other son.  We ignore the other two.  They may have to watch telly all day, whilst we concentrate on this one.  We watch the stranger who picks at his croissant as he has no appetite at all.  I find a bottle of chocolate Ensure to tempt him, but his interest in stealing those bottles and drinking the contents, has also been stolen.

My semi silent son has been replaced with someone who talks incessantly.  His voice is so quiet we can hardly hear him, but he is so animated that we strain to catch every delightful syllable.  Instead of 95% Pokemon treatises, he taunts us with social chit chat.  The old pal that he met up with at Summer school, what he likes, what he doesn’t.  Every so often, he will pause, shake his head to mutter, “this is just a crazy day,”  or  “what a crazy day,” or  “this is such a crazy day.”  Each time it’s more or less the same words, but each time there is a different emphasis, it is not scripting nor echolalia.  We chat to our chatty son, baffled.

He is unable to swim because of the stitches in his finger.  Two children swim whilst he sits at my side.  He knows that swimming daily is a healthy form of exercise.  He jumps up to announce, “if I can’t swim I’ll do my jogging instead,” and trots of to run three circuits around the pool without falling over or bumping into anything.  I have never known him run anywhere voluntarily and certainly not without prompting and encouragement.

He is interrupted from his exercise by a bee.  He returns to my side to sit.  He sits for 45 minutes, outside the house, by my side without pummeling me for his deep proprioceptive input.  Instead I watch his feet work.  His legs circle at the knee.  They slip the flip flops on, and then off again.  He does this continuously for 45 minutes.  In-between whiles his toes clench and unclench, each digit in turn like an arpeggio on the piano keys.   Most days I cannot get him to put on a pair of shoes at all.  Putting on a pair of sandals usually takes between 5 and 15 minutes for two shoes.  I am uncertain whether to laugh or cry.

His body riles, a pit of  snakes that roil and writhe.  He is in a state of perpetual motion, unprecedented.  His huge eyes are wide open in an expression of interest and surprise.  He grinds his teeth as his face registers change like the riffle of  a well shuffled deck of cards.  His mouth tic is the worst it has ever been and the dribble is unmistakable.  Inside the house he walks with stiff legs, around and around and around, a bear without a cage.  His shoulders are high, so that he has no neck, head set at angle whilst his face is that of an expert gurner.  Both arms are crooked and locked, one bent at the elbow to display a branch of twig fingers.   He continues to chat.  I am terrified and ecstatic.

He runs about the house with a purpose.  He has several different purposes throughout the day.  One purpose doesn’t encroach upon another.  He manages each one separately without distractions, interference or interruptions.  I have no idea what is happening in his head, I can only see what is happening to his body and guess.

When bed time arrives at 8, he is still wired.  We allow his siblings to slumber.  Downstairs during the night time, is a distressing time.  He does not understand why he cannot sleep.  We discuss the matter with him because we can, discuss, that is to say.  We read books and cuddle the boy who is no longer an interloper but a fine new friend.

Eventually, just after two in the morning, he falls asleep.

Cheer up, it’s a small price to pay, in “theory.”


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Pain Threshold

Once long ago, lost in the mists of time, I visited the dentist in England.

Was it ever thus?

I went along for a particularly nasty procedure, which involved serious anesthesia. The kindly dentist assured me that he would gradually increase the dosage and within 5 – 10 minutes I would feel nothing. Once I felt nothing, he would proceed. I had nothing to worry about, not at all.

After half an hour and an ever increasing dose of pain medication, I was still lively and alert. He upped the dosage again and again and again. After an hour and a half I was dosed. I have a vague recollection that sounded like “enough to put out a cart horse!” and then nothing. To this date, I do not know if I need more anesthetic than Mrs. Average or whether I just need longer for it to take effect?

I have reason to recall this incident as I sit by the bedside of my son in the Emergency Room. Do not fear, it is only a squished finger, but you can’t be too careful. The bones are perfect. The gaping wound is a lucky escape. A finger in the hinge of a door, is likely to come off the worse in battle. During the last hour and a half, we have experienced lots of ‘owie, it hurts bad,’ but no tears. Broadly speaking his pain threshold is unusually low. He tumbles and bumbles about his life full of scratches and bruises, with seemingly no ill effects.

At the triage station we experience a meltdown. “Is he in a great deal of pain?” asks the nurse. I attempt a smile as I calm my son in a heap on the floor. I promise him faithfully that although he has missed ‘electronics time’ that whenever we manage to return home, he will be allowed to have his 30 minutes reward.
“But it will be night!” he squeaks, incredulous.
“I know, but that doesn’t matter. You can play electronics in the middle of the night, just this once.”
“But dah rule!” he gasps, mystified.
“We’ll skip the rule for tonight, just for tonight. Any time that you go to the ER will be an ‘electronics at night’ night.” He bristles with delight, let’s his head drop to my sternum and mutters, “Fank you mom, you are dah bestest, ever!” His face is alive with glee and excitement. Does he even have a blood drenched finger? He chortles and wriggles with joyful anticipation.

A Tuesday night is a relatively quiet night so we are truly fortunate to glide through the bureaucratic system. He does not seem particularly perturbed by the vast quantities of blood.

I am in my best all star cheerleader mode. I am so upbeat and jolly that I know I am the sort of person I would shoot, that is if I were not an upstanding member of the anti gun lobby. I take care to assert enough positive attitude to assure my son that we will, eventually, leave the hospital with his finger still attached to his person, his primary concern. His secondary concern is that he will be unable to play any of his electronic games with a malfunctioning finger.

I greet all pertinent members of staff and discretely point to the ‘speech delay’ part of his notes. They in turn, give me the benefit of the doubt: not a deranged hysterical mother.

I explain how it happened and my son interjects with his cartoon, hysterical voice, “she did it to me!” he bellows. He thrusts an accusatory finger at the centre of the room, where there is an empty space. The doctor looks askance, but I don’t particularly care. I continue. High jinks between siblings, an accident. “I’m gonna get her good!” he continues, in the menacing, ‘evil doer,’ cartoon character. I don’t know if the doctor is familiar with scripting, but it’s irrelevant to the current proceedings. “When I git me home, I’m gonna do her wrong!” he adds, in what seems to my untutored ear, like a perfect Texan accent. I don’t explain or excuse.

A needle of any kind, is not generally an attractive tool in a hospital. The staff are careful, they do not let him see it. Jabs, or shots, as we say in the States, alway produce a negative reaction, but it has to be done. I hold his other hand, his free hand, as the rest of his body is encased in a blue Velcro restraint, for his and the staff’s protection. It would be difficult for any child to remain still. The more still he is, the quicker the procedure will be, the sooner he will be released and all will be well.

I stroke his hair and hold his hand. I talk slowly and calmly. The local anesthetic induces a squeak of pain and surprise, his body tenses with the squalk of “oweei!” He holds it together with a quivering lip and moist eyes.

When the threaded needle pierces his flesh his eyes spout fountains of water, arcing rivulets. They fly from each one, his body rigid and arched, mouth open with screams that rip and shred the air.

“He can’t feel it. It can’t hurt him,. Sometimes they get confused between pain and sensation,” she adds catching my eye. Her stitches are swift and all is over within a minute. It is the longest minute that either of us have ever experienced. I rip off my bifocals and wipe my face, as he does not need confirmation that I have failed and betrayed him, that I should have anticipated and protected him. I am tempted to bite the physician because the correct words escape me. So base, so visceral, so instinctive.

Nothing will convince me that it was sensation rather than pain, but of course, we parents know nothing, far too emotionally involved.

Should you need a little light relief, come and visit me “here.”

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