Saturday, November 6, 2010

Fun-Sized Wisdom

Throw away your guide books and sack your counsellor.
I discovered my very own pearl of wisdom in the back of the car after horse-riding this morning.

This pearl does not come in the conventional, glossy sphere we are accustomed to.  It's more, well...Ellen shaped and definitely talks more than any other piece of jewellery I own.
Ellen is my 10 year old daughter and has had a pretty atypical launch into this world.  She catapulted into this unsuspecting planet in one hour flat and was quickly diagnosed as having a ventricular septal defect (a hole between the lower chambers of the heart).  Even though cardiologists view this condition as relatively minor, when a paediatrician tells you your newborn baby has a heart problem, and there's a flurry of ECGs, X-rays and echo tests, it feels like there just isn't enough air to breathe.
We spent many years attending the cardiology outpatients in Crumlin Hospital and she became aware at a very young age that not all children arrive in bouncy, healthy packages.  She knew that many children were sick and disabled, and that sometimes they died.  Not because we told her, but because she saw them.  Experience has a more profound impact on a developing psyche than hearing about things second hand, so she grew up with oodles of kindness, compassion and a surprisingly  pragmatic outlook that sometimes shit just happens, and you have to deal with it.

When Ellen was seven, just two months after her little brother was diagnosed with autism, the cardiologist found that her VSD had resolved.  We were delighted to get some good news after doing the autism circus.  Ellen wasn't so impressed.
"I'll miss it" she said.
I can't decide if she missed the fact that having a heart defect, which became a part of her identity, had now vanished into the ether,  or if it was the loss of our post-appointment trip to McDonald was a bigger grievance to her (yes, the irony of taking a heart kid to a fast food joint is not lost on me).
Either way, Ellen sees in the world in a direct and madly quirky style.

At school she struggled enormously with language and comprehension, to the point that she needed to repeat a year and get daily extra help with the resource teacher.  Dyslexia and intellectual disability were discounted, and three years of hard graft and skilled teaching paid off.  Even though she is not autistic, I do sometimes wonder about the link between her language difficulties and her little brother's autism.

So having an autie brother has been much like having any little brother for Ellen.  She loves him, fights with him and often finds him the biggest pain in the butt ever.

In the car this morning I was fretting about how I would manage Bob on a visit to a toy shop, as he was invited to a birthday party tomorrow and we needed to get a present.  Dreadful visions of apoplectic autie kids being dragged out of said shop by peri-menopausal, wild haired mothers would surely make the evening news.  Global warming might escalate and the sky may fall in.  I was muttering away madly more to myself than to Ellen and I kinda forgot she was there.

Until a little voice from the back seat said "Mammy, if you believe you're in control, then Bob will believe you're in control and then you WILL do it".
I had to concentrate extra hard not to drive the car across the ditch.
Trying to act as if this was a perfectly normal observation for a small kid to make, I asked her "How do you know this Ellen?".
"Because this is what we do with the horses.  It works."
Erm, this kid is 10.

My mini-behaviourist is on to something.
I pretended I was in charge, and Bob bought it.
Maybe horse-riding does cure autism after-all...


  1. Well done Ellen!! Are you planning on hiring her out to other stressed out mums??? I could do with her wisdom!

  2. Clever lil lady you have there Jean!! :-) X

  3. Oh wow, how old did you say she was??!! I need to go off and chew this one over, when did 10 year olds get to be that wise:) Jen

  4. LOL hahaha heart lifting story - and absolutely hilarious. You just can't licence for them, what a cracker, kids heh where would you be without them. :)

  5. HAHAHA!'ve got a bright and wonderful girl there...Love the toy shopping imagery..Glad I am not alone...;0

  6. @ casdok, cheers
    @ Taz, I'm afraid I can't afford to hire her out as I'll be extracting every bit if sense from her that I can
    @ Elaine, she's clever alright
    @ Jen, 10 going on 137
    @ Karen, it's a peach isn't it?
    @ Kathleen, toy shops are just begging for trouble

  7. love it jean clever and gorgeous hope you rem to take credit for the level headed little girl you have she wouldn't be so sensible if it wasn't for the great parent's and familly she has xxxxx

  8. I wonder what Ellen will come out with next? I hope you'll share it with us xx

  9. @ breda, thank you doll
    @ Blue Sky...I should write a bloggy spin-off for her xxx

  10. Listen to her Jeannie! She is my guru.

    Ps. You don't have to go to the birthday party OR the toyshop. You can just buy some Ben & Jerrys and wine and stay home. Feck em!

  11. Wow,.. what a perceptively clever little girl you have there Jean. I am super impressed.

    Oh yeah... Ellen Says posts should be interesting... have a wiiBoy Words of wisdom a-brewing...

    xx Jazzy

  12. @ Hammie, she's too skinny to make a decent Buddha statue but her pearls work for me
    @ Jazzy, the WiiBoy Words would be hilarious. I don't know how he'll follow up dancing vaginas and blessed strippers tho

  13. Wow what age did you say she was again?? What a wise head on such young shoulders. Love it xx

  14. Wise head on young shoulders, Ellen isms will be widely used from now on :)

  15. Ellen is indeed a wise 10 yr. old! Takes after her mum no doubt!

  16. This reminds me why I always wanted to have a girl... You are so lucky to have her!

  17. @ petunia, I know...all the money I've wasted on self-help books!
    @ Andra, "Ellen-isms" it
    @ Lora, when I grow up I want to be just like Ellen
    @ Truf, I adore her

  18. I can't believe the school even tested her for intellectual disability, she had a knowing eye from the moment she was born. When I grow up I want to be just like her.

  19. Out of the mouths of babes and all that. A very observant little lady.

  20. @ Alison, you may be slightly biased etc etc
    @ Tilly, it was one of those moments alright