My definitions and categories become looser with every advancing year, a very sloppy habit. It's probably just a survival mechanism on my part. Gone are the days where you encouraged your off spring to delicately dab at the corner of the mouth with a serviette. [translation = napkin] These days I'm satisfied if we can spend communal minutes in one room that happens to have the dining room table and food in it simultaneously.

I sit next to my son at the breakfast table, enfeebled by the 25 minute fruit fight. I'm not sure who has won. Technically, since the fruit is inside him, I should be able to claim victory. He sits cross legged and half naked on his furry red cushion. The chair is at a thirty five degree age to the table, about an eight inch span for his body to stretch. It’s the left hand side of his body. This would be an appropriate stance in an old fashioned bar, with a pint at your side whilst you chatted to a friend opposite you. Or would be if you ignored the lower half of his body and the issue of underage drinking. A wide variety of comments come to mind, running along the lines of 'sit up straight,' elbow[s] off he table,' 'legs down,' and so on, but they stay in my head.

His spoon flaps from his floppy hand showering cereal over a 4 foot radius with every welcome mouthful. It is stunning just how difficult they make this simple operation. He is a suspension bridge from chair to table, but that's only to be expected if you have poor muscle tone, as so many autistic children do. [translation = poor core strength] His head is on one side, which helps keep the cereal inside, since his mouth is open as he attempts mastication. I wonder which is more important, to eat your cereal politely or be able to breathe at the same time? I cannot recall ever having eaten anything in a similar pose, even though I try really hard to remember what it was like to be little.

I think it's o.k. for the experienced diner to not orientate themselves towards their food, especially if you're doing something else at the same time, such as have a cordial conversation with your companion. But of course there is no talking and I wouldn't be the one to put additional pressures upon him at this junction. This is fine because eating and talking should be mutually exclusive tasks. But then he is not chatting, why would he? He is not an experienced or expert diner, he is but a mere amateur. He should have a big L tattooed on his forehead, 'caution learner eater, please keep a wide berth.'

How can you eat if you're not sufficiently interested to even look at your bowl, where the food is located? There again, how do you expect to eat anything if you have to think about holding a spoon and have no concentration? If you can't connect the spoon to the contents to the mouth, a triangle sequence, then starvation is likely. Clearly a species that doesn't eat efficiently is on the downward path. I think Darwin would have a lot to say about my son.

He is the picture of disinterest, he is merely refueling on something that isn't offensive. He is just sufficiently and minimally connected to the whole proceeding of breakfast, to eventually complete the operation. He is perfectly positioned for escape when the exercise is over or whenever his calorie count is sufficient, whichever happens first. When the 334th energy unit is registered, he'll drop the spoon and catapault off that chair to start anything that isn't in the category of eating. I watch the floppy spoon flap a bit, debating whether he's on the 300th calorie spoonful or the 335th?

The spoon clatters like a race bell, the chair tumbles over like starter blocks and he's off without a backward glance, victorious. I check my watch. Six minutes and thirty seconds to consume 335 calories, dry ones without milk. There again, it is also six minutes and thirty seconds of sitting. [translation = depending upon your definition of sitting, of course.}

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You may care to read ‘phobias’ prior to this article.

My daughter is engaged in the bathroom [translation = sitting on the throne] with one foot operating the lever on the pedal bin as she chants “bin, trash, garbage, rubbish,” in time to the clanking of the lid as it crashes against the pedestal. I sit at the table with the boys. Junior son's current breakfast consists of 3 grapes, each color, a raspberry, a strawberry, a blackberry, a serious challenge, a few blue berries, the blandest and most innocuous fruit ever to grace the planet, a cube of pineapple and half a banana. This means that breakfast is generally a very LOUD affair. This is of course perfect timing, now that we’re reaching the end of the soft fruit season. He’ll have forgotten all about them, that he has nearly conquered them. By next year they’ll be ‘new food’ again. Ah well. The fruit is a precursor, nay an aperitif, to more preferred food, 44 minutes of fruit, one minute of cereal. 44 minutes to eat a quarter cup of fruit, one minute to eat a cup of cereal, but life's a trade off. Her chant continues in the bathroom, “bin [clank], trash [clank], garbage [clank], rubbish [clank].” I consider removing the label from the bin, marked with the same words to assist those who have difficulty identifying everyday household objects without such clues.

