The truth of the matter

When it comes to family life few people are able to imagine the mental torture of my existence. It's not just the obvious things like Hermit crab maintenance but other matters such as a well balanced nutritional diet for my off-spring. Like all parents I am keen that mine should have a good start in life, as encompassed by balanced nutrition. The rules of the food pyramid are carved on the other side of my endless grocery shopping list. I have the advantage of speed reading labels, so that I am instantly able to recognize junk food. In case you have trouble in this area, if you pick up a packet of food and the ingredients list is longer that 10, chuck it back on the shelf and save the strain on your bifocals.

I am happy to accommodate reasonable food preferences, fads and fancies within the usual budgetary restraints, but I have the added burden of different calculations, not mere financial ones. This burden becomes all the more obvious to me after my spouse returns home after a quick emergency yummies trip to Trader Joes. Clearly the man is clueless, witless and in need of a sugar fix.
“Look at these!” he beams as he shakes the 'bake to crisp up' rolls that were going cheap at the end of the day.
“He doesn't eat that kind of bread and he certainly won't eat it if it's hot!” My mind calculates the trajectory of just how far crispy crumbs could ping over a ten foot area of dining room?
“What about this!”
“Hmm, it should probably be chilled.” Half an hour in the fridge will engender the Blackberry Crush undrinkable by one and may just save us from the staining of hands, clothes and anything else within transit duty. Gross motor skills aside they could do without the empty calories and sugar rush.
“I thought this might tickle your fancy?” I smile appreciatively at the Naan bread. “Soft!” he coos as he pats my cheek that hides my malfunctioning fake teeth, although now I'll have to make a curry to go with it, that only two people, adult people, will eat. He has bought enough exotic frozen food to feed a class of hungry foreign Kindergardeners, even though the freezer is already over flowing.
“And finally,” he announces with a flourish, “my all time favourite, Panettone!” I disguise my grimace. “It's o.k. I know they've had dinner, this can be a dessert!” I pull a face. “It's o.k., it's really only sweet bread, very few crumbs and enough dried fruit it in to make it a nutritional feast.” He beams.

Those genes, the Italian ones, will out!

I know he’s almost right. I give up.

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In my Grandmother's Chest

One of my favourite childhood 'in the car games,' for long journeys from my own childhood of course, not my own children's. As I stand at the check out at Target, I stock up on essential supplies for the forthcoming holiday. I have a smug and self satisfied expression at my collection of purchases.

I have enough Play dough for several days because now I am the proud 'owner' of a seven and a half year old and a six year old who no longer consider playdough to be the substance from hell. They can touch it, they can squish it, tolerate the stench of it's perfume, permit their bodies and clothing to be contaminated by it. Ah yes, life is good.

A very smart woman behind me, [translation = nattily attired] surveys the conveyor belt and smiles at me in a friendly manner. The huge carton of pull-ups, 65 – 125 lbs catches her eye. Bit of a give away.

I have enough mouth wash to kill every bacterium from here to San Francisco and back again. Enough 'Ensure' to ensure that I will be able to refuel at high speed.

Otherwise I have three of everything. It is always a mistake to try and match gifts to the personality and preferences of an individual child. The net result is always the same, everyone likes one particular item and no-one likes the other two. If you wish to commence warring factions in the confines of your own home then this is the best place to start. Having said that, although each item is identical to it's fellow, due to the joys of mass production, someone will determine an identifying feature, flaw or anomaly, that will ensure that each is distinguishable, preferred or disowned.

I now have enough cleaning materials to make sure that the house remains sterile. This in turn will enable me to continue the on-going food campaign. In most households, food that falls to the floor is discarded as unsanitary and contaminated. In this household, that rule is reversed, because small intelligent people learn fast. Their solution to any food campaign is to deposit my nutritional choices on the ground. Parents need to acquire nerves of steel, so as to be able to endure the sight of their children licking the floorboards. This is not a job for the faint hearted.

