Being told “You’re such a great mom!” is one of the best and worst things about mommy-blogging. Those comments are great to hear, but they also have a tendency to echo ironically in one’s head when the children are swarming around, tugging on one’s shirt and yelling, “Groceries! I need groceries! Can I have a banana?” and one is shouting in response, “No fruit! You can’t have any fruit until AFTER you eat your supper!”
The trouble is that blogging shines a lovely spotlight on all one's strengths as a mother (okay, all my strengths), casting an obscuring haze over such nitty-gritty details as nutrition and regular bathing. In the interests of honesty and full disclosure (attributes that I’m never more anxious to possess than after I publicly disclaim any obligation to do so), I thought I’d give myself a report card using the Hogwarts grading scheme:
Empathy: Outstanding - Bubandpie demonstrates a highly developed ability to enter imaginatively into her children’s inner worlds. This trait allows her not only to write blog posts but also to devise original and occasionally ingenious tactics for nurturing her children’s social and linguistic development.
Play: Acceptable - Although Bubandpie is diligent in arranging excursions for her children outside the home, her efforts to amuse and entertain them within the home are lackluster at best. Her house boasts a wide selection of toys, but there is room for improvement in the areas of role-playing and interactive play.
Attention Span: Dreadful - When examined, Bubandpie was not able to demonstrate that she could devote her undivided attention to her children for longer than five minutes at a time.
Nutrition: Acceptable – Both Bub and Pie receive a balanced diet containing at least three out of four food groups each day. There is, however, a lack of variety in their diets, with their vegetable consumption limited almost entirely to frozen peas and corn. Although the children enjoy broccoli and cooked carrots, these vegetables are consumed only when grandparents are on hand to prepare them. Extra credit is given here for the use of organic milk, but this advantage is outweighed by the family’s weekly trips to McDonald’s.
Reading: Exceeds Expectations – Bubandpie spends approximately 45 minutes per day reading with her children (including bedtime stories). Books are stacked in every nook and cranny of the home, and library excursions are part of the weekly routine. Both children demonstrate a love of reading, despite the fact that they have few opportunities to witness their parents reading anything other than the newspaper or a computer screen.
Arts and Crafts: Poor – While Bubandpie has made some effort to purchase paints, Play-Doh, and crayons, these supplies will be of benefit to the children only if they are occasionally removed from the top shelf of the kitchen cupboard. Attempts at creating original artwork or home-made crafts were not observed.
Toilet Training: Troll – Bubandpie has displayed neither aptitude nor dedication in this aspect of her parenting role.
Coping Skills: Dreadful – Anxiety attacks were observed within ten minutes of exposure to her children, brought on by little more than a brief bout of pushing, biting, squabbling over toys, and whining for lunch.
Patience: Exceeds Expectations – Remarkably little yelling occurs in the Bubandpie household considering the weak coping skills and poor investment in playtime activities.
Physical Education: Acceptable – Although Bubandpie does not set an example of physical fitness for her children or participate in active sports with them (aside from an occasional outburst of dancing to Veggie Tales Sing the ’70s), she does provide consistent opportunities for them to engage in physical play at parks and gymnasiums.
Music: Acceptable – Bubandpie sings to her children regularly (despite their vociferous protests) and provides music that they enjoy in the car. Unfortunately, the latter category is limited to two CDs: Hi-5 and Johnny Cash Greatest Hits. Bonus marks were given for the children’s remarkable knowledge of the melody and lyrics to “Sixteen Tons,” “Cry, Cry, Cry” and “Ring of Fire.”
Hygiene: Poor - Bathing and toothbrushing meet (but do not exceed) minimal requirements; hair- and nail-cutting, however, should occur much more frequently.
Religious Education: Exceeds Expectations – Both children attend Sunday School regularly and display an ability to shout at the top of their lungs when grace is said at mealtimes. As the older child, Bub has the more advanced spiritual development of the two: despite a certain lack of reverence in his delivery, his prayers display much gratitude, especially for the Baby Einstein line of books and videos.
Television Viewing: Acceptable – In theory, Bubandpie’s TV-watching rules seem reasonable: TV is limited to after breakfast, with more time permitted if one of the children is ill. It must be noted, however, that “after breakfast” technically includes the entire day, and that between the months of September and June at least one child is always ill. However, the quality of programming is high, with no advertising or fast-paced cartoons.
