Perspective Taking

ancient brits025


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St. Patrick's Day

What my children, don't know about making Leprechaun Traps isn't worth knowing. Their knowledge of other Irish trappings, or symbols has reached it's zenith. The subject has been fully covered in each of their classrooms, interwoven into every lesson including occupational and speech therapy. Yup, around here, the subject has been licked. Since St. Patrick's Day is not a school day this year I am saved the pain of trying to dress three children from head to foot in green. We have always failed in the green shoe department, so that is yet another couple of meltdowns that we have managed to skirt. I must admit to being ignorant about the ‘mint’ lure, but there always seems to be something new every year that I’ve missed.Yes, ‘Green’ Day has arrived. Senior is o.k. with ‘green’ just as long as you don’t refer to it as green. He needs specifics; chatreuse, lime, neon. Junior shuns green as a secondary colour, currently not in favour. He is mollified by because ‘golden’ or yellow a primary colour is also king. We have pots of ‘gold’ cut out at great pains due to the torture of scissors on the fine motor skills, lined up with precision, accompanied by a lot of screaming since Scotch tape is the material from hell. There again he did help me hang to Shamrock decorations that adorn our home, held gingerly between thumb and forefinger in a squeamish pincher grip. He did drop them a few times because obviously holding paper is similar to holding a hot coal, but with persuasion he would try again.

I contemplate some kind of burger [meat] on the barbeque, whether that would increase my chances of success? Caramelized cabbage and onions instead of a dill pickle? Cucumber relish as our token green? I know that a baked potato would fly, but that would probably be literally thrown, depending upon how you define fly. Irish stew in the garden when the temperatures in the mid 70’s doesn’t sound that attractive to me either.


I chop parsley to throw into the Irish Stew, my mother's not particularly authentic version. I peel some potatoes in case the Colcannon doesn't fly and ensure that we have a full bottle of tomato sauce at the ready to disguise, if not drown the menu. I rinse the cabbage and tip it into the steamer. I debate the ultimate destination of each? There is a wide choice of options, between the floor, the compost bin or the garbage disposal unit. I blink hard and think positive = liquidize to make soup.

I regret that the tricks of yore with a different generation of children, fail so miserably with the current one:
“They're strawberry flavoured crisps!”
“No, really, it is a Kangeroo burger.”
“The more green food you can eat the faster you'll be able to run.” I feel quite wistful thinking how easy it all was once.
It's a good thing really, that as a parent I have learned that 'lies' are not the best policy, even if it's taken me a couple of decades to come to this realization.

We will don our sparkly green bowler hats, well everyone except junior of course, as his head is still strictly off limits. Since they have already had their classrooms destroyed by a plague of marauding leprechauns, I’m probably not obliged to repeat the exercise at home. Junior was not impressed with this social joke and needed a great deal of reassurance that we probably would not be similarly invaded at home.

All in all, I think maybe we got off quite likely by comparison with last year. We may not have advanced to St. Patrick’s Day Parades, but a lot of people don’t like crowds. Perhaps next year they might actually enjoy it, a bit of it, or a few bits. There is a watered down Irish gene in there somewhere, at the end of some rainbow or other, even if the pot of gold is made of scratchy paper.


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Little Jack Horner wasn't neophobic

In America if you do something twice it automatically qualifies for 'tradition' status. In other countries 100 years, would be a more common measure. [translation = and don't skip a year or you have to start again from one] For current purposes, I suspect that we may have formed a teeny tiny American tradition of our own. Every year on Thanksgiving, we troll around to my American pals' house. We go at the end of our day, [translation = early evening, supper time as opposed to dinner time] to join them for pudding. [translation = dessert]

This is a household of pies. [translation = a regular old American kind of a home] They have pies of every kind, each one more foul than it's fellow; pecan [gets stuck in the braces] apple [too sweet] and horror of horrors, the truly revolting pumpkin pie. [translation = take violently orange coloured root vegetable and hide it in pastry {sub translation = which is where it should remain in my opinion, hidden, that is to say}] I should point out that I am in the minority of one in my own household.

Yes, my pal is very bright. [translation = smart {sub translation = NB 'smart' = well dressed}] She deliberately sought out to corrupt my children at the earliest opportunity. [translation = convert them to the American way] Now I have five pie eaters to contend with. There again, one day in every 365 devoted to pie shouldn't be too much to ask?

