I prepare supper during the 30 minute television session, a reward for job chores, or task completion as my professional pals tell me. I clatter in the kitchen half listening to the radio news and half listening to the television.
My son appears by my side, pogoing with unsuppressed excitement. Each hand grasps the other. His even teeth are exposed in a happy grin. He continues to bounce waiting for words to formulate and percolate. I stir the sauce in the pan and count each stroke as he brews up to 15. I turn myself towards him with my 'expectant' face on. He is on the side of slender, enjoys a wide ranging diet, can be tempted into trying 'new food,' and is the slowest eater on the planet. Like most children he loves ice-cream. Dessert is usually the reward for that which comes before. He is often hungry but not really a foodie, more of a re-fueller. I believe that there are children who relish their food. I distinctly recall from my own childhood that meals were merely a hurdle to overcome before you could go back to doing what ever you were doing. Whatever you were doing, was always far more interesting than meal times and my mum was a very good cook.
He gives up the word search, stops pogoing and grabs my wrist to pull me in the direction of the family room. This is hand leading, a skill more often associated with very young children, a recent development that I am thoroughly enjoying. After two or three steps in the right direction, some words catch up with him, “come on! Come see this!” This is an added bonus for me because shared or joint attention to some trivial matter, is also a common feature of early childhood that has been absent here.
He pogos in front of the television screen, his right arm crooked and poised. His timing is off, but nevertheless, his arm shoots out a second or two later to point at the advertisement, “look!” I oblige. I witness an advertisement for a junk food snack, a savoury one, chicken dunks. It looks utterly repulsive. I imagine that the list of additives will be far longer than any real ingredients. The 'food' comes with free toys. The free toys are not Pokemon, and not related to any other current interest of his.
He has never shown any interest in food of this kind. There again I have recently discovered that he swaps food at lunch time with his pal at school. My son gives his preferred snack to his pal and in return, his pal gives my son something that he doesn't like, some kind of chips. My son knows that most children like these chips. His Aides tell me that he does a jolly good job of expressing genuine glee on receipt of something that he is indifferent to, at best. I am uncertain if he does this to please his friend, to fit in with his peers or both? Quite frankly, I couldn't care less, as either or both are such a huge leap in “social awareness” that it's enough to send a mother to the junk food aisle post haste. Having just read how other parents cope with their “adult autistic offspring,” I find that I cannot help but treasure every tiny indicator that things might turn out otherwise. Not better, just “happier.”
This is not the kind of food I want any of my children to be eating because I am a pretentious food snob with the income and free time to back it up.
“Please! We be having dah fun food?” he whispers breathily. His sister looks over with equal longing. To have two of my children enjoy the same dinner would be quite a coup for someone like me, the short order chef. I look from one to the other, teetering on my pedestal, or is that food pyrimid, when the little one crashes in to dash their hopes, “dah food is not fun! Dat is sooooo stoopid! Food is never dah fun!” he spurts in a tone of outrage and bewilderment.
Now although both boys have speech delays, my older son has greater difficulty, which causes no end of complications. However, lately it he has been more proactive about this obvious discrepancy. Rather than fight back with words, his weak suit, he avoids arguments by simply launching himself on his little brother, knocks him flat and lies on him. Initially this appears to be very aggressive behaviour, but neither seems to object particularly. The little one gives a little ‘poof’ of surprise, as they topple over. They both lie there for a little while wordless and calm. After a few moments, the big one rolls off the little one and all seems to be well. It’s a coping mechanism that seems to work for both of them. Hey! They’re brothers afterall.