I stand at the kitchen counter fighting and cursing, silently. Junior saunters over to drape himself at my side.
“We can be having dah electronics now? It is being dah 5:30!” I check the clock. [translation = never trust a child on a mission] I know I should check for chore completion but the rising waves of pain are making me fractious. “Were you a good boy today for the baby sitter?” I offer lamely. “Ooo yes, I was being dah extra, extra good.” Why do I doubt his veracity? “Really? Well I’m very pleased to hear that!” But I still don’t believe it. I glance around to notice that the carpet is visible. [translation = tidy toys task is completed] “Well it certainly is very tidy around here! You must have done a marvelous job?”
He offers me no further information. I dither for a few moments, watching his expectant face. “O.k. then, let me find the key, and we’ll turn it on in 3 minutes.” I set the visual timer to three minutes, just long enough to read the instructions on the bottles and swig down a quick dose of painkillers. My son watches me. “You forgotted?” “I did? What did I forget?” “Dah rule.” “Which rule might that be then?” “Er….the danger….dah cutting…….dah I don know!” he squalks frustrated by his inability to recall the rule, the rule that I made up, repeat often and then ignore myself. I grab him quickly to cut off the meltdown, to reward him for his efforts at reciprocal exchange, for his staggering ability to demonstrate that the theory of mind belongs to the rat population. “Yes, yes, yes, you’re quite right, ‘never open anything bought in America without a pair of scissors in one hand and a cleaver in the other’.” He grins at me, revealing crooked English teeth. I make a mental note to ensure that all additional rules, whether for adults or children, are kept succinct.
“What you are do?” he asks solicitously. [translation = we both know that I am attempting to open my medication, following a visit to the dentist. Since he already knows this, he is merely being conversational, a significant development for an autistic child with a speech delay] Horray! “Well I just need a pill or two for my teeth.” I am careful to avoid the term ‘pain management.’ Although this Americanism is now familiar, I doubt if it will translate to well to a six year old. I also suspect that the use of the word ‘pain’ will trigger a traumatic reaction. [translation = OCD response to any trigger word that is associated with death, and there are far more of them than one might first imagine, even if you happen to have a dictionary handy. ] “ Your teef are hurted?” “Not really,” I reassure, “stuck in some Petri dish somewhere,” I mutter as I rip packaging and accumulate paper cuts. “Dah dentist be grow new teef for you?” Lummy. How can he know ‘Petri’ dish and it’s associations, but have no knowledge of whether a ‘pear’ is a fruit or a vegetable or even edible? “Oh no. She’ll just throw them away.” “Oh. So no hurt den?” “Oh, only a little bit, so if I take some of these now, it will stop it from getting any worse.” I peer at the small print regarding dosage through dirty bifocals, with an out of date prescription . [translation = the bifocals not the medication] “How many?” he asks. “I have no idea. I think it’s two Advil for 8 hours and then two Tylenol for four hours, to overlap, or is it the other way around?” I mutter as brain function reduces in direct correlation to increase in pain. “I fink dat maybe you are be making dah mistake,” he offers in a slightly warbling tone, the one he uses when he is trying to be cute and persuasive. [translation = rare] I contemplate whether it is wise for a 47 year old English woman to take medical advice from an American six year old? There again, he is an American ! [translation = a race blessed with medical knowledge imbibed from their parents after birth, or perhaps in vitro?] “I fink dis is dah one you be needing.” His index finger, the extra sensitive one, pokes the third bottle. [translation = Vicodin] I try and ignore the fact that my son is encouraging his mother to take the hardcore drug option. “Why that one dear?” I can’t help myself, I just have to know. “Well, first it is being dah cutsey one.” Firstly! Do I detect the appearance of voluntary sequencing? “Yes, it is a rather cute bottle.” [translation = I withdraw all my prejudice against over-use of the word ‘cute’] “Den it is being dah golden,” he oozes with breathy awe. “Ah yes, yellow is your favourite colour.” “Last, er third, er lasty, it being started with a ‘V’” he sighs with dreamy fluttering eyelids. [translation = the less commonly used letters are the most favourted ones] “Well that is sound advice, dear. Thank you.”
The other two appear from nowhere. “Time for electronics! Can I watch t.v. first?” she pleads, weary after a day at camp. “Well I promised the boys electronics first, as a reward for being so good for the baby sitter whilst I was at the dentist.” [translation = 5 hours equates to financial ruin] “No fair! They already had t.v.” she snaps with annoyance. “No they haven’t, they’ve been here with the baby sitter all day, whilst you were at camp.” “Yes, we did!” offers my oldest son, the young man who is too honest for his own good. [translation = defends all his siblings and stray felines without a second thought] “What do you mean? I still have the key!” I open my palm to double check my sanity level. [translation = visual prompt for a visual learner on the cusp of senility] “Yes, but, but, but……..” he fizzles out. Instead of having a meltdown, he points to the family room. I follow him. The armoire is open. The telly sits there, surrounded by a plethora of remote control devices. I reach up and touch the screen. It is warm. “See!” he explains. “We wuz very, very good.” I try not to frown or pout or scream. [translation = the real cost of 5 hours of baby sitting, the real pain of 5 hours of baby sitting] “What were you doing that was so…..good?” “Well, I wuz fightin, er I mean, we wuz fightin.” “I see.” I practice breathing. [translation = ommmm] “She said...babysitter said.... he wuz dah loudest,... an I said ‘no, he is dah loudest in dah world ever,’ every one is knowing dat!” he summarizes with glee. [translation = marks awarded to all those who are able to count the number of negative reinforcements here?] Junior pops back into the room with a question, “I fink you are dah stoopid!” Well really! That’s all I need, the return of the name calling phase. [translation = a habit I thought we had extinguished] “Now come along, we don’t name call, remember?” “No! I am saying you are STOOPID!” Oh please! Not now! Can’t we do this later, in five minutes or half an hour, whenever the pain killers kick in? “Now listen…” He cuts me off, “No, you are not listening to me!” Golly, where did that come from? Echolalic, scripting? “I say, you not take medicine for dah teef. DAT is stoopid.” I brace myself. “Why is it stupid to take medicine dear?” “Coz dah teef are in dah Petri dish not in your mowf!.” [translation = extractions] I smile gingerly, floored by the logic. What a ninny I am! [translation = foolish person]