Focus and multitasking

Family life with children can be stressful for a couple of decades of our lifetime's.

Small children require a great deal of physical effort. Teenagers tap into the failing cerebral skills of their parents. Financial woes both great and small add a layer of pressure to the traditional family.

The stay at home parent often seeks instant relief from duty, the moment the other parent crosses the threshold. There is so much competition for time and attention that often we fail to cut the other half a little slack. Both parties believe that they give 110% to the relationship.

Or maybe that's just around here?

We attempt a conversation in the kitchen whilst one child mimics a cat around his ankles and the other is determined to reach the ceiling via a shoulder carry.

I clatter and cook.

“What is all this stuff anyway?”
“Just a bit of shopping. I've not had a moment to put it away. Don't look at it, just push it to the back of the counter so that I can start supper.”
“What are these?”
“Oh just picture frames.”
“I can see they're picture frames. Why are there 8 of them?”
“Because they were going cheap.”
“8?”
“Well I thought they'd be nice in the family room.”
“The family room is already plastered with all their……er…….art.” He wobbles a bit with his unwieldy load.
“Exactly.”
“Exactly what?”

“Well now it's summer and the fans are on, all that flapping paper is driving me batty. Bits of it keep falling off and fluttering about the place. I must have used a whole roll of seleotape sticking it all back up again.”

“So?”

“So I thought I'd pick 8 of the best ones and pop them into frames after I've decorated.”

“Decorated?”

“Yes I'm going to paint the walls. Have you seen the tide marks?”
“You can't see the tide marks because of all the art.”
“Exactly.”
Our youngest son meows, plaintively.
“So you're going to paint the walls.”
“Yes. Freshen it up a bit.”
“Have you any idea how much that will cost?”
“No, I'll do it myself, cheap labour.”
“So why didn't you go and buy paint, brushes, drop clothes, masking tape, all the things you need to paint?”
“I'll make a list. Anyway I can get those any time. It's a question of doing everything in the right order.”
He staggers about the kitchen a bit, trying to maintain balance and focus.
“Right. So really you should buy the frames last.”
“Oh no. Careful don't tread on him!”
He shifts his weight and shuffles as the top guy makes another lurch towards the ceiling.
“Why?”
“Because after I've decorated and go out to buy 8 picture frames I can guarantee you that I won't be able to find 8 all the same.”
“8 cheap ones that are all the same?”
“Precisely.”
“But this one's got a chip.”
“Hardly noticeable. I did say they were cheap.”
“Maybe you could tackle something less ambitious?”
“Such as?”
“All the other projects that you started and never quite got around to finishing?”
I resist glare and swallow pout, “hmm.”
“All this because of a little fluttering!”
“It'll increase the value of the house.”
“Minus the cost of eight holes in the wall.”
“Pardon?”
“Nothing. When is this evolution going to take place?”
“I'm not sure yet. I need some time when no-one will be in the house. Or a barricade to keep them out.”
Cats spit, but I'm not sure which ones.
“You plan is to make the family room off limits! The one room where we spend 95% of our waking lives!”
“I just need a couple of consecutive child free days.”
“Hmm maybe we can wait approximately 11 years, if we're lucky?”
“I'll add barbed wire to the list.”
“It would be cheaper to buy more earplugs.”
“Ear plugs?”
“Save you from having to hear all that annoying fluttering.”
“I'll add duct tape to the list too!”
“It’ll take more than a strategic strip of tape to shut me up.”


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See it all before

This is a four step programme for perfect parenting.  The first part of being a good parent is to do the right thing.  The second step  is figuring out what the right thing might be?  In any given situation, if you can master these two basic skills you are well on the road to success.  All you have to do then, is follow though on your decision and be consistent thereafter forever, the last two steps – persistence and consistency.   This masterful, empowering programme should be adopted by all parents worldwide, from the moment the baby gulps the first lungful of air.

***

I see her pedicured toes, encased in four inch heels, as she totters up the path.  Baby carrier slung on one arm, a school age child dragging on the other.  I'm uncertain whether she deserves award for 'best effort' or a chair?

I see a father in his business suit berating his son, “why didn't you bring it?” mystified, frustrated and already late for work.

A parent helps her child with the fluttering papers that escape from a back pack, “why did you unzip it?”  The baby stroller next to her creeps backwards down the gentle incline.

A mother and son stand in line outside his classroom.  Both are immaculately turned out.  The mother chats to other mothers.  Her son picks his nose with the dedication of a surgeon.

Another mother comes to the end of a rope of  her daughter's hair.  A skillful, even braid, heavy in the palm of her hand, just before the school bell, “what do you mean you lost the elastic band?” she gasps  at the six year old.

So many rhetorical questions that we all say every day wasting lungfuls of air.

And me?  I sit on the bench outside the school wondering why I am no longer equipped with two changes of clothing at all times.  I dither over the recovery strategy.   One bemoans that her new white sports trainers are already falling apart and filthy.  Another  is covered in dust from head to toe having discovered the joy of scuffing dirt clouds.  His new chant of 'dusty, musty, fusty,' begins to rankle.  The last one is sodden, soaked through to the skin, having become entangled and then enraptured with a sprinkler on the walk to school.

All perfectly seamless really, in all our different ways.

I see someone's Grandpa leaning against the wall, on substitute parent duty.  He watches the children.  He watches his lad.  As the bell clangs and children dive into air conditioned classes, he moves off, wipes his brow with a white handkerchief and smiles, as well he might.


