Monday, October 17, 2011

Happiness Is...

When Finian came home from school today, I just finished listening to (yet another) particularly gloomy news report about the economy.  The wind was howling, the rain was lashing fiercely against the windows and all in the world seemed grey and hopeless.  I was feeling scared, angry and helpless when in bounced Finian.
He zoomed around the house, squealing with excitement, practically pinging off the walls with joy.
Instantly, my day grew brighter and I could see that there was good stuff in the world worth living for.

So I got to thinking about happiness, and it seems that it's all about expectation.

Back when life was nasty, brutish and short, I imagine that happiness was surviving til tea-time, free of bubonic plague, with a full complement of limbs.
In times of famine, happiness is a full belly.
In times of war, the possession of a beating heart and functioning lungs is as good as it gets.

But it seems that the further removed we become from the simple act of living, the further removed we are from what it means to be  truly happy.
The satisfaction achieved from putting food on the table, and protecting your family from imminent death,  has been replaced by a nagging emptiness that will only be filled by an iPhone 4.

It seems that humans eternally strive for happiness but are incapable of achieving it, or at least of holding onto that slippery emotion when we do experience it.
Yet, why do we constantly search for it when it is just another emotion to be experienced and enjoyed?
All emotions are transient, and I think that's a good thing.
Happiness feels good, so of course we want more of it.  But it's a tall order to expect 24/7, thousand watt Happiness in a life filled with the colour of failure, hope, disappointment, excitement, anger and a whole stew of other emotions that are equally valuable.  Experiencing a thousand different emotions every day is normal and makes us richer, more interesting people. 

                                                           "Maybe I like the misery!"

If we lived in a permanently chilled state of Utopia, we would never experience the niggling doubts that urge us to challenge, create and improve.  Being slightly unhappy needles us into action that can have wonderful consequences.
If Thomas Edison was happy to sit in the dark, we'd still be reading by candle-light.
A vaguely unsettled feeling of unhappiness gives us a creative itch that has filled the world with art, books and technological advances.

Striving to achieve happiness is big business, and there is a market thriving on our desire for it.
Businesses create a need for eternal youth, beauty, thinness, sexiness, achievements and  wealth (which most of us, most of the time, manage pretty well without), if we spend enough money and buy enough of their product.  But regardless of what the product is, the underlying message is that you're unfulfilled without this...this will make you happy.

Oh really???  A face cream filled with bat-shit and horse-piss (patent pending) will render me prostrate with bliss??
An architecturally  perfect house built with custard and rolled-up newspapers will have me writhing in ecstasy?
A malnourished  figure that has me demented with hunger and crumbling with osteoporosis will have me bursting with joy?
I don't think so.

Happiness comes and goes, like any other equally valuable, if less comfortable, emotion.

Finian's happiness is not dictated by the possession of an iPad, or a healthy bank balance, or  back-slapping popularity.
He's happy because he's here.

It's humbling, and wonderful, that a gorgeous autie kid reminded me of that.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Favourite Kid Syndrome, Anyone?

In the last few days I became uncomfortably aware of an article doing the rounds promoting the notion that parents have a favourite child (apparently there's a guy promoting a book about sibling rivalry, which I don't need to read.  I have three brothers and three sisters and basically we learned to eat fast and run faster).
While it's an intriguing topic, it initially had me running screaming to my favourite river in Africa (Denial) with my hands over my ears and my eyes squeezed shut.
But it got me thinking.
I really  feckin hate when that happens.

While I was doing the damn dailies (housework in  Dr Phil-speak) the question popped into my head with unwelcome frequency, clawing the inside of my head for an answer.
Do I have a favourite kid?
How is anyone vaguely human supposed to answer that?
Give them a gun with three chambers and two bullets and may the best (and favourite) child win?

It took me a few days (the cerebral cogs are pretty rusty) before I realised that it's a really stupid question.
For most parents.
I'm sure there are some who do favour a particular child, may they be forever cursed with frizzy hair and bad shoes.
But most of us don't.

I hold my hands up to treating my kids differently.
Not to the extent that one will get a sorrowful "tut, tut" for burning down a school while another will be grounded for eternity for smelling a bit strange, but I am mindful that I use different approaches with the three of them  in response to similar situations.
But that's because they're different people, not because I prefer one to the other.
For example, Jimmy (14) will give me a big old bear hug after we have a row, we'll have a chat and then all is well with the world.  Ellen (11) on the other hand, practically needs to be sedated if I raise my voice an octave  to her.  Ergo, while it's not useful or productive to yell at Ellen, sometimes I have to bellow like a dying ass at Jimmy just to get him to register my existence.
Every evening I line up a small row of sweets on the table as an incentive for Finian (7) to do his homework...much as my older sproglets would love if I did this for them, I expect them to complete their homework without the need for a dangling carrot (or *ahem* less wholesome, but much more attractive, sweets).  This could be misconstrued as favouritism, but it's nothing more than employing different tactics with different kids  to produce the same result.
(disclaimer; to my knowledge, none of my offspring have been involved in the conflagration of any educational institutes.  Please don't sue me.)

