Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Eye opener

A very long time ago we had children we few words and a great many frustrations. Several developmental leaps later, they had more words and a great many more frustrations.

My job description at the time was ‘the finder of things.’ I had been trained by a couple of experts. One would scream ‘Thomas’ and off I’d trot like a heat seeking missile, but not as accurate, nor fast. During a lull on the demand for brain cell function, it occurred to me that it might be a jolly good idea if I could train my children to find their own things. I devised a not so very cunning plan and we made a start. We experienced a great many hic-cups due to my short sightedness and my inability to predict roadblocks but eventually the ‘search’ plan materialized into something doable.

If I had my time over I would probably have used different words but the words were adopted, swallowed whole at the time and became deep seated. It became a prompt, an aide memoire that was thoroughly well scripted. I would approach a howling child and gently calm him down until words became possible. Clever people will know that if you have to attend to a howling child this means that you as a parent have missed the opportune moment to intervene, prior to the howling, but I still had a great deal to learn about pre-emptive strikes.

Once calm we could begin. Identify the name of the missing item, although that in itself might take quite a long time. Having identified the item we would then think. We put on our thinking poses, cartoon style, an index finger to the temple or mouth, deep in thought. ‘Aha! I know, why don’t we look for the thing with our eyes.’ It was an exaggeration, it was banal, it was a prompt to promote body action, movement and the first step to active problem solving.

But as I said, it was a very long, long time ago.

I bump into Nonna in the hall as she rears around the corner with faulty brakes as her right leg is one inch shorter than the other, “sorree, sorree, sorree,” she mutters as she regains her breath. “Can I help you? What are you looking for?” Her hands continue to pat surfaces as they search for whatever it is. Whatever it is, is currently nameless, or if it can be named it most likely will come out as the Italian version. She mimes instead. “Ah glasses!” because I’m quick off the mark like that. “You get a coffee and I’ll find them for you.” I trot off to check out all the usual suspects. The four pairs of reading glasses and three pairs of sun glasses have had a unduly high rate of escapism of late.

My son has witnessed this exchange, unusually. He watches Nonna walk to the kitchen and me go in the opposite direction. I see his head swivel to double check before he darts after me in Mr. Speedy mode. He has a huge cheesy grin plastered to his face as he flits around me on fast tapping tippy toes and a rapidly nodding head. His lips open and shut rapidly as do his hands, one at each cheek to show three lipped synched mouths all chattering in silence, ‘help ME! Help ME! HELP ME!” mouth the lips. “I’m helping Nonna, I’ll help you in a minute dear.” But he persists running back and forth in front of me, running feet, running mouths, cheesy grin and nodding head. In Nonna’s room the glasses are in plain sight as he bounces up and down on the bed, still miming, "HELP ME!" I return to the kitchen with mosquito boy still in full zap mode, and hand the glasses to Nonna. She smiles and returns to her room with a coffee. My son, deflates in another exaggeration of exhausted disappointment. “Right. What is it dear? What are you looking for?” But he is wordless with a scowl. He mutters something inaudible. “Pardon?” He whispers something quietly, probably the first real whisper in recorded history around here. “Why are you whispering dear?” which is a counter intuitive question in view of the fact that it is his first and I should be celebrating the event. He points to Nonna’s room with a stab for emphasis. “Nonna? What about Nonna. She’s in her room now, she can’t hear you.”
“She couldn’t be hearing me even if she was being here!” he scoffs.
“Enough of that matey. Use your kind words, just not in a whisper.”
“Why for she is not be lookin for her own stuff coz I am be needin for you to be helping me with lookin for my own stuff?”
“Because you know how to look now, don’t you.” He pulls a face, as he recognizes that it is indeed true, he is independent in that skill area, most of the time. “Darnit!” he screams, returning to his usual modality of 50 decibels.


feebeeglee said...

I remember being so put out that my mother was helping my previously capable grandmother with some simple task, when she lived with us for the last part of her life. It had to be explained to me in much the same way.

Niksmom said...

If he only knew, Maddy. If he only knew! Elders taking over the world...that made me snort my coffee!

Jazz said...

Yep, we're taking over the world. Scary thought isn,t it?

Corrie Howe said...

Great post! Bless you for living both ends. I only stayed with my grandmother for three weeks and thought I'd go insane having the same conversation over and over again. Of course, I was a bratty college student at the time. I hope I've grown...even a wee bit since then.

Right now, I only have to deal with one autistic son and two "typical" children. (Although one is smart as a whip and a teenager, not a good combination.)

Azul said...

Ah, you never fail to make me laugh aloud.

It's good for my soul, true, but my coworkers are beginning to question my sanity.

Anne said...

we have repurchased far too much when things get lost, my son just cannot begin to remember where he put something to start with.

good post, maybe i need you closer to me.

Christine said...

Funny, I was thinking the same as another commenter when I read this: you are living at both ends!!

I love your writing, Maddy. And I love how you look at life!!

Anonymous said...

Wellll, as an "elder", I like that kind of talk! :)

Chris H said...

Too funny!