Sometimes the truth doesn’t hurt, much

I plop onto the sofa with my knitting for entertainment and distraction from my latest current dose of flu. A tired little pathetic pile of self misery mopped up with a box of tissues. Oh for a few minutes of peace and quiet.

Ours has long been a volatile household where upsets jump out to bite us at every turn. Over the years we have learned about a great number of triggers, hot spots and areas that need special attention but the overall effect can sometimes feel as if we walk on eggshells. On the majority of occasions we are able to manage these periods but when our own levels of energy are low, we adopt the line of least resistance.

He leaps onto my lap cat style, but less agile and with far too many rigid bones. For the umpteenth time I have a Ninendo DS screen shoved two inches from my nose to view his latest captured Pokemon with slightly less than enthusiastic zeal, “yes, very nice dear.” My daughter mutters, “she’s bored of your darned Pokemon,” but to no avail. I glare her into silence.
“You don wanna see my Pokemon?”
“Oh I do indeed, it’s just that I’m not feeling very well at the moment.”
“She doesn’t like you jumpin on her like that.”
“You don like me to be a cat on yur lap?”
“Oh I do indeed, it’s just that you’re quite a big boy now.”
“Yur too darned heavy man!”
“I am heavy?”
“Well heavier than you once were dear…..when you were smaller than you are now.”
“Lighter. Yur a great big lump a bones.”
“I am bones?”
“Well……your bones are …….bigger too…..than they once were……when you were smaller.”
“Yur bones are all pokey, don’t you get it? It hurts when a big lumpy, pokey boned boy jumps on yah!”
He blinks at his sister, as he kneels on my lap, all 76 pounds of him. He turns to face me, “is wot she is says……..true?”
“Well…..I suppose……sort of……” I wince and wait.
“Well why didnaya tell me?”
“!”


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ESL – English as a Foriegn Language

 

Speech delays are curious things but speech pathologists are there to help. Progress can be speedy when an enthusiastic parent gets on board with the programme. Other parents, lesser mortals, can sometimes be the harbingers of doom.

………..

He sits on the throne. I lean on the door jam, awaiting the director of services to direct. I pull at the handful of wadded toilet paper, waiting. This of course is the perfect time, to have a chat, whilst he is immobile and without distractions.

“So…..isn't that so much more comfortable now that Daddy's replaced those tatty old loo seats?”
“Tatty? Tatty? Tatty? What it is be dah 'tatty'?”
“Oh, well sort of old, discoloured, a bit manky.”
“Manky? Manky? Manky? Man? Key?”
“Oh dear, um well just not it very good nick.”
“Nick? Nick? Nick? What it is be dah 'nick'?”
“Condition, not in very good condition sort of moth eaten.”

He springs up from the toilet as if burnt, “I am not want dah moths ta eat my butt,” he screeches as he disappears from view around the corner.

His future career as an entomologist dashed.


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Autism – what really gets me down

If I had to describe what it is about autism that really gets on my pip, it would be the tiresomeness of it all. By this, I don't mean how tiring autism is, [translation = the lie down and sleep kind of tiredness] but more the real tiresomeness of it all. [translation = annoyingness of it all]

It would be alright, I suppose, if what is true today, would also be true tomorrow, or yesterday, or the next 12 hours, or twelve minutes, for that matter, but it's not, is it? [translation = rhetorical question]

What is true and accurate this second, may not be so in the next second. [translation = the second second] For example, quite often you can get away with lots of casual every day statements, comments, questions and other bits and pieces that make up an ordinary sort of conversation, without anyone taking issue with you. Then all of a sudden, just as you've been lulled into a false sense of security, you utter a few more words and all hell breaks loose for no apparent reason. It was o.k. for you to say what you said, two sentences ago, but now, someone has switched on their radar and you're under attack from all sides for the most innocent of comments.

