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Saturday, December 09, 2006

Pass the buck

[translation = blame somebody else]

I hide the teapot in the cooker [translation = stove] as the cleaners are on their way on a Monday morning. Their scrupulousness is appreciated in all quarters of my household, with the exception of the teapot. The teapot is off limits, my personal dark little secret. I do not want it sparklingly clean and pristine. It makes better tea if it is stained the colour of mahogany, but this is not a message that is easy to translate in this country. [translation = my Spanish is limited to Dora's exploits and my French is rusty] Therefore, taking the line of least resistance I have resorted to deception. Of course autistic children, we are told, generally are incapable of deception, they are too literal.

On return from school with the offspring, I release the teapot from it's hidey hole and pop the kettle on the hob. [translation = tea kettle on the flames] A shadow addresses me,
“What you do?”
“Me? Oh nothing.”
“No. You do sompfink. What you do?” Is this the same child that would not utter a syllable for four, sometime five hours?
“Just getting the teapot ready for a cup of tea.”
“What that fing is called again?”
“This thing? Or that thing?”
“Bowf fings?” I have early intervention mechanism to thank for this tirade.
“This is the oven and this is the teapot.”
“Oh right, yes.” It’s not that his vocabulary is limited, it is merely that the words are mis-filed, so he’s unable to retrieve them at will. It’s like having a dictionary, which is no use to you if you can’t spell a little bit in the first place.
“Why you cook da teapot?”
“I didn’t,” I answer truthfully. He puts a tentative finger on the oven door in confirmation. [translation = no-one believes me]
“It is cold. You not cook it den?”
“That’s right.”
“Why oven den?” Why this sudden interest in teapots and cookers? Who am I to be cross examined by a seven year old about my relationship with a teapot? What business is it of his anyway? [translation = patience on low ebb]
“No reason,” I add nonchalantly.
“”No reason.’? What reason? I mean, er, why you put da teapot in the oven if you not cook it?” Really! What is wrong with the child, can’t he just let it be?
“Well, if you must know, I put it in the oven to hide it. The oven is a very good place for hiding things.”
“Good for hiding. Good for cooking. Good for two things. Dat’s good.” At last he seems satisfied although I suspect the whole exercise was merely a ruse to delay starting jobs. [translation = chores and homework]

We go through our school routine of snacks, making packed lunches and getting clothes ready for the following day. It’s so difficult to decide in which precise order to do these things in, as if you don’t have sufficient motivation in front of you, then there is no human way of dragging them forward to the goal of task completion. [translation = getting things done.]

As I settle them down to homework at the table, with the promise of stories and supper to follow, a general protest ensues. There appear to be far too many arguments against completing homework in this next 30 minute section of the day; additional nutrition required for optimal brain function, a little light television in advance, to relax the mind and let the body wind down, social interaction needed with the felines of the household to ensure bonding and minimizing dysfunctional behaviour.

I look at them all and their feeble excuses in exasperation, when senior son adds his two pennarth [transation = 2 cents] “I cant do mine cos I lef it at school today.” It’s late, we’re behind schedule [translation = our timetable] and my energy reserves are low. I decide that we can play catch up tomorrow instead, where the therapy commitments are lighter, where there are a greater number of minutes available to prompt them through it all. I make my decree and they all scamper or lumber, off to pursue other, infinitely more preferable activities.
I return to the kitchen to start preparing supper for the masses. I jiggle the steeping tea pot. Should be ready by now? I switch on the cooker and yell to warn the children of the impending noisy explosion that indicates that the pilot light is functioning. I hope that the cleaners won’t comment on the absence of the teapot after 5 years, as I wouldn’t like to hurt their feelings. Hopefully they’ll just assume that I’ve switched to coffee, converted to the American mode. Perhaps they’ll think that I’ve adopted the filthy American habit with tea instead, where you only use a tea-bag in a cup, poke it with a teaspoon and fish it out with a special pair of tweezers?

The boom of the oven that follows as it ignites, still startles me, but this is nothing to the shriek of agony that comes seconds later. Senior son erupts into the kitchen and stares in horror at the oven, eyes on stalks, palms covering his mouth, “Oh no! What you do? You are in such big trouble. I tell Mrs. Loper it was you! You are da naughty one! You cooked my homework.”

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