My eye drifts over the contents of the trolly behind me. [translation = cart] I am a dry, old stick of a woman. I refuse to permit myself to make any disparaging assumptions, cast any aspersions or otherwise make judgments about her catering pack of multicoloured, flavoured con I have it on good authority that they serve a wide variety of purposes. I determine to remain “open minded,” it would be dreadful if my

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A rose by any other name…beware of train spotters

I run in from the garden covered with muck and compost, undermined by a “caffeine” shortfall. I operate at half speed, due to an “unusually slow” start to the day. I'm careful to hide the secateurs now that tools and cutting tools are no longer categorized as instruments of torture and death. I make a quick head count as the supervisor is otherwise occupied with the computer. My daughter lounges on the sofa with a how to draw book from the library, but she's careful to note the page count on the school calendar so that she'll be eligible for a prize in her class. It would appear that the 'electronics' cupboard has been pillaged. Both boys are 'wired' to their Gameboy and Ninendo games. I go to remonstrate with the supervisor, “how come you're working at the weekend dear?”
“I'm not.” I wait for further details as his hands hover over the computer keyboard and his eyes are glued to the screen. Nothing is forthcoming. I prompt, “looks like work to me?” A pause.
“Oh! No I'm just er well…..” This is code for 'you wouldn't understand.'
“I'm listening. Explain it to me?”
“Well I'm reprogramming the train.”
“The train set in the garden?”
“Yes.” I wait as the screen lures his eyes back as he watches a programme download, the seconds ticking away.

“How is it going?”
“O.k. Still have a few faults to iron out.”
“How will the reprogramming affect it?”
“Oh, it will do lots of cool things!”
“Cool?” Such a dreadful meaningless word.
“Such as?”
“Well it will go forwards and then backwards and then forwards a little bit…….” he trails off, as do I.
“I think I'll go and water the garden then in that case.”
He calls after me, “all your tulips standing to attention then, nice and straight!” I do refuse to acknowledge this statement.

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Handy hint [possibly] number 2

It may be that you have the kind of autistic child that objects strongly to 'outside.' If you don't, just skip this and go and find something more relevant.

If you are truly unfortunate 'outside' also includes the garden. [translation = yard] If you find that attempting to take your child outside results in a serious case of the heebie jeebies, then you may also find that you and your child [ren] are trapped within the four walls of your home.

It is probably a good idea to try and find out what exactly is the true nature of their objection to 'outside.' This can be tricky if your child is also non-verbal. Some of it may be sensory in the realms of weather, temperature, the degree of light intensity and so on. This list is more or less endless, but again, difficult to pin down if language is not forthcoming. If you're happy for your house to remain your prison, all well and good, but even the more reclusive parent will find that on occasion, it is necessary to leave the house, if only for a few basic essentials such as food.

With that in mind, it is probably best to tackle the issue before it festers and becomes ingrained, the only other alternative being, that you will eventually leave your house in a six foot wooden coffin.

Now it may be that you are out numbered, one parent versus two children determined to remain troglodytes. You may be able to fool a friend into assisting you with this task, but failing that option, it may only be possible to deal with one child at a time. This is especially difficult, as it probably means that one child will be inside unsupervised, whilst you 'deal' with the other one outside. If this is the case place the inside child near a glass window or door with whatever the current obsession is. Whilst it is painful to admit that you are allowing one child to perseverate [push the ladder up on the fire engine, push the ladder down on the fire engine] for 20 minutes, this has to be balanced against the benefit of acclimatizing the other child to the 'outside.' Try and ignore the fact that the inside child is oblivious to the screaming agony of the outside child, as this is just a distracter to the parent. But I digress.

What can you do outside that might make being outside less agonizing or possibly more attractive? This depends entirely upon what you have to work with, as each child's unique make up will determine the outcome. For one of my children this meant lugging out Thomas the tank engine and his numerous cohorts into the garden and seleotaping them to the fence at sight level for a four and a half year old. Whilst I'd like to describe this as a treasure hunt with those pleasant connotations, the reality was more of a screaming rescue mission on his part. Clearly, this kind of 'game' requires setting up in advance and it's essential that the trains should be easily removable for those with poor fine motor skills. Ear plugs may be beneficial for the parent also.

For the other one, I found that the alphabet, shapes and numbers painted on the fence, paths, plant pots and other bits and bobs was a much better fit.
If you can make this a daily 'exercise' eventually you may be rewarded by the ability to have both children rescuing their respective preferences at the same time, therefore reducing the parental stress of leaving a child unsupervised in the house.
With luck, much, much later, they may begin to enjoy the experience. Perhaps, much, much later, it might become 'fun.'

I think most things have the potential to become 'fun' when they are no longer 'new.'

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