My obsessive brain is incapable of of just letting an uncomfortable topic go, so I tried to be logical and reason that perhaps we favour the child who is most likely to survive to adulthood and produce grandchildren.
So far, so Darwin-tastic.
But that doesn't explain the intense protectiveness we feel for our special needs kids, who are  unlikely to grace us with grandchildren and who may leapfrog past us into an early grave due to underlying ill health or risky behaviour (feel free to refer to my last post about playing chicken with traffic).
Plus to the onlooker it could appear that I favour Finian as his autism demands that I spend way more time with him than I do with my other kids.  Most of that time is spent preventing him from killing himself, but it's extra time and attention nonetheless.
So that  throws that one out the window.

So I have a conspiracy theory, which is much more fun.
I wonder if it's possible that psychotherapists are planting these stories to ensure a future steady income when our adult kids flock to them with their bruised egos.  It seems to me that they suggest that, from the outset, parenthood is an exercise in damage limitation.
Maybe the recession is hurting them too and they feel it necessary to toss a psychological grenade into the family unit to ensure a steady stream of future punters.

So I have an answer to that question.
It's a stupid question, so stop asking it (erm, except for the  parents actually do favour a child...those kids are allowed see a therapist).
Parenthood is hard enough without being whacked around the head by some psycho-babbling guilt-merchant.

...although, the devil in me is tempted to gather  my Little Dears around me and reassure them by saying "Darlings, you have no need to fret.  I hate you all equally."

Saturday, October 8, 2011

The Evolution of the Autie Parent

Leaked reports of ground-breaking research which appears to de-construct the anatomy of the autie parent have been circulating for some time, but finally, exciting scientific discoveries have revealed that the body of the autie parent is, indeed, different.
A unique evolutionary pathway appears to be emerging in a human sub-group, aka the autie parent, in which accelerated anatomical changes occur which enhance the subject's ability to survive their offspring's diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder

It has been suspected for many years that when autie parents return their battered bodies from whence they came, that their anatomy could be identified immediately by the following peculiarities;

(1) Adrenal glands so enlarged that they have developed their own gravitational field.

If you are bothered by small planets circling around your midriff, then you may be suffering from this chronic condition.
Recently my son made like an amoeba and split from the back seat of our (stationary...what a stroke of luck!) car  and engaged in a thrilling game of chicken with the on-coming traffic.  I was more intrigued by the expressions of the  horrified drivers as they watched a seven year old steak of lightening (not nude for once, phew!) being chased AND caught (yes, I've still got it people) by a 40 year old Monaghan Mammy who can still move goddammit when she has to.
Gotta say I felt a little smug that I collared him before he reached the bus he was sprinting towards, which in retrospect was probably in an inappropriate response to a potentially life threatening situation.
I concluded that I am in such a state of perpetual fear, that my horse-whipped adrenal glands have expanded, exploded and, finally, collapsed in exhaustion.
I just don't do fear anymore.
That's not to say I am afforded the luxury of not caring.  I still get to worry about his usual  wall-climbing, jail-breaking, glass-eating stuff.  My engorged adrenals decline to pump out stress hormones in response to a flight/fight situation because they just don't have any left.
I have affectionately named my adrenal glands Elvis, as ladies and gentlemen, they have left the building.

(2) The presence of a gizzard, normally only found in animals for whom storage of food for later consumption is vital for survival. 

Eating an entire meal in one sitting is an impossibility.
The ingestion of nutrients is subject to numerous interruptions for essential bum-wiping, urgent laptop maintenance and apprehension of  runaway children (see above).
The evolution of a gizzard allows the autie parent to avoid starvation, and in an unforeseen development, has multiplied the sales of antacids exponentially.

(3) The presence of a bladder so distended that it can double up as a handy trampoline.  

Scientists speculate that this evolution has occurred in response to the autie kid's love of jumping in conjunction with the autie parent's inability to pee in case said child burns the house down/eats firelighters/pours cooking oil over the dog.
This development is thought to be a clever symbiosis between the parental instinct to protect the child and the child's desire to perform back-flips on his parent's abdomen.
Manufacturers of incontinence products have benefited enormously.

(4) Dermal calcification

This peculiar anomaly has caused much head-scratching and beard-stroking (mostly of their own, but they're a friendly bunch) among the scientific community.  Skin so thick it appears bone-like has been identified as a feature exclusive to the bodies of autie parents.  It has been postulated that this has evolved to protect the autie parent from the burning gaze of judgemental passers-by as they wrestle with their high-octane, fully leaded screaming balls of fury (by this, I mean their children, not their actual......maybe I should rethink this metaphor).

(5) Asystole, often in conjunction with sudden onset of hypothermia

Curious to the autie parent is their uncanny ability to survive asystole, a cardiac condition in which all electrical activity ceases and the heart stops beating.
In most humans, this condition is incompatible with life, but recent research suggests that the simultaneous freezing of the blood in response to an extreme stressor may allow the autie parent cheat the Grim Reaper  until their child has been snatched from the jaws of death.
This research was prompted by the frequent remarks made by autie parents to the effect that their"heart stopped" and their "blood went cold".
The scientific community is divided on this phenomenon, with some scratchy-beardy types unhelpfully referring to the sometimes cold-blooded autie parent as the "lizard with a gizzard".

More investigation is required, but since the subjects selfishly prefer to wait until they have expired to allow themselves be autopsied, the mystery of whether the autie parent is evolving into a new sub-species remains an intriguing one.
Scientists remain tight-lipped until their findings can be verified, but if you spot an adult human (often in the company of a screaming, but ridiculously handsome, child) sporting the hide of a rhinoceros and asking for directions to the nearest defibrillator, then you may be in the company of evoltion as it happens.

You heard it here first.