We sit around their American table [translation = large enough to slaughter a bull on] and chat. I spoon mouthfuls of pie into the one that can't / won't hold a spoon, encourage spoon holding in the one that can hold a spoon but won't, and squirt cream on the other two slices for the mainstream participants.[translation = senior daughter has abandoned us. {translation = visits a real American family in Maine]

“What can we get you?” enquires my host.
“Oh I'm fine, I'm still full of turkey thanks.”
“You have to have something?”
“You're right. I need to have something to absorb the wine. I don't suppose you have any left over sprouts?”
“Sprouts?” asks my hostess. Her eye brows rise so that I am better able to observe her blink.
“Yes, any Brussels left over from lunch?” [translation = food eaten at 4 in the afternoon?]
“You want Brussel sprouts?”
“Just a thought! Or have you already composted them?”
“You want left over Brussel sprouts?”
“Yes. You don't have to warm them up or anything, they'll be just fine cold.”
“You'd be wanting salt with that wouldn't you?” Do I detect a hint of sarcasm? How grossly unfair, Americans aren’t supposed to be able to do that, genetic I think.
“Only if it's not too much trouble?”
“Cold brussel sprouts and a salt cellar, huh!”
“Just a thought.”
My hostess leans across the table to establish eye contact “the day a Brussel sprout enters this house, is the day I jump in the compost heap, if we had one!” The engineer, student, professional, lawyer and spouse lean back in their chairs and stare at me with their arms folder. [translation = consensus of opinion {sub translation = none of them are doctors}]
Is it too late to assert that I adopted them? [translation = gene pool]
“I don't suppose there's any point in asking if you have any mint sauce? No? No matter [translation = worries] I'll bring my own supply next year. There will be a next year won't there?”

They're always welcome here. You can drive em.” [translation = chauffeur with picnic]


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High What


High what?
I have always had very strong views on the nature v. nurture debate and closely align myself with the nurture camp. Or at least I did until I was presented with two autistic boys. I quickly changed allegiance to the opposite camp.

I tell you truly, that before I set foot in this country, I had never in my life given anyone a 'high five,' when I was then aged 35. Such familiarity was well beyond my remit. I'm still not confident enough to ask whether it refers to some kind of sporting gesture, or merely indicates that you and your partner are fortunate enough to both enjoy having five digits? What is the appropriate behavioural model if your partner has less? These are the kinds of things that give me sleepless nights. If you had told me a decade ago, that I would be encouraging my children to make this gesture, or that, perish the thought, I too, would become such a person, I would have suffered an attack of the vapours.

I distinctly remember trying to train my three year old to practice shaking hands before he met his grandfather for the first time. The words, 'how do you do?' and 'very well thank you,' were beyond him, due in part to the speech delay, but I thought that the hand shake gesture was a possibility. I put all the other social requirements to the back of my mind, things like deportment, deference, respect, table manners, British food and speak only when you are spoken to – at least we'd be alright on that one, as no-one was very likely to speak to him anyway.

I had horrible nightmares predicting my son's reaction to anyone attempting to touch him, shake his hand, let alone a six foot giant with an English accent claiming genetic connections. I spent many a long night before the visit, in bed imagining the wide variety of scenarios that were possible, all of them bad. I have never discovered whether it's possible to know how many times you have fainted during the night, if you happen to be horizontal at the time? I prayed that the speech delay would disguise his American accent. It didn't. Since he was still small, the hilarity caused by his speech or rather his accent, went unnoticed, at least by him. He may not have technically understood what was going on, but the underlying vibrations were easy to detect. He had few words at that time, but he decided not to use any of them for the entire fortnight [translation = 2 weeks] that we were there, he effectively went on strike. A distinctly British disease.

Just in case you were wondering 'well if that's the case why didn't you get him checked out?' I can only say that you're absolutely right, but at the time, he could read simple sentences, spent hours pawing over books and could name you every dinosaur ever dug up with the correct pronunciation, when he was only three. We thought that he just chose not to talk very much, because when he did speak, the sentences were often too complex, rather than the other way around. But that issue is complicated by echolalia, which I'll leave for another time.

Meanwhile, we are left with a couple of autistic children with the wrong kind of parents. It truly is the match from hell, the autistic child and the Brit parent. Now admittedly I'm speculating here, but imagine if your world was encompassed by a barrier of frosted glass. Outside you have the parent, the tight lipped, monotone, softly spoken, wooden bodied muttering adult. You'd barely register through the glass, you'd just be a quiet foggy shadow. What you need is a loud vivacious animated effervescent cheerleader type, and I think you only find them in the States. If that was the parent on the other side of the glass, it just might catch your attention, might and I repeat 'might' be, just sufficiently interesting to make you step up and try to smear back the mist.

In the meantime, if you spot some crazed woman in the park squalking “High Five,” at 50 decibels in a funny accent and attempting to co-ordinate palm to palm contact with a few small people, give her the benefit of the doubt? They may have many disadvantages but the majority of them are genetic. The minority of their problems are merely genetic.

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