Life Skills: Dreadful – Bubandpie consistently underestimates her children’s ability to perform tasks such as making their own beds, putting on shoes, and dressing themselves. Even after the children have demonstrated their readiness to do these things, Bubandpie is inconsistent in requiring them to do so, especially when she is running late in the morning.
Discipline: Poor – Bubandpie tolerates what many parents would consider an inappropriate level of non-compliance and even bossiness from her children. While her patience in dealing with such behaviour may be admirable, it is no substitute for consistent and effective discipline.
Overall Evaluation: Although Bubandpie has attained a passing grade in only 9 of the 16 areas considered in this report, we are recommending a probationary standing rather than suspension of parenthood status. Bubandpie’s many shortcomings are balanced by her genuine affection for her children and her evident enjoyment of their personalities. The children themselves are far more pleasant and well-adjusted than her parenting abilities would have led us to anticipate.
Saturday, September 29, 2007
Being told “You’re such a great mom!” is one of the best and worst things about mommy-blogging. Those comments are great to hear, but they also have a tendency to echo ironically in one’s head when the children are swarming around, tugging on one’s shirt and yelling, “Groceries! I need groceries! Can I have a banana?” and one is shouting in response, “No fruit! You can’t have any fruit until AFTER you eat your supper!”
Friday, September 28, 2007
I’ve been teaching The Odyssey this fall, a remarkably fun tale that I think ought to be retitled Everybody’s Talking About Agamemnon. Despite the reputation of Odysseus as a swashbuckling hero in the mould of Austin Powers (women want him, men want to be him), the man is startlingly addicted to gossip. I had always imagined the Sirens’ song to be hypnotically sensual, an irresistible call of female sexuality. Instead, the Sirens woo Odysseus by whispering, “Come here – we’ve got something to tell you.” Information is power in this epic legend, and it is spread entirely by word of mouth (that is, by “Rumor who is oftenest sent by Zeus to carry tidings”).
This week we moved from ancient Greece to King Arthur’s court. In Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, as with The Odyssey, gossip is a central concern. Like Odysseus, Sir Gawain finds that his reputation precedes him wherever he goes – but in Sir Gawain’s case, the reputation is for “polished pearls of perfect speech” and amazing feats of “dazzling deportment.” The knights of Camelot are the subject of gossip, but they are also tireless purveyors of it – such is the cost and benefit of trading wilderness savagery for the civilized pleasures of city life.
Gossip is, by definition and etymology, associated with women (as Sage so beautifully chronicled awhile back), yet these archetypal male heroes inhabit a world of gossip – and in many ways, their worth is measured by the gossip they inspire (something that remains true for celebrities today, though in our culture what we mean by “celebrate” is “circulate internet sex tapes”).
The blogosphere, on the other hand, is home to the very best kind of gossip. In Veronica Mitchell’s truth in blogging post, one of the most tantalizing morsels is her allusion to a lunch with Antique Mommy during which they “talked about bloggers we read and why, and bloggers we don’t read and why not.” There is a certain candour that is possible face to face that we usually avoid in our public postings. If someone is mortally annoyed by the phenomenon of Wordless Wednesday, it may seem ungracious to say so in a blog post, but in the giddy intimacy of a face-to-face meeting, we may not even need alcohol to loosen our tongues and unleash a flood of blogging secrets.
I’m only a two-hour drive away from Toronto (Blogging Hub of the Universe!) so I’ve been lucky enough to meet other bloggers on several occasions. And we’ve talked about you. We’ve been less careful in these conversations than we are in our posts – but for all that, the conversations are invariably kind, affectionate. After this year’s BlogHer, my left-out feelings were alleviated almost entirely by the news that Jenny had embarrassed herself by insisting that I live in London, England. Being talked about is currency in the blogosphere, and it’s also fun.
So let’s gossip a little this weekend, okay? I’ll get us started. Have you visited Mrs. Chicky lately? She’s got news. (So has HBM.) The Cheaty Monkey has a baby brother, and at least two people are celebrating birthdays.
News, however, is perhaps the most innocuous and least interesting form of gossip. How about a game of match the blogger to her reputation?
(a) Domestic Diva/Cupcake Queen
(b) Sardonic Celebrity Correspondent
(c) Home Day-Care Guru
(d) Friend to Many, Sister to All
There are no wrong answers to this quiz – if the label fits, wear it! Now quiz me – how many bloggers do I know by reputation?
And hey – while we’re talking shop, I just added those bookmarking icons below each post. What do you think? Are they annoying? Does anybody actually use them? Those of you who have them – have you been getting any traffic from them?