An example always helps in these instances. [translation = I hope] So you're nipping along in your winkie dinkie little European car, with a truckload of passengers, on the wrong side of the road because you're in England on holiday. You chat to the other adults in the car, as all people under the age of ten, are asleep. Because they are asleep, by definition, they are not listening. All radars are in the off position.

“It should be the next left I think?”
“Do you think?”
“I think so.”
“What do you think?”
“I can't remember if it's the next left or the left after the next, but thinking about it, I think you’re right?”

This is four adult people in conversation about a tentative destination, where you cannot see the surrounding countryside because is it blinkered from view by ten foot hedgerows. As we dither, collectively, a small person is suddenly awake, with a complaint, a verbal one, “no more dah fink. Dat is stoopid. Shut up wiv dah fink. Dah fink is being silent in dah brain, not in dah mowf.” This dislodges another from slumberland, “yeah, what he said, er says, um said.” The last one wriggles with restlessness, “yeah, me too, all this thinking is far too noisy!”

It would see that they’re not the only ones with volume control issues!


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Word play

I have been known to complain about my boys. It’s fair enough for them to have different personalities, characters and preferences, but I would much prefer it if their version of autism could be the same too. [translation = parental convenience] Because autism is a spectrum disorder, I often forget that whilst they have little in common, there are residual similarities that can flare up without warning.

My youngest son has an obsession with death, dying and the fragility of human life. As a result of this, we are careful to avoid the subject. It's not that we are not happy to discuss the issue in general terms. [translation = and have done many times] It's more when a word, or an association with that trigger word, slips into an otherwise ordinary conversation, that trouble soon follows. Whilst we have touched on this matter before, I do not expect mortality to attack me from other sources.

My older son as waited nearly 18 hours for his sister's gift. In his mind's eye, he has anticipated that she would buy him a 'transformer,' whatever that might be? He has been told, often, that it will not be a 'transformer.' Instead it will be something cheaper, probably something he will not like. We have told him this frequently, reminded him of his impending disappointment, since his sister's financial base is modest.

Her delight in being cast as the 'giver of gifts,' has only served to heighten the excitement. [translation = for everyone under the age of ten] For her, a gift, any gift, is a gift. For the boys, any gift, that is not a specific gift, is not a gift at all. In fact, not only does it cease to be a gift, it changes into an object of hatred.

It is hard to dampen my daughter's enthusiasm. [translation = I don't really want to, but I must, so that she in turn, will be prepared to have her gift shunned, her feelings hurt and cope with the disappointment]

It all happened so quickly, during the daily debacle, more commonly known as dinner. The noise is deafening, but fortunately we are in the garden. [translation = polluting our neighbours' peace] My anxious daughter needs reassurance too. We confirm that after dinner, we will take her to the shop to buy the treats for the last day of soccer camp. The boys will remain at home and go to bed. [translation = status and pulling rank as the eldest] Whilst it would have been preferable to reassure her out of earshot of the boys, sometimes you just have to take the heat.

The boys' protests rise a decibel or two at the outrage of exclusion.
“Boys! BOYS! BOYS!” she bellows with her hands raised high to catch they're attention. They stop. [translation = the magical powers of siblings] “Howsabout I get you a prize whilst I'm there? Wouldn't that be great? Would you like that huh? I'll buy em with my own money, so it'll be kinda little……..but only ……if you go to bed nice.” Her face is spread with a cheesy grin. [translation = so is mine] She bounces out of her seat and hugs me where I sit. [translation = the girl done good!]

So how can I burst this bubble? [translation = cigarette burns on a kitten] I have to deflate her a little, to take the edge off when they burst.

I take several opportunities during those 18 hours, to remind the boys about how to behave when you are given a gift that you hate. Since 99% of the gifts they receive fall into this category, they have had a great deal of practice.

Finally, her moment arrived. She presents herself with a flourish, clutching her Target bag to her chest in her hot little hand. She is ecstatic with anticipation. She sinks her hand in to whip out two little sets of cars, the kind that children are often given in party favour bags. Junior snatches his and disappears, shouting 'thank you' in response to my prompt to his rapidly retreating back. My other son points to the words on the packet, wordless. His sister reads them for him, even though he knows what it says: 'die cast cars.'

