Wednesday, 8 November 2017

Probably OK

Every now and then* I worry about my LittleBear. I worry about his oddities, the ways in which he's not like other children, whether he'll continue to fit in, to have friends, to be happy.

Last week, he was invited to a friend's house to watch a film. Normally he will point blank refuse to consider such a thing, because films are scary and horrid and he doesn't want to watch them. Ditto all other forms of fiction. However, on this occasion, several of his dearest friends were gathering and he seemed to think it a nice idea. Five minutes into the film ("Sing" as it happens) I found he was curled into a small ball, cuddling his penguin, shark and two nanoos, with his fingers in his ears, shaking his head. A bit of cuddling and I ascertained that it was "too scary" and he wanted to go home. My heart broke a little bit for my poor baby, but I snuggled him away from the film, and he settled down to play with toy cars instead so that he could stay for pizza with the others. He was entirely content playing instead, but it just fuelled my worries about his "otherness".

Lately, we've been playing Scrabble together, and it turns out that the structure of playing with letters and numbers appeals to my boy enormously. He loves the idea of letters having points values, and everywhere we go now he's busy scoring words, numberplates, signs, names, anything. A few days ago, he was eating potato waffles and baked beans for dinner. This may seem unrelated to playing Scrabble, apart from one of the peculiarities of this meal in our household. Those of you not familiar with potato waffles - they are a grid of reformed potato, thus:

Rectilinear potato

Those of you not familiar with early electronic calculators or the inner workings of my mind may not spot the potential to form seven-segment-display characters from a potato waffle.

The geometric essence of a potato waffle

The simple application of a sharp knife allows the creation of a wide variety of letters:

B, E and r, rendered from potato-y goodness
Under instruction from my little tyrant however, I have also attempted extravagant feats of cursive letters from a potato waffle. They are convincing only in the mind of a five year old:

A somewhat unconvincing, and fragile o and s
When last munching his way through his own name (yes, yes, I do construct his name from chopped up potato waffle. Yes, I am a fool.) LittleBear piped up,

"Mummy? Do you know what half of three points is?"

Not spotting anything out of the ordinary yet, naturally I responded,

"One-and-a-half points darling."

"No Mummy, it's actually one point."

"Is it? Why's that?"

"Well, if you cut an 'M' in half it's an 'N'; if you cut a 'B' in half it's an 'O'; if you cut a 'C' in half it's an 'R'"


Let me help you here, dear readers.

3-point M becomes 1-point N

3-point B becomes 1-point O

3-point C becomes 1-point R
Now, while I may think it's awesome that LittleBear has memorised the scores of every letter on the Scrabble board, and is able to take a sideways view of the structure of letters and think laterally and generally be adorable, I also fear for what this approach to the world will mean amongst other children (and adults). I have enough experience of being a bit odd, and a bit on the outside, to know that it's not always the most comfortable place to be. I may be comfortable(ish) with who I am aged 43, but I don't want it to take my LittleBear that long to be OK.

And then, this morning, he came out with something that put my mind at rest about his ability to have friends and be friends and be part of the world in a loving and awesome way...

"Mummy? I've been thinking about my party."

"Yes dear?"

"LittleFriend doesn't like chocolate, so we need to make sure there's something else that he likes."

Because this Saturday is LittleBear's sixth birthday party, and he has planned his cake in extraordinary detail**, including the important fact that it is a chocolate cake. But, out of the twenty-seven*** children attending, one of his dearest friends doesn't like chocolate. I'm not sure it is possible for me to be more proud of my baby than I am about the fact that he remembered this, and cared so much about the happiness of his friend that he wants to be sure there is cake for him too.

I think LittleBear will probably be OK.

* When I say "every now and then" obviously I really mean "almost constantly". 

** My ability to realise this cake in actual physical form will start being challenged tonight. My stress levels are already high. By Friday they may be stratospheric.

*** Yes, really. This may be one of the stupidest things I've ever done. Twenty-seven children. With me entertaining them. 

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