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Thursday, December 14, 2006

Problem solving

I am generally of the opinion that my body is there to assist me in my daily occupations, but other than that, I don’t tend to give it much thought. My body automatically does things that I want it to do without me having to exert any energy to achieve my aims. This is because I have an exceptionally clever body. I tend to forget that other people’s bodies do not necessarily behave in a similar manner. Other bodies have parts that do not listen to the messages that their brain’s command, they are recalcitrant, deaf, ineffectual or ignore important information.

I engage my son in a lecture. I explain carefully that the Eucalyptus oil that I have put on his chest, must not on any account, reach his eyes. There must be no chest hand eye contact. Soap is essential to prevent this cross contamination.
‘Do you understand?’ is repeated at twenty second intervals, re-inforcing, confirming, clarifying, checking in, anything to prevent the oil in the eye meltdown. It’s automatic and formulaic but does not impede the inevitable. We used to put the drops of oil in the centre of his shoulder blades so that he couldn’t accidentally brush it with his hand.

I demonstrate that he has not been singled out for this treatment, I too have been anointed, look as the glistening smear in the hollow of my collar bone! See, me too? We can do it, both contaminated. We both benefit from the ability to breathe more easily. It is not a conspiracy, it is a good thing. He is mollified by the fact that we share the same fate, but this doesn’t prevent his finger tips from seeking out the spot. Each time I whisk him off to the bathroom where we model hand washing. The spot is a magnet to those finger tips, he can’t help himself.

I turn my attention to the other two, so that he’s without a finger guardian angel. I have no other option when school is 20 minutes away and everyone is naked.

In the family room I negotiate socks, feet and shoes, all of which are proving problematical with junior. He squalks and flaps as I prompt and persuade. At the table a scream of agony erupts from senior, followed by the thunder of naked feet pounding towards the bathroom, gallons of water and unco-operative soap. I nip round to check progress. He stands at the sink naked and soggy, huge saucer eyes of concern peer out anxiously beneath a hank of hair.
“My fingers did it again, but I got em, I washed em good, I am o.k. now,” he explains with triumph.

He returns to the table and his breakfast cereal which is still only half eaten as his progress is delayed my his unco-operative hands. He takes the initiative and sits on his hands. He stares at his cereal bowl. He casts a glance at each hand, under control under each thigh. It dawns on him that whilst the wandering hands are secure, it is also difficult to eat cereal without their assistance, ‘darn it!’ He shakes his head and releases one hand, the right one, reluctantly. The spoon makes contact with the bowl’s contents, but the bowl is traveling. Against his better instincts he allows the left hand to come out too, to help steady the bowl. Once his mouth is full and munching, the right hand is also occupied with spoon control, but the left one is left free to practice devilment. The drips of milk run down his naked chest which invite the left hand to investigate. The finger tips trace the milk drops, without permission, “ah!” he screams and scrambles off his chair to repeat the hand washing exercise, self initiated, self correcting.
He reappears from the bathroom, breathless and exasperated.
“How are you doing dear?”
“Well,” he sighs, weary from yet another 50 yard dash when the asthma is in full swing, “you know, it not my fault. I think it is the bad hand, it won’t do as I say, it won’t listen to me any more.” He stomps his foot to emphasize the point, a couple of nano seconds off.
“You know what?” I ask, wait, and count to fifteen.
“What?” horray he got there!
“I don’t think it is a bad hand.”
“Not bad?”
“No. It’s the milk, the milk drips.”
“The milk drips are bad?”
“The milk drips make the hand move, it’s not the hand’s fault, it’s the milk’s.” He doesn’t comment, which isn’t particularly surprising, as it sounds pretty odd to me too. I should really be having this conversation once I am awake, not at 7:20 in the morning.

I continue to help junior with his flying shoes, whilst senior returns to the table for the next cereal episode. After much persuasion, junior is shod and we commence the teeth cleaning torture session. I check on senior. He is seated at the dining room table, it itself a triumph of accomplishment, as he has achieved a static status. Being static whilst wielding a spoon with liquid should encourage a positive outcome.

When I return again, I find him wrapped in a blanket, several blankets in fact, forming an igloo. His head and right arm pop out of the top. There is no sign of the left arm swaddled beneath the depths. A triangle of spilled milk spreads down the front of the igloo where he chest would have been. I pick up the serviettes [translation = napkins] and stuff them back into the drawer, who needs a square foot of fabric when you get much better results with a two six foot squares of hefty material to weigh down an inhibit tresspassers?

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