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The Explosive Child

I read and scribble in the margin of the “The Explosive Child.” Ordinarily written dialogue is helpful, but I find it hard to believe that any parent would speak to their child in such a manner. They all seem to get far too cross too soon. Either the average parent has very high expectations of their children, or maybe I have very low expectations of mine? Since I am generally in the minority, I conclude that the latter must be correct.

I am very much aware of the dual plank that parents need to tread: expect the most from your child and they will try and live up to your expectations, versus do not set unrealistic goals for your children or set the bar to high so that they do not experience continued failure. This particular plank beats me from both ends all too frequently.

What are often dual standards quickly become quadruple standards if you have a typical child in the mix, even if I ignore other family dynamics.

One simple example is as follows:- a parent calls from the kitchen to their child 'turn off your game, wash your hands and come to the table for dinner.' It's an approximation not a quote. The child, for whatever reason[s], does not comply, an argument ensues and all is lost. It's a very ordinary every day example of a situation that many parents experience often, but not me.

First of all this is a three step sequence, the parent asks the child to do three different things in succession, and we're still working on two step sequences. The request is made verbally, their are no visual cues such as a schedule board, PECS or cards, to support the requests. Secondly, the parent speaks to the child from another room. Although I do this too, I know it doesn't work. Thirdly, anything to do with the termination of electronics time, has a whole set of extra rules that must be applied sympathetically by the parent, or rather by me. Fourthly, washing hands is a 13 step sequence in and of itself! Fifthly, as with many families, the offer of food is not a positive incentive but an aggressive aversive and must be handled with due sensitivity.

A sensible person will ask 'well why are you reading it then dimwit!' or 'have you changed their diagnosis without telling me?' Well I'm reading it because it was recommended by someone I trust, and although their labels remain the same, there is such a huge overlap with other labels that it never hurts to widen the net and pick up a few tips from elsewhere. Does this mean that the book is useless? On the contrary I know I still have a great deal to learn. I am sure that this recommendation to me will prove useful in many respects. However, it does make me realize how far we are off the beaten track.

Maybe we need to take up hiking?

Perish the thought!


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Do unto others


We attempt rational review rather than ranting and raving. Why is it that I have to herd cats with jelly legs [translation = children] whereas HE sweeps about with a school of well trained fish? [translation = children] I try and keep the tone of 'grossly unfair' out of my voice, during the discussion. What is it that he does or doesn't do, that I am do wrongly or not doing? What is the difference? He shrugs his shoulders with a blank expression in return. I try again to extract the pertinent facts from my husband. What is his secret? Why won't he share?

On the whole, due to spouse's commitment to work [translation = voluntary servitude] he isn't home very much. When he is at home, during the weekend, [translation = sometimes but not necessarily awake] he will often take the children out for a jaunt. [translation = especially lately due to maternal malfunctioning] During such occasions, small people remain vertical and move about as a unit. This is in direct contrast with my own experience where those same small people either lie down or run away or both. Now this is a man who might directly benefit from such behaviours. [translation = weight issues, diabetes and high cholesterol mean that frantic burst of exercise would be a plus] I should really like someone to explain why our experiences are directly opposed? Who should I ask? The perpetrator. [translation = the man with parenting superpowers]

His excursions with the children are not without event, but it's a question of the order of magnitude. [translation = Richter scale.] It has long been my experience that I have failed to perform to the standards that others expect. [translation = could do better] Generally I hover between E for effort and F for failure. For myself, I am content with 'better than yesterday.' [translation = slacker] Be that as it may, for the most part, I am more than happy to cheat and lie to gain a better grade, and for the right now, I long to plagiarize, but he won't give me as much as a peek.

“What?” he asks.
“What what? I didn't say anything?”
“You didn't have to, I can see your question written all over your face.”
“Really! How very astute of you. So what is the answer then oh great one?”
“22.”

It’s always 22, regardless of the question.


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The Joys of Autism – progress for all

You think I'm joking, but I'm not. Enough of this depressing moaning and groaning about the tragedy of autism. For us at least, it has been a good kick up the backside. [translation = but{t}?] Whilst I would not have chosen to have autistic children, now they're actually here, they sort of grow on me after a while.

Just the other day, I heard on the radio that for most of us, our characters have been formed and set in concrete, from our early thirties. This is a little surprising as I'm sure that it wasn't until the mid 40's that the dye was truly set. [translation = cast] Short of a life changing tragedy, such as a near death experience, most of us are unlikely to change more than about 10%, at best. I believe this to be true and it certainly was for me, or at least it was, until we had two autistic boys, following two typical girls.

At first it seemed like the worst kind of career change that I could have possibly chosen. I was unqualified for such a responsibility, [translation = terrified newbie] without the slightest clue about what I should do or how? It was made more confusing by the fact that although they had the same diagnoses, their ‘symptoms’ were almost opposite. I think that's why they call it a 'spectrum disorder.' Any parenting principles that I’d picked up over the years, were quite frankly, irrelevant. [translation = bad news] I had to start again from first principles, unlearn and re-learn everything. It was daunting. I had been reasonably confident of my competence in at least this one realm of my life. Then I found that due to a couple of dodgy genes, I was now a complete ignoramus. I think I might have preferred to have had autistic boys when I was younger, when I had more energy, when my brain was still flexible enough to adapt. [translation = a sponge not an icicle] I wouldn't have fretted over every little decision, because the young don't generally.

On the other hand, age and crumbliness may sometimes allow for a more patient approach, after all I've nothing better to do with my life now. And what could be more gratifying than learning to see the world from a whole new perspective, in fact, a couple of new perspectives, at my time of life. Maybe a case of rose tinted spectacles. [translation = Double vision or bifocals, I know which I prefer.

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