His scream could shatter every window in the house, as he grabs the packet and hurls it as far as he is able. My daughter is horror struck. My son collapses on the floor to beat it with his fists and kick the hardwood floors as he howls. I settle my daughter with Nonna and concentrate on my son. [translation = before he damages himself]

He remains incoherent for some minutes. Now he is eight, he is big. Now he is eight, he is strong, but his anger is usually internalized. [translation = self mutilation] I stay close because his injuries are swiftly inflicted. The minutes tick by as we wait. I did expect a negative reaction, but not of this magnitude. Slowly his body relaxes. The growls turn to sobs. When he lifts his face, I see fear not anger. I continue to massage his back as I await the return of words. Eventually, they come:
“She is not my friend?”
“Of course she's your friend! She loves you!”
“She wants me die?”
“Pardon?”
“She give me a toy to make me die?” Oh no, not him too! Is it contagious, this OCD fixation on death.
“Die can mean lots of different things. It can mean colour.” His eyes follow my finger as I point out all the different fabrics in the room, all their different colours.

I help him to his feet and lead him to the kitchen. I pull out an ice tray. “You can mould ice in this tray. If I put metal in it and the mould was shaped like cars, I could mould cars. That kind of moulding is called 'die' cast.” He looks at me dubiously, as his little brother bounces in, the little letter lord. His arrival gives me an idea. [translation = treason. Please don't deport me. I'll claim insanity and win.]

“Do you know what?” Both snap back with 'what?' Hallelujah! “When something isn't alive, that’s 'die.' All these other kinds of 'die,' making toys, colouring fabrics, that's a different kind of 'die.'” I double check that I have everyone's attention. Miraculously, I have everyone's attention. “You call it 'D,' 'Y,' 'E.' Not the same thing at all. See?” I waggle the ice tray with one hand, and flap my skirt with the other. Both boys' eyes travel from one to the other and back again.

I wait.

One shrugs his shoulders. The other offers, “I fink I am liking 'dye.'”

Both scamper off without a backward glance.

I only wish my 'OFF' and 'ON' switch, was as efficient as theirs. [translation = bad gene pool]

If they had glanced back, they would have seen a haggard old woman, trembling against the kitchen counter. I suspect that I shall pay for this crime of corruption, later in the school curriculum.

Post Script – I offer my humble apologies for my somewhat erratic visits to all your blogs, but now we are on Summer routine. [translation = a contradiction in terms]


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Shaving, wafer, after wafer

Many children, and some autistic ones, suffer a great deal of anxiety. Anxiety is often caused by predictable and understandable concerns. With youngsters, many of their anxieties come from a lack of understanding. Simple explanations can help to reduce their concerns and provide guidance as to how to interpret different things. One of my sons is overly concerned with tools that are sharp or made of metal. Knives, scissors and many other ordinary household items cause him grave concern. With my boys a great many of their concerns are unpredictable. They lurk ready to pounce when I least expect it.

Prior to our holiday, I have two pressing tasks to perform – pluck my eyebrows and trim the Passionflower. I start on the latter, secateurs in hand. Two boys play inside behind the glass doors with their father and sister. [translation = still allergic to outside] They don't watch me, but they check up on me every few minutes. [translation = any attention given to a parent's doings, that does not have any direct benefit to the child, is to be applauded. I have spent far too many years being completely invisible] Inbetween whiles, I yell instructions at them, every now and then. Frequently, I have my back to them and shout over my shoulder. “Don't put it in the sink!” “Try and share with him.” “I'll get you a snack in a minute.” I know that they are miffed by this, that I appear to have x-ray vision. [translation = as all mother's have] Two wheelbarrowfuls later, the vine is trim. [translation = two weeks of California growth is akin to an attack by Triffids] I nip back inside and check that all is well.

