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Wednesday, November 08, 2006


You may care to read 'phobias' prior to this article.

My daughter is engaged in the bathroom [translation = sitting on the throne] with one foot operating the lever on the pedal bin as she chants “bin, trash, garbage, rubbish,” in time to the clanking of the lid as it crashes against the pedestal. I sit at the table with the boys. Junior son’s current breakfast consists of 3 grapes, each color, a raspberry, a strawberry, a blackberry, a serious challenge, a few blue berries, the blandest and most innocuous fruit ever to grace the planet, a cube of pineapple and half a banana. This means that breakfast is generally a very LOUD affair. This is of course perfect timing, now that we're reaching the end of the soft fruit season. He'll have forgotten all about them, that he has nearly conquered them. By next year they'll be 'new food' again. Ah well. The fruit is a precursor, nay an aperitif, to more preferred food, 44 minutes of fruit, one minute of cereal. 44 minutes to eat a quarter cup of fruit, one minute to eat a cup of cereal, but life’s a trade off. Her chant continues in the bathroom, “bin [clank], trash [clank], garbage [clank], rubbish [clank].” I consider removing the label from the bin, marked with the same words to assist those who have difficulty identifying everyday household objects without such clues.

I run a quick inventory of the odd things in my house that are labeled, just a few of them, like the 4 foot toy chest that has a little yellow label on it saying ‘trunk’ or the 6 foot fridge labeled ‘fridge’ or more confusingly, the door labeled ‘sink,’ which is at eye line height, so that when he walks into the door in the morning, he’ll be reminded that he’s really heading for the sink. It’s like some deep surreal mystery, where I inhabit the same planet where I am the alien.

We reach the hurdle of the latest new fruits. He screams as is his wont and tries to escape from the cage of his carver chair.
“It’s hairy!” he yeowls.
“What is?”
“The fruit!”
I examine his platter looking for a rogue bloom of mould that I may have missed in haste. Nothing. Pristine fruit, the peak of freshness, a delicious, juicy, tempting array of the best the supermarket has to offer.
“It’s not dear, it’s perfect.” His sister appears by my side to comment, “he’s never gonna eat it ya know.” I am uncertain whether she has mislaid her American positive attitude or whether this is my reality check?
“Rubbish, of course he will, he’s eaten one every day for ten days now.”
“What cha mean ‘rubbish,’” she enquires, head to one side. I blink, checking continents.
“Oh, ‘rubbish’ can mean ‘nonsense’ or ‘don’t be so silly,’ sort of thing, too.”
“Hairy, hairy, hairy! ‘Hairy’ cannot be food,” he screams in case I didn’t manage to hear him properly the first time.
“He’s not gonna eat it,” comes the voice of doom. I look again in case the hygiene consultant shed a follicle inadvertently during food preparation, as such mistakes do occur in non commercial kitchens such as mine. Nothing.
“It’s fine dear, no hairs.” The other one starts up, breaking his monastic silence, “I, I, I, um, I don like fruit, it is yucky for me, but I’m gonna try, I’m gonna try and eat it anyways,” he says stuffing a blueberry into tight lips.
“You need to open your mouth first dear.”
“I can’t eat hairy! It is bad to eat hairy.”
“There is no hair dear,” I say firmly with my eyes very close to his eyes. He growls with exasperation at my stupidity.

I concede the point that some fruit is in fact hairy, a whole category of hairy fruit such as kiwi, or peaches, if you’re being really picky, but his breakfast is devoid of the hairy varieties. He gestures with his index finger towards the offender. I follow as he identifies the raspberry, stabbing the nearby air space with teeth bared and a crumpled nose, as the stench of raspberry is clearly overpowering. Our faces move in closer to examine the culprit. “See!” he accuses, but I don’t. He hurls himself back in the chair and clunks his skull of the wood, ‘mothers! Who’d have them!’

“Your eyes are bad, your eyes are stupid, why you have stupid bad eyes that don’t work proper?” A well reasoned argument, one that I haven’t recently considered but always subject to review. I try harder. I pick up the raspberry to line it up with the bifocals at 6:52 in the morning, and do you know what, he’s right, there are tiny little hairs on a raspberry, minute ones. This is a valuable new piece of information for a middle aged person to acquire. I wonder why it is, that whilst for most people, advancing years result in greater wisdom but that other less fortunate persons, are forced to face chasms of ignorance? I also wonder how best to proceed, now that I have been proved wrong both categorically and category wise? His face is set, arms folded across his chest in a gesture of defiance. I replace the fork on the side of the platter as a droplet of juice forms on the pierced raspberry. I debate how to manage my defeat, which apparently is discernible from my facial expression, as he reaches a gentle hand across to my shoulder, “I am sorry your eyes are old rubbish.”


I used to consider myself an honest person, don’t we all? I’m not averse to telling the odd white lie here and there, but definitely avoid the big whoppers. [translation = mortal, not burgers]

With my first generation of children a couple of decades ago, I found that my primary position on ‘truth’ was compromised. I adopted a new position; ‘sitting on the fence.’ Then, a youthful and ignorant parent, I worked on the sound theory, that if I offered two opposing options, that my child would have to work it out their own way. Of course I stacked the odds in my favor on each and every occasion; ‘some people think it’s o.k. to eat animals and earn their living that way, other people prefer to think of animals as friends, now would you like Whiskers fried or roasted for Sunday lunch?’ Now that’s what I call value free parenting.

These days, when the audience is more literal and is beginning to acquire a sense of humor, I find that my fence is getting a bit rickety, but that happens with age. With this generation’s black and white world, my fence is being shaken. I am in peril of a tumble.

“I am special?” he asks before the sun has risen. I blink behind my bifocals. I am not a morning person. When he first wakes up, he has more words available to him than later in the day, as he uses them all up. He seems to be operating on a quota system.
“Of course, every child is special. Indeed every person is special now I come to think of it.” I need my brain to wake up and connect with my mouth.
“No, no, no. Me. Me. Me. Am I the special one?” Oh dear! Who has being saying what to him? Don’t mess it up! Encourage and positively reinforce every utterance. If only I could get him to start at the beginning, to fill me in on all the prior thoughts leading up to this question.
“Who told you that you were special dear?”
“No, no, no. Not ‘deer,’ ‘boy!’ Am I a special boy?” Oh dear! I fell right into that one. Wake up! Starting firing on all cylinders! Have my neurons abandoned me?
“Who told you that you were a special boy?” Why am I a night owl? [translation = barmy old bat]
“I don know. I mean, I mean, I mean, I cant remember who is saying dat.” I think. Hurry, hurry, before he loses interest. I need to metamorphose into an early bird. [translation = leopards and spots] I think hard. Why didn’t I train to be a speech pathologist when I was 18? Can I swap [translation = trade] my paper qualifications in ‘uselessness’ for a practical skill set?

I have no back-ground information, no pointers or clues. I don’t want to provoke a meltdown by trying to extract chapter and verse from him, when he just wants an answer. I think of an answer. Not an answer to him, but an answer for him to use.
“The next time someone says that to you, can you try and do your ‘good answering’ for me?”
“Er, maybe.” Perfect! Never agree to anything initially, without due consideration of any and all consequences. A sound response that will stand him in good stead, both now and in the future.
“Can you try and look at the person, their face, shoulder perhaps, and use your kind voice to say, “And you’re special too!”

Well it’s not a lie. [translation = ain’t that the truth]

verb [I] FORMAL
to avoid telling the truth or saying exactly what you think.

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