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Monday, August 27, 2007

Too much to process

As often as not, one becomes so used to the status quo that progress can be a smack in the face.

For us, the issues of time and sequencing are very old friends. This is why we are a household with more timers than the average clock shop. They come in every kind of variety. During the summer holidays I have occasion to use nearly all of them. 8 hours and 55 minutes until bed time. 27 minutes until snack. 8 hours and 25 minutes until electronics. The tick tock of one, fights for attention with the tickety tockety of another one.

Once words emerged and were used with greater frequency, we began an exchange.
“How many minutes until……..?” fill in the blank.
“Look at the timer dear.”
Always the same response, for years. Now during the summer, we add an extra line: “which one?”

Yes, and on and on we go, forever, without end. Yes, they’re just like everyone else’s children, where we all repeat the same phrases, except the boys ask more frequently. I don’t choose to examine the OCD elements and try to remind myself how well their voluntary speech is coming along.

The tick down chart on the window tells them all that there are only 8 days left of their summer holidays to go, until school begins again. Every day, I make a big hoo hah about taking them to the chart, so that they can be reminded of the dwindling days of freedom and avoid shock tactics. An unexpected benefit has grown from this practice. Inevitably, when small people are herded together and forced to keep their own company, tempers can sometimes become frayed. This is especially so as the temperatures climb in August. Fights, skirmishes and scuffles break out at regular intervals.

I think the habit began at the beginning of the holidays as I intervened to break up the latest wrestling match. It was something along the lines of, “if you think we’re going to behave like this for the next nine weeks……!” delivered in an unpleasant tone of growing exasperation. Thereafter, the OCD amongst us, would race to the chart to check how many happy days there were left and how many days of war had passed. When the mid point was reached, panic ensued. Every moment must be spent extending the happiness quotient.

Meanwhile, my youngest son hurtles around the house chanting his latest phrase: “Lights, camera, action!” at fifty decibels. This phrase is followed by a brief interlude before he reaches the conclusion, some minutes later: “Cut!” at 75 decibels. This is definitely a new development, one that has my nerves all of a jangle. I’m quite content with the new phrase, it’s the surprise ending that makes my heart miss a beat. In view of the fact that he has been using this phrase for more than seven hours now, I should have adjusted to the new sequence, but I’m having a hard time recalibrating my own alert system.

Another alarming development is how he is able to hold a conversation with his Pokemon playmates and siblings, whilst in Pokemon character, and yet still manage to punctuate each exchange with his favoured phrase without pausing for breath or missing a beat. I find the whole experience quite mind bending. I try and imagine having a conversation with someone where I would interject an irrelevant phrase and tack it on the end of anything I said? I cannot imagine how this would impact my ability to keep track of the conversation, to say nothing of the effect on the person you are talking to. I am further alarmed to realize than none of the three young conversationalists are in the least bit perturbed, disturbed or annoyed by this.

I am so wrapped up in unraveling this feat that I miss the rumble.

It is hard to accurately describe what we witness and of course there is no warning, or maybe I wasn't paying attention. My six year old erupts from the carpet like a rocket, remains air born momentarily, to land seconds later in a frenzy of movement, as if someone had fitted a live bee hive on his head. His siblings roll around with guffaws of laughter at his latest explosion, immune, de-sensitized and entertained. I mine for clues but keep out of contact range. I assess whether he is winding up or down. He charges to the trampolene where he expends a considerable amount of energy for several minutes. A heart warming display of self management. He collapses in a heap, drained and closes his eyes with a sigh, “dats better,” he confirms. I debate whether to ask and risk rekindling a burning ember?

“What was it dear?”
“I fink maybe a dust was being falled on my head.” I am uncertain whether I am any the wiser? I suspect that if you are on heightened alert and over stimulated, that maybe a particle of dust might be enough to trigger an almighty reaction.

I am still contemplating the meaning of life, or at least, the underlying triggers, when the other one distracts me with the same old spiel, “er, um, how many minutes until electron…” he pauses, mid sentence as he often does, before he skips a step completely, “oh yeah!” He jumps to his feet and lollops across the room to the table, with the bank full of timers. His hands reach out and lift the correct one as he says, “look at the timer.”

Other aspects of my life are every bit as "bewildering."

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