All is well.

Broadly speaking, I attend to matters of personal hygiene either very early in the morning or very late at night when I am child free. Today however, I am out of time. I must attend to my eye brows and attempt to make my eyes visible by trimming the thatch above. I have approximately three minutes to complete this feat.

I nip upstairs stealthily. I put my nose to the mirror and try not to breathe. [translation = short sighted] With the tweezers in hand I attempt to remove as much hair in the general area of my brow as is possible. [translation = speed plucking is an unacknowledged skill.] Not for the first time, I consider whether a razor might be more effective. [translation = quicker] I achieve near baldness on the right side when I am rugby tackled by a screaming Banshee. “No, no, no, don't do dat! Dat is bad! I love your wonky bad old eyes. I love dat they are old and mold.” I remove the tweezers from my right ear. [translation = stabbed] I look to my ankles where my youngest son is entwined, face down, eyes shielded by my moth eaten socks. I can't bend down to him because I am hobbled by his vice like grip. His older brother leans against the door jam to survey the scene. I try to explain the concepts of 'beauty treatments,' to two clear skinned, perfectly formed male youths. It is an uphill battle.

“But why?” seems to be the primary refrain to any further and better particulars that I provide to them, by way of an explanation. There secondary concern, oddly enough, is pain thresholds, not theirs but mine. [translation = “theory of mind be damned”]

We give cursory attention to the OCD issues of personal injury, death, visits to the ER and other sundry related matters. I pop my glances back on and peer in the mirror. I calculate when another three minutes might be available to me, to tackle the other eye brow? After further discussion and reassurance, we make our way back downstairs. The boys walk in front of me, exhausted by yet another test of mental gymnastics. He puts a brotherly arm around the little one. “You know it's o.k little buddy……she is always having dah other one you know.”
“What?” he snaps back. It always sounds like an accusation. [translation = lack or regulation and modulation]
“Dah udder eye in dah back of her head.”

For a truly fascinating perspective on OCD in adults, nip along to my pal, “Lotta” on “Mom o Matic.” Brave and insightful.


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Clash of the Titans

Sometimes, especially when they were younger, people would mistake my boys for twins. One with long legs, one with a shorter body meant that when they were sitting they seemed the same size. Like most twins or siblings, any similarities between them are of little significance. It is their differences in personality, character and disposition that singles each one of them out. If you then cover that child with a layer of autism, a patchwork quilt, [translation = homemade and of a unique variety] the result is too complex for the average nitwit, [translation = parent] to fathom.

Unfortunately for them, I am the designated nitwit of the household.

All human beings have little triggers, things that set us off, irritations and foibles. Sometimes we can identify the cause, something from the past that makes us react in a certain manner. Other times and other things we just accept, it's part of our own singular make up. We find methods of coping with these triggers such as avoidance. If you find sirens annoying, then you don't rent an apartment above the Fire Station. [translation = house] Although maybe, that is the very location to help you acclimatize and de-sensitize yourself.

My boys have lots of triggers. Each one has his own set, that differs from the other. They also collect more triggers as they get older. Old triggers seem to fade but are always lurking in the wings ready to pounce. Junior has a 'thing' about “death,” dying and all other related aspects of 'terminal,' a word that he can read, write and spell accurately. [translation = an offshoot of hyperlexia]

His brother also has a 'thing' about “death” but different triggers. For reasons too humbling to go into, his current understanding, is that death occurs after the age of 90. Although his auditory processing is good, when it comes to numbers he is often confused, mistaking 19 for 90. Any word that sounds like either of those words can also be a trigger. Initially you might not think that there are too many words that sound remotely like either. If you break down those words into their phonetic sounds and jumble them up a bit, you may be surprised at how often their variants turn up in ordinary everyday conversations. [nye tea high teen nigh T]

Both have supersonic hearing, which means that they can tune out the sound of the motors that power the freezers in the supermarket and tune into the conversation between strangers on the other side of the store. [translation = or vice versa, or from one to the other, all without warning] Because they both have poor social skills, as well as a higher social concience than most, this means that he will hone in on the distance conversation that contains '19 or 90,' seek that person out and ask “you are going to die?” If the child that asks you that question has an expression of genuine concern, this may cause unknown and undue distress to the unwitting victim.

