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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Twist and plop – a three ring circus

I consult the pottery guru. A woman who has thrown many hundreds of pots a day for more days than either of us can count. I need help with just two of my many little problems:-
1. Once I have thrown a pot I cannot get it off the bat without distortion.
2. When I turn the foot of the pot, I cannot get it off the wheel head without distortion.
She gets back to me within the hour, not via telephone, as who can hear a voice message over the din, but by email, my life line to the outside world. I read her words:- wire it off, lift and place it on the drier but as you place it on, sort of spin it as you drop it and it will plop into place. I am deeply grateful that there is no sporting reference but also dubious about my top spin abilities as I’ve never been a fan of cricket.

I dash out into the garage to give it a go. Remarkably, each bowl plops and judders into place, still round. I leave 18 bowls to dry out enough to carve and return to my other domestic duties. My other domestic duties are all very hungry but unwilling to walk the plank to success. Instead of sitting at the dining room table like good little pirates to eat their dinner, instead they insist on two minute bathroom breaks. They take it in turns, our only current control mechanism, “no you can’t go to the loo until he comes back.” It’s feeble, it’s pathetic, it’s unstoppable.

Each boy makes the forty yard dash to the bathroom, hangs over the sink and fills his mouth with water from the faucet. Part habit, part palette cleanser, part displacement activity from the hideous chore of eating. It crept up upon us when we weren’t paying attention. So busy celebrating their ever expanding diet and the demise of neo-phobia, we failed to notice that few children will have a large appetites if their tummies are already full to capacity with several gallons of tap water. The subsequent wet beds are no laughing matter.

The first few visits have now morphed into a ritual:- the breathless announcement of pending activity, the dash, the glug, the call to return, the return, the pirouette and booty wiggle before chair parking, before eating can commence again. Minute additions to the script means an endless run on. The virtual high five, the air kiss to the dog, the pat to the cat who must not be left out, on and on and on it goes. Each visit takes about three minutes. Each meal’s duration lengthens daily. In order to finish dinner we need to start at breakfast time. One teaspoon full of food to five minutes of shenanigans is a poor ratio, times two.

But they’re happy, they’re eating, two fundamental and crucial facts not to be missed nor buried in "the mire of confusion." We are unwitting "enablers" in our own downfall, "facilitators." We need to unravel the knitting, drop a dozen stitches and refashion, but habits once formed, are difficult to break.

A brake would be a good start.

“Do you know what?”
I explain my problem with the pots, I model the solution, the spin, the plop, the drop with sound effects.
“You be are look like a big, blobby, jello,” he giggles.
“Maybe you could be jello at the table too?” Both boys back glance to the bathroom which is calling loudly, urging repeats, demanding their attention.
“Go on. Have a go.” They hesitate as the pressure to repeat mounts, more difficult to shake off but my daughter is up off her chair to demonstrate spin and master jello judder. They can’t help but look, as pre-teens guard their growing maturity, their need to exude confident sophistication. They can’t resist. Pirouette, plop and judder, over in a few seconds, the spell broken.

Do we plan to adopt and incorporate this as a new campaign? No. Not really. It’s more a way of confirming something that I already knew. It is still really difficult for them to sit at the table and eat. It’s not a preferred activity. I need to ensure that they have the opportunity to rid themselves from as many of the fizzies and wiggles as possible prior to the main meal of the day. It’s the same as it’s always been, but I’ve just been lax. Maybe it’s ten minutes on the trampolene or five minutes chasing the dog or 7 minutes of rough and tumble? It used to be ‘therapy,’ ten minutes of brushing or massage or deep proprioceptive input, but they’re older now but with the same underlying predispositions.

As yet I’m not sure what we’re going to do, but I do know that whatever you care to call it, some kind of outlet must be incorporated.

In many ways it reminds me of a bygone era where eating in the street was an abomination. But times have changed. People eat whilst doing other things, work at the computer, run for the train, brown bag lunches, lunch meetings and conference calls, chat and walk and check their text messages all at the same time as they re-fuel. The ritual of a family meal is a rarity with the busyness of modern life. No-one chews a mouthful 36 times and everyone suffers from indigestion.

I suspect that we searching for some middle ground. The ability to tolerate if not enjoy the collective meal as well hold onto that flexibility, to refuel on the hoof as we sprint through the rest of our lives.

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