Wednesday, September 26, 2007
When Pie was just over a year old, her happy-go-lucky personality vanished. She clung, she wept, she threw herself to the floor and screamed. Without warning, the comforting murmur of voices that had surrounded her since birth had arranged itself into words. Her world was full of new meaning and, like Jessica Rabbit thrust out of Toon Town into the three-dimensional world, she was homesick.
Bub responds differently to these seismic shifts in perception. As recently as a week ago, I assured the psychiatrist that he had overcome his pronoun-reversal problems. Now suddenly he is drowning in pronouns. His favourite game is Baby Bub: he crawls into my arms, fake-snoring, then awakens with an exaggerated start. “What happened?” he exclaims in well-feigned amazement. He is constantly asking to be carried these days, his requests always phrased in reverse: “Do you want me to give you a ride?”
The word “regression” has been trembling on the tip of my tongue. Out of nowhere, he has developed some odd mannerisms, replacing words with strange nods and shakes, his eyes staring off into space at tangential angles. Due to stress or sickness, he seems to have lost some hard-won ground, shrunk into himself, his eyes more vacant than usual, his attention more difficult to gain.
On Sunday after church, we saw a dog playing with some soccer balls. It was a big, overgrown yellow-lab puppy, boisterous and friendly, and when Bub ran towards him, cookie in hand, the dog knocked him down in a frenzy of adoration, burying his muzzle in Bub’s clenched fist. Bub emerged, shaken and crying. “Did that dog scare you?” I asked, and Bub collected himself sufficiently to offer a tearful and emphatic, “Yes!”
After nursery school on Monday, Bub was withdrawn, less willing even than usual to answer my questions about snack and circle time. He has never been able to narrate his experiences after the fact – at most he can answer direct questions with a quick yes or no. It’s not that his memory is poor – when we make our first trip to the beach in spring, he remembers unerringly his favourite toys from the previous summer, and where they are kept. Experience is transformed neatly into knowledge, filed away for later use. Retrieval is the problem: a visual cue may pull up a months-old memory, but he has difficulty remembering where he has been ten minutes after returning from the grocery store.
So I was surprised, to say the least, when we sat down to lunch on Monday and, his mouth full of peanut butter and pronouns, Bub asked, “Did the dog get you?” I swallowed my sense of shock and took his question literally.
Me: No, the dog didn’t get me – the dog got you!
Bub: (looking satisfied and taking refuge in the third-person) The dog got Bub.
Me: That dog really liked you. He wanted to play! But it was scary, wasn’t it?
Bub: (emphatically) Yes.
Bub: Do you like dogs?
Me: Yes, I like dogs a lot. Do you like dogs, Bub?
Bub: (shaking head vigorously, but in an off-hand tone) No.
Me: You don’t like dogs anymore? That’s too bad. That dog wasn’t trying to hurt you.
Bub: Did the dog bite you?
Me: No, the dog didn’t bite me. He didn’t bite you either, Bub – he just wanted to eat your cookie.
Bub: (decisively) The dog bit Bub’s hand!
I don’t know if I can convey here how completely unprecedented this conversation was in its complexity and subject-matter. Bub can speak far more fluently than this when describing his present experiences or “reading” a book – his struggle was evident in every halting sentence, yet he was doggedly determined to continue, to capture in words the first experience that has refused to slide neatly into his filing system, has insisted on casting the shadow of memory on his present awareness. Since that conversation, Bub’s pronouns have remained ridiculously awry, but experiences have continued to bubble out of him: Ruby talked about apples at nursery school. I counted the apples – there were three. I played with Eamon. I read a wonderful story.
I can only imagine what it is like to emerge from the world of present experience, with all its pleasure and pain, into the only world I can personally recall, the one where the present is merely a sliver of awareness differentiating the burdensome past from the yawning vacancy of the future. Bub’s world has just gotten incalculably bigger – he has moved into four-dimensional time. No wonder he wants to fall asleep in my arms and awaken yelling, “What happened?”
Tuesday, September 25, 2007
What is the nature of truth in blogging?
(Veronica Mitchell threw down the gauntlet in her recent post on Truth and Blogging: Here’s my response, which outran comment length by a mile.)
For starters, truth in blogging has very little to do with factual accuracy. If I publish a post a few days after I write it, I may or may not bother to search out all uses of the word “today” and replace them with “two days ago.” Reported conversations are rarely complete, and the omissions may or may not be signaled with ellipses. Anecdotes are replete with alterations made for the sake of brevity: two separate events may be telescoped into one; three or more bit players may be merged into a single person. Personally, I avoid these kinds of inaccuracies whenever I can (I’m a bit nitpicky that way), but when I have to choose between deceiving my readers and boring them, I’ll usually opt for the former.