Where does this leave us? Well it can mean that sometimes something very small can cause a fireworks display. We need to appreciate that what might be an irritating trigger when we are adults, may have a much more explosive effect on someone smaller. [translation = with more nerve endings and less self control]

My son dashes out into the garden to rescue a cat. Both he and the cat are naked because my son was just about to start dressing. [translation = had completed undressing] He's not quick enough to nab the cat who skitters back indoors. The sudden U-turn by the cat, sends my ungainly son off balance and into a heap. He hobbles back indoors distressed by his poor cat catching skills. He is unperturbed by the flap of skin on the top of his toe and the river of blood that follows him. I park him on the nearest available chair to commiserate with him about the foolishness of the feline population. I hope to distract him from the river of blood but he seems oblivious. We discuss herding cats, a subject near to my heart, whilst my hands investigate damage. His sister appears downstairs, sleepy eyed and tousled. “The school bus for the field trip is leaving at 9:10 sharp!” she advises and yawns. The '9:10' of her message, penetrates my son's psyche and sparks a negative reaction because he thinks she has said 'ninety,' “ninety? I am dying?” he screams, still obvious to his wound. The growing pile of blood stained rags and towels make her gasp. “Oh no! Are you o.k? Can I see? No!” It is her reaction that make both boys react. The real victim notices that he is leaking, “I am blood?” he enquires curiously, but bedeviled by thoughts of death. He looks in the general direction of his leg but fails to notice that he has a foot on the end of it.

At the same time I hear a “piercing 50 decibel” echo somewhere far, far away, [translation = the upstairs bathroom] followed by rapid fire footsteps. Junior appears within seconds to witness the scene, “he is blood, he is ugly, he is dead, hospital, emergency room, only 4 toes, 911…..” he talks at 90 mph, a never ending stream of words. His vast vocabulary is strung together. They all spell out the same general message of doom. When he reaches the end of his current word bank he squalks, a sound half way between a rooster and a drowning man.

Spouse appears, drowsy after three and a half hours sleep. My daughter is scared of the blood herself but recognizes that her little brother is spiraling. She soothes him with reassurance but he is impervious. When he starts to rip his hair and beat his body with his arms, spouse steps in and whisks him away from the scene.

At first glance this picture may seem a little grim, but that is only one perspective. A different view is a far more optimistic one. A few years ago we would have endured meltdowns and guessed at their cause; blood and fear, but clearly this is a much more complex matter. We are better able to understand the complexity because they are better able to express themselves verbally. As we get a better handle on the causes, we are better equipped to help them find other strategies to cope, help them practice them and help them learn.

The minutes tick by to bring us closer to 7 in the morning, an arbitrary time designated as appropriate to start the day. Another, very ordinary day.

It is at such moments that I am so grateful, that the two and a half years of the 'plaster campaign,' [translation = Band-aid] will finally pay dividends.


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Scheduling the autistic child

When your child is diagnosed with autism, there may be a tendency to panic. [translation = probably only me] It is quite possible that panic will prompt a parent into frenzied activity. [translation = research 'fix it' yesterday, but faster] After this phase when the fog lifts a little, it may be that the parent sets some goals, tiny ones. It is a good idea to identify some trivial matter that makes life exceptionally difficult and work on that little bit only. [translation = baby steps] In our family circumstances, I decided that henceforward, we would collect the mail from the mailbox every day.

Let me explain. The mail comes daily and is placed in the mail box on the fence in the garden. I found that I was unable to leave the house and the mail would accumulate day after day, much to the annoyance of the mail carrier. The problem, was that if I left the house with my children inside, they would panic during the minute and a half that I was absent, even though I was clearly visible through the huge windows. [translation = out of immediate “visual” contact equated to abandonment or worse] When I returned to the house, I would have two small children in a state of serious distress who would take some time to calm down.

