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Thursday, November 08, 2007

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.

What is wrong with you!

Parents throughout the world are careful to advise their children of the dangers of our modern existence. Stranger Danger refers to an earlier era, but the message remains the same. Discernment and discrimination are high functioning skills for small people to acquire, which is not helped by the confusing message that parents attempt to convey but all too frequently bungle. It’s someone you don’t know but also someone that you might. The stranger is a scary person but may be someone that you know. If your child already has some additional difficulties, a parents attempts at communication may flounder all the sooner.

The message from school, following a stranger awareness lesson is probably delivered in a far more efficient manner than we have managed at home, but this was a couple of years ago now, when their powers of speech were more limited. He must have been about six years old when I realized that he had two teeth where he should have had only one. I remember feeling slightly light headed at the sight of the new adult tooth standing boldly behind the wibbly wobbly baby tooth, thoroughly disconcerting. Even though he was my third child I had never come across the double teeth phenomenon, which is apparently all to common and normal.

This was the first tooth that he was about to lose, a cause of a great deal of angst for him. My attempts at explaining what was about to take place only made the situation worse. He advised me in far fewer words, that he wished to hold on to all of his current bodily parts and was unwilling to donate any of them, not matter how worthy the cause.

Like many anxious moments in childhood, the lead up to the event, was far more traumatic that the result. The tooth fell, accompanied by a microdot of blood and all was well. His countenance was a study of surprise but otherwise the drama was over.

The drama was over until nightfall when tucking in time arrived. I admit it was sheer folly on my part, but sometimes parents just follow a familiar groove without the benefit of any brain waves. I would say on his behalf that I fully indorse his view that it is unhygienic to put a tooth of any size under one’s pillow, with hindsight.

In those days, an exchange of information could take a very long time. In those days, if the topic was also stressful, the exchange was accompanied with frequent meltdowns which meant that a simple exchange could take several hours.
“It is a boy or a girl?”
“Dah toof fairy?”
“Oh yes, she’s a girl.”
“She is fly?”
“Yes, she flies.”
“She is read?”
“She changes colour. Whatever colour you like best.”
“No! Read!”
“Oh right. Yes, she can read and often enjoys a mystery novel in her spare time.”

Thus it was, that after a considerable period of time, my son accompanied me around the house, late in the night. We plastered A4 sized pieces of paper on many of the relevant doors. Even then, his logic was impeccable. To me, this isn't autism this is merely the application of common sense. We covered all probable entry points, including the fireplace, to leave the message ‘no fairies allowed.’

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