Many moons ago when my brother was visiting, he walked into the family room where the television was on.

“You're not watching that!” he guffawed, being the intellectual type that he is.
At the time, I was in hot pursuit of my daughter whilst simultaneously breast feeding my son and carrying his ‘big’ brother.

“Yes, I am!” I snapped. Probably due too many leaky hormones.

The truth of the matter was that I wanted to watch Oprah on the telly. I wanted to be like my new American pal. I wanted to fit in. I wanted 'normal.' I knew that the vast majority of the female, stay at home mom population, watched Oprah every afternoon, whilst their little kiddie winkies frolicked and played, or napped.

My new American pal was a kindly woman with a huge heart. Whenever we met, she would ask me if I had watched such and such an episode. My response was always the same, failure. She always made it sound so interesting. I always felt that I had missed something. I had.

These days, now that life has changed so much during the intervening years, I still have Oprah's broadcast available to me via TIVO. 5 episodes every week, which I dutifully delete every Sunday night. Although I have watched a few programmes between then and now, I can't watch the celebrity ones as I never know who they are, I can't watch the 'be a better looking person' ones because I am old, I can't watch the 'this tragedy happened to this person' ones, because they are too depressing.

I remember that my mother would listen to “Woman’s Hour’ on the radio every day. We children were sworn to silence or banned from the vicinity. ‘Oprah’ seemed to be the modern equivalent. I was unable to work out why such an ordinary every day pastime, was completely beyond me? Of all the things that I could or should have done to prove to myself that ‘all was well’ this would seem like a bizarre choice. I chose it precisely because it seemed so ordinary and easy. It proved to be anything but.

I decided that my failure was due to the fact that my children, none of them, enjoyed afternoon naps, whereas every other mother on the planet had a different experience. I chose to ignore the different time zones throughout the world, which I believe would be evidence of denial.

Now that I am even older but not particularly wiser, I still wonder who those women are? Who are the viewers? I suspect that even her recent programme on autism would not have reached me in the situation I experienced, nor other people, who might be similarly situated. If the programme airs at four in the afternoon, [I just checked] who will be watching?

Me? No, afraid not. I’ll be wrapped up in the homework debacle after a slightly more successful school pick-up run. The children I chase are bigger now than those far away days. It’s still just as noisy, if not noisier around here but there are more words than there once were. But I’ll give you a dare – if Oprah takes up breast feeding then I’ll watch her programme.

Is that a double dare?

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Full of potential


It's not an interview.

It's more of an on site evaluation.

The new potential baby sitter is of course foreign.

This means she is far superior to the local version, where children are parked in front of the telly as soon as you leave the house.

I watch her reactions carefully, and completely ignore the antics of my children. Her arrival is timed perfectly. My youngest son is in full level 10 meltdown because his chores are incomplete and electronics time is therefore delayed. I am tempted to capitulate and create a good impression. He flails on the floor at full volume at the outrageousness and unfairness of my rules. “I am dah hate you, bad, bad, bad!” he shrieks. I sequence the other two young people through their 'greeting new people' steps, although it is difficult to hear anything at all with the screamer in tow.

I explain a few basics as we step over the riling body of my youngest. Her eyes are wide but she not on retreat. “He's a bit of a drama queen,” I mention in passing. I explain pertinent facts to assist her and the simple evening routine, tidy toys, clean teeth, wash face and hands, put on your pyjamas, which I expect exactly matches the routine in 99% of American households.

I am in mid sentence as junior bolts for the door, or rather bolts for the chair that elevates his diminished stature, that permits him to remove the deadbolt and bolt into the garden to the street.

We retrieve him. “I hate you! You are bad bad bad. I am go!” He marches through the house in the opposite direction with the determination appropriate to a monarch.
“Does he say that a lot?” asks the baby sitter.
“Every day,” I reply.
“Wow, I thought it was just me?” she wavers. “I mean, my 9 year old says that all the time!”

I look at the new potential baby sitter with more warmth. We are all parents and sometimes it's hard to work out what is autism and what is typical?
I race after him and the baby sitter follows my steps just in time to witness his contact with the button that opens the garage door to facilitate his escape. An alternative route to adoption.
“Sorry there's so many doors,” I whimper, “he'll be just fine if he get to 'electronics.' I just need to guide him to that point.”
I have already explained the significance of electronics. I know that she gets it. I can see it in her eyes, in her body language.

Every so often, some kindly parent takes pity on me. I thought I knew about girls but boys were a different species, a species I knew nothing about. Generous people throw me balm and help recalibrate my brain. Just yesterday I was in mid moan to a pal:
“Geez Madz! Get over yourself why don't yah! My boys piss on the walls and floor all the time! That's not autism!” I resist the urge to kiss her manicured toe nails for the unwarranted gift of a seductive dose of sanity.

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