Neither child would venture outside of the house to accompany me, because 'outside' was hated. I could overcome this difficulty by carrying them both outside with me, as the tight grip was calming to them. [translation = deep proprioceptive input] However, if I had a child on each hip, I had no spare hand with which to retrieve the mail. Often I overcame this, by collecting the mail at night when they were in bed. Often, I was so tired, that I would forget to collect the mail at night.

So that is why I chose this one [of hundreds] issue to tackle. We worked on this daily. [translation = even on Sunday when there is no delivery] Day after day, week after week, month after month] It never become 'preferred,' it always remained a chore. [translation = surrogate therapy] but gradually the screaming became less so, small feet were exposed to 'outside' and the mail didn't get soggy or fried, depending upon the season.

I learned so many things from this tiny ritual – aversion to the texture of paper, his ability to read upside down, that opening and closing the box was a feat of sequencing, gross motor skills and ideation, that we could take turns, that sharing was not an impossible goal, ………..I could go on, but you get the general picture.

These days, because they are all at school, I can collect the mail myself, at leisure, read it all and take appropriate action for each piece in peace. Today, one of my sons is off colour, 'PH,' which means a sick day at home. [translation = potentially hazardous] Nothing dire, just one of those fleeting temperatures first thing in the morning,[translation = fever] that disappears on the cue of the school bell. [translation = but likely to rise at some random and inconvenient time of the day]

Since staying home is everyone's preferred option, I must take care not to reinforce the fun of being at home. There are a couple of other factors as well. Not only is being at home preferred, but being at home 'with mum' is even more preferable. [translation = I am truly the most popular person within a 25 yard radius of my own house] If that isn't enough joy to dispel on it's own, then we must also factor in the ecstasy of 'being at home,' 'with mum,' AND no competition. [translation = no siblings or father] Now you have an autistic child in heaven. How could one possibly hope to make this experience a negative one, short of sticking pins in the poor child?

It is a sobering responsibility to know that you are the most popular person on the planet due to an accident of birth. [translation = your status is undeserved] I could sit on the sofa with this one all day just cuddling, [translation = cuddling and proprioceptive input] and he would be happy and content. A day spent in this manner would guarantee that he would never again visit school. [translation = or anywhere else for that matter] Such behaviour would reinforce all his 'prejudices.' [translation = lock the door and throw away the key, grow roots and remain inside forever]

As the garage door closes, I watch his body contort with barely suppressed glee. I can see every one of his pearly whites. [translation = teeth] His eyes are cartoon moon slits. He shivers and trembles with delight. I visualize pin cushions, small ones. What to do? We do the full body hug, a jitterbug affair. My brain groans with the effort of summoning up little positive pricks. He bounds away from me to pounce on a cat. Cat and boy gambol on the carpet whilst I make a list of activities to take us through the day, not too taxing but just enough to take the edge off bliss. I look around at the interior of my house, buried in piles of jobs. [translation = chores that have no hope of completion today]

How to get the balance between rest and activity, when his asthma is active? I know that we must avoid the spelling test part of his homework. [translation = physical exertion and aerobic, see note below]

“What you do?”
“I'm making a list of all the jobs I have to do today?” He continues to roll back and forth on the carpet. All of a sudden he is by my side, my companion, my bosom buddy, my number one fan.
“You are write dah list?”
“Yes.”
“Of dah jobs?”
“Yes.”
“What you have one?”
“Nothing yet, I’m still thinking.”
“I have dah idea for the one!”
“Oh really! And what might that be pray?”
“We can get be getting dah mail, like we did in dah olden days…..together…jus you and me….. er……..pleasssssssse?”

