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Thursday, July 05, 2007

Suck it up

This is a curiously annoying American term, which effectively advises the complainant to accept whatever is happening with good grace. This is the annoying phrase that comes to mind as I watch the grandmother of my children attempt to encourage them to smell a flower. It is very much like the same exchange that I have had endured first hand with my children for many a long year. [translation = no progress on this particular front] The main difference here, is that she is an even more mature woman but has the added impediment of being hard of hearing. The fact that they even give her the time of day, that fact that they tolerate such an unreasonable request, tells me volumes.

I would hasten to add that I have no idea if this is an 'autism' thing or a 'child' thing. For us is it merely the current status quo.

“Come on. You smell. Smell it. It is lovely. You try.” I have absolutely no idea why this is so difficult for them, both of them.

Their bodies are orientated towards her. Their eyes flicker across her face at intervals, no doubt checking for signs of sanity, if not additional advice. Her thick Italian accent still captivates them.

“I am smelling it?” he gasps, eyebrows reaching up to his hair line.
“What? I can’t hear you. Say it again.”
“I am smelling it?”
“That’s right. I want you to smell the flower. Here, come closer. Put your nose nearer it so you can smell it.” They shuffle their feet but don’t actually move forward. “Come on, try. It is lovely. You will like it.” She and I both know that flowers are of no current interest to either of the boys. They oblige her only because they love her, a fact that should not be glossed over. Even a year ago they would have been more likely to walk on hot coals, than willingly do anything for anyone.

She coaxes him. He takes a step closer, balances on the toes of one foot, lifts the other leg high behind him, ballerina style to blow his nose in the general direction of the flower.
“No! Not blow, sniff. Sniff it with your nose.”
He repeats the same gesture.
“Why you blow? Sniff it. Sniff it in, not out.”
“What it is ‘out’?”
“What? Say it again, I can’t hear you.”
“You say sniff in not out?” To verbalise something once is an effort. To repeat a question, was unheard of around here. [translation = only 18 months ago]
“Yes, that’s right. If you blow out then your nose cannot smell it. You need to breath in.”
He sucks in mouthfuls of air, goldfish style.
“No. Not with your mouth, with your nose. Your nose.”
“My nose cannot be opening and closing. I can only be doing dat with my mouth.”
“What? Say it again, I can’t hear you.”
“You don’t have to shout. I am not that deaf you know.”
“Oopsie, sorree!”
“What you say?”
“I SAID OOPSIE, SORREE! Oopsie, sorry I shouted.”
“What? Never mind. Sniff for me. Sniff like when you have a cold.”
“I don have a cold.”
“I know you don’t have a cold right now but pretend, sniff with your nose.” He pinches his nostrils together and snorts dry snot.
“Don’t do that, it is dirty. Not out, in, sniff in.” She demonstrates. [translation = models the requested behaiour with great aplomb]
He blows his nose again. She slaps her thighs and laughs. “Can’t they sniff? Why can’t they sniff?” she asks me. She shakes her head and raises a hand to stop me answering what is now a rhetorical question.
Can I offer prizes for the correct answer? A virtual flower perhaps? Any answer? Any insight? A little clue? A hint?

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