I run a quick inventory of the odd things in my house that are labeled, just a few of them, like the 4 foot toy chest that has a little yellow label on it saying 'trunk' or the 6 foot fridge labeled 'fridge' or more confusingly, the door labeled 'sink,' which is at eye line height, so that when he walks into the door in the morning, he'll be reminded that he's really heading for the sink. It's like some deep surreal mystery, where I inhabit the same planet where I am the alien.

We reach the hurdle of the latest new fruits. He screams as is his wont and tries to escape from the cage of his carver chair.
“It's hairy!” he yeowls.
“What is?”
“The fruit!”
I examine his platter looking for a rogue bloom of mould that I may have missed in haste. Nothing. Pristine fruit, the peak of freshness, a delicious, juicy, tempting array of the best the supermarket has to offer.
“It's not dear, it's perfect.” His sister appears by my side to comment, “he's never gonna eat it ya know.” I am uncertain whether she has mislaid her American positive attitude or whether this is my reality check?
“Rubbish, of course he will, he's eaten one every day for ten days now.”
“What cha mean 'rubbish,'” she enquires, head to one side. I blink, checking continents.
“Oh, 'rubbish' can mean 'nonsense' or 'don't be so silly,' sort of thing, too.”
“Hairy, hairy, hairy! 'Hairy' cannot be food,” he screams in case I didn't manage to hear him properly the first time.
“He's not gonna eat it,” comes the voice of doom. I look again in case the hygiene consultant shed a follicle inadvertently during food preparation, as such mistakes do occur in non commercial kitchens such as mine. Nothing.
“It's fine dear, no hairs.” The other one starts up, breaking his monastic silence, “I, I, I, um, I don like fruit, it is yucky for me, but I'm gonna try, I'm gonna try and eat it anyways,” he says stuffing a blueberry into tight lips.
“You need to open your mouth first dear.”
“I can't eat hairy! It is bad to eat hairy.”
“There is no hair dear,” I say firmly with my eyes very close to his eyes. He growls with exasperation at my stupidity.

I concede the point that some fruit is in fact hairy, a whole category of hairy fruit such as kiwi, or peaches, if you're being really picky, but his breakfast is devoid of the hairy varieties. He gestures with his index finger towards the offender. I follow as he identifies the raspberry, stabbing the nearby air space with teeth bared and a crumpled nose, as the stench of raspberry is clearly overpowering. Our faces move in closer to examine the culprit. “See!” he accuses, but I don't. He hurls himself back in the chair and clunks his skull of the wood, 'mothers! Who'd have them!'

“Your eyes are bad, your eyes are stupid, why you have stupid bad eyes that don't work proper?” A well reasoned argument, one that I haven't recently considered but always subject to review. I try harder. I pick up the raspberry to line it up with the bifocals at 6:52 in the morning, and do you know what, he's right, there are tiny little hairs on a raspberry, minute ones. This is a valuable new piece of information for a middle aged person to acquire. I wonder why it is, that whilst for most people, advancing years result in greater wisdom but that other less fortunate persons, are forced to face chasms of ignorance? I also wonder how best to proceed, now that I have been proved wrong both categorically and category wise? His face is set, arms folded across his chest in a gesture of defiance. I replace the fork on the side of the platter as a droplet of juice forms on the pierced raspberry. I debate how to manage my defeat, which apparently is discernible from my facial expression, as he reaches a gentle hand across to my shoulder, “I am sorry your eyes are old rubbish.”

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