Note – spelling tests in our home are a busy business. [translation = preferred] Each spelling word is written on a card. The cards are scattered on the carpet around the trampoline. Whichever child is having the 'test' bounces on the trampoline. I call out one of the words after about 20 bounces. The child scans the carpet whilst bouncing and then leaps off to pounce on the right card, reads it aloud and then hands it to me. Yes, I am aware that this doesn't teach them to spell. Yes, I know that it is cheating. Indeed they will not be able to bounce through their spelling tests at school. What exactly is the purpose of this exercise? [translation = it's “FUN”]


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Skin so Soft – memories calling

I cuddle up to my younger daughter of the sofa and suggest that soon it will be time for a bath. The boys roll over on the carpet and start to groan at the prospect of forthcoming agonies.
I start preaching;
“You know, I just love baths.”
“Ya do? Why do ya like em so much?” she asks, nuzzling in closer.
“Well years and years ago when I was a little girl, about your age come to think of it, my mum used to take long baths in our tiny chilly bathroom. It was so cold that when she filled the bath with hot water the whole room filled with steam, it was like warm fog. She would wallow in the bath and I'd sit on the floor. We'd chitter chat about this and that. It was lovely.”
“But you weren't even in that bath. Whatz so fun about that?” I have no adequate answer for her pertinent query, just a misty memory with a haunting fragrance.
“I'm not sure now you mention it.”
“You don't take baths, you always have showers.” Would that it were 'always.'
“Good point.”
“Why? Why don't you have a bath if they're so great? When DID you last have a bath?” I decide to lie because it is marginally more interesting.
“Well actually, I remember it distinctly. The last time I had a bath was when I was waiting to go to the hospital, when I was pregnant, what er….. [?] six years ago now. I lay in the bath and waited for Daddy to come home, so that we could go together.”
“Hospital!” someone squalks. Oh dear, I mentioned a trigger word. Choking noises splutter from the carpet, “we are dying in dah hospital if we are bath?”
“Not at all dear, that was all a long time ago…” the questions come thick and fast from every direction.
“Why didn't you get dressed and wait? How could you go to the hospital if you were all wet?” Sometimes you wish you'd never started. I decide that distraction is the only course of action.
“You know Granny used to buy this very extravagant bath oil from Avon, it had a wonderful perfume.” They've probably changed the recipe after 40 years.
“Oil! Not bubbles?”
“Er, right. Oil.” Be careful, this isn’t going the right way.
“But why?”
“To make you smell nice.”
“Smelly oil?”
“Y….e….s,” I answer cautiously, knowing that I am going down the wrong path. Junior's talks to the carpet, “oil floats on dah water.”
“That's right dear, so all the lovely oil slips over your skin and makes it all nice and soft.”
“Dat is dah stoopid fing! Your skin is dirty and den you are wiv oil too, yukky.”

Another little nugget quashed, but it wouldn’t do to deny his indefatigable logic.


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No Way Jose!

This phrase is beginning to annoy me. It's o.k., on it's own, it's familiar, I don't need it translated but I've been forced to hear it more often than the average person does in their whole life time. I don't know when exactly this phrase was popular or hip, but the fact that I know it all, means that it probably hailed from the 70's.

That of course is probably an exaggeration, as I have no idea how often the average person hears that phrase, indeed I don't even know who the average person is anymore? I digress, as usual.

I still have the feeling that I am being victimized, singled out for this particular form of aural torture. It's not the first time it's happened, although different phrases have been used over the years, as they have gradually emerged from the non-verbal world.

I used to exist in the non-verbal world where they wouldn't talk, but of course now that they are talking, I wish they'd all just shut up again. [translation = refrain from using repetative speech patterns] It wouldn't be so bad if there was a little variety, but if the response to every question you ask is 'no way Jose!' regardless of the subject matter of the question, it does begin to wear away on the nerves after a while. [translation = grate]

I should be grateful really. At least when they yell it out across the playground it has at least the semblance of 'normal.' [translation = blending in] Not so with the phrase of the month before, which was 'to infinity and beyond!' Come to think of it, that was probably o.k. on the playground. [translation = school yard]

Not so good in the supermarket;
“Did y'have a great day in school huh?”
“To infinity and beyond!”

Or in the restaurant:
“D'you want fries with that?”
“To infinity and beyond!”

Or in Karate class:
“Stand up straight, d'you hear me?”
“To infinity and beyond.”

So do I correct them? I should probably correct them shouldn't I? Put them right, model a better example? You're right of course, but at this stage, I'm just celebrating that they're talking at all. For right now, it's more important that they voluntarily choose to communicate. I don't want to be too hasty in the correction department, because then they might give up; 'too difficult, I won't bother then, I'll just not speak at all. If what I say isn't good enough for you mum, then rats to you, I'm back to silence.' [translation = mime, gestures and mimicking.]

That wouldn't be considered progress. So for the time being I just encourage them to use their words. They may be the wrong words, socially inappropriate and irrelevant words, but words are so much better than silence, so much better than a meltdown or a physical explosion of rage and frustration. It's all relative.

Of course I'm aware that whilst I choose to categorize these phrases as attempts at communication, someone more knowledgable, would point out that more often than not, they aren't actually talking to a person, just the ether. They're using words but unless they're directed towards someone, anyone, can we really call it communication? I feel you're being a bit picky, but of course you're absolutely right again.

Sometimes it's merely fortuitous timing, someone asks them a question and they happen to blurt out their phrase of the week in the next few seconds, so it appears to be a response. Other times, although I am a little biased, their words do seem directed towards the questioner. They're still the wrong words, there's still no eye contact, but if you look carefully their bodies are orientated towards the person, because looking at someone's eyes can been painful, especially if you're speaking at the same time.

Not experienced that feeling? No, neither have I, but I know that it's more common that we think. You must have met someone like that, someone who wouldn't meet you in the eye? They seemed a bit shifty but you couldn't really put your finger on why that was, unless they were a Brit of course.

Now the knowledgeable person would say, 'they're not communicating, they're perseverating.” They're what? Perwhaticating? Perseverating. What might that be when it's at home? Well, in this instance, it's when they get stuck on a little phrase, doesn't really matter what it is, and then they repeat it, again and again.

Why would anyone do that? It's comforting, soothing, like stroking a cat. Once you start it's difficult to stop. Sounds a little obsessive compulsive? You're right, it can be, but they can also be mutually exclusive.

Now hang on a second, I hear you cry; I know a child who does that, I used to do that myself when I was little, usually something off the TV that was cool and hip and demonstrated to your peers that you were with the programme. [translation = program] Nothing odd about that, all perfectly normal! Yes, you're right again, and you probably did drive your mum batty saying it so often, but you didn't say it to everyone, you didn't use it all the time, you didn't say it again and again for an hour and a half in the exact same tone, and then repeat the whole exercise with a different phrase a couple of weeks later and so on, year after year.

Now I know that you're beginning to get a little uncomfortable with this, sounds a little too much like insanity and we don't want to be messing about with mental diseases. But that aside, it's not as weird as it first sounds. We all have little coping mechanisms to deal with stress, anxiety and boredom. Little things like picking your nails, twiddling your hair or removing microscopic pieces of fluff from your clothing. There's no harm in those? Of course not, but there are other's too, biting your nails, chewing the inside of your cheek, twiddling your fingers, tapping out rhythms on the edge of the table, little tiny things that are all much of a muchness. [translation = of no great consequence]

There are other addictions that we all know about, condemn and criticize, but it's the smaller ones, that no-one pays much heed to, that intrigue me more. The people who can't go anywhere without particular possessions, things that they claim they need, little props of support for the chaotic world that we exist in, like an i-pod or a cell phone, little talismen of security.

Do you feel frustrated if you can't fit in your morning jog, ticked off if someone switches your special chair at the office, can't start the day unless you have that particular cup of coffee made just the right way?

Don't worry, your secret's safe with me.

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