Bloggers also take on no obligation to be impartial. My representation of Dr. WRE last week was anything but impartial (and I rather depended upon Mr. B&P to show up and point that out). Perhaps an impartial way of characterizing the psychiatrist’s behaviour would be to say, “He wasn’t trying to humiliate me, but he couldn’t have done a better job if he had tried.” (Or maybe not – I’m still not quite impartial about that yet.) The anger in that post was real – the post was truthful in that respect – but as a representation of someone else, it was anything but objective.
The central subject of a personal blog is, by definition, the blogger herself. My theories and anecdotes are not scrupulously fact-checked; when I express an opinion I do not assume that I have an obligation to give equal weight to all sides. I am by nature an exaggerator; to curb that tendency here would, perhaps, elevate the truthfulness of my blog in general, but it would make it a less faithful representation of me.
The person I write about in this blog - Ms. B&P, Professor Bubandpie - is a construct. She leapt into being when I clicked "Create Blog" one spring day last year, and she has grown through a kind of awkward adolescence into what strikes me occasionally as a brash and over-confident adulthood. She is not me. And yet, my satisfaction in blogging arises almost entirely from my sense that she is me, a truer, realer me than the one who is so fettered by the conventions of real life. When I see my blog mentioned in a post, the little shock of recognition that goes over me is closely akin to the reflex that whips my head around when I hear my name called out on the street.
Truthfulness in blogging does not require objectivity, fact-checking, or even a willingness to lay bare the dark secrets of the soul. It is, I think, more social than that: it has to do with the claims we make on our readers. Even the most innocuous sort of fact-bending – the use of “today” for events that occurred yesterday – can be false if it elicits an outpouring of support for a crisis that no longer exists. Outright fabrications violate the spirit of blogging – but never more so than when they are employed to manipulate readers’ emotions, to elicit sympathy to which one is not entitled.
Our culture places enormous pressure on mothers to represent ourselves falsely – to smile stiffly when round-the-clock nursing has filled us with sleep-deprivation and rage, to mouthe platitudes like “It’s all worth it” rather than speaking honestly about our fears, our obsessiveness, our chronic indecision and self-doubt. The blogosphere is not so much a place where we are required to speak these truths as an open invitation to do so. This kind of truth-telling isn’t an obligation – it’s an opportunity and sometimes even an addiction.
Monday, September 24, 2007
The comments on this post have reminded me of how lucky I am that my children haven’t yet figured out how to beg for toys. We spent many a morning this summer hanging out at the local toy store, and though I often had difficulty detaching my children from the ladybug scooter and the Thomas train table so we could go out to the car, they never asked me to buy anything. They just didn’t get it.
Bub is locked fairly securely at the concept of possession rather than ownership. When it comes to toys, there is “have” and “not have” – there is no “own.” To be sure, the rights of possession are not limited to toys he has in has hand – there is a kind of aura of possession that continues to linger after a toy has momentarily been set down. Nevertheless, Bub makes little distinction between the toys at our house and the toys he finds at play groups, the toy store, or other people’s houses. When another child comes to visit, he is, if anything, somewhat less territorial with is own (boring) toys than he is with the ones he latches onto elsewhere.
Pie, on the other hand, has begun to grasp the principle of ownership. She understands that certain objects are her sole property – kitty, blankie, the food on her plate. (The food on my plate is hers also – but any attempt of mine to sneak a nibble of her dessert is considered scandalous.) The other day my sister came for a visit and halfway through supper, Pie noticed something. “What you got?” she demanded, looking down meaningfully at the table.
“She’s got the Thomas place mat,” I explained.
Pie was shocked. “That’s mine!” she declared. (Short pause.) “Give it back!”
Not for long, I suspect, will I be able to steer my shopping cart past dinky cars and Leap Frog accessories at the grocery store. Now that she’s mastered the concept of ownership, acquisition cannot be far behind. But in the meantime, there are certain sweet compensations for her newly grasping attitude. “That’s good sharing, Daddy,” she observed sweetly yesterday, after her father scooped some roast beef out of his Quizno’s sandwich and put it on her plate. Pie can eat a truly mind-boggling amount of roast beef when she wants to, but this week she seemed to genuinely understand that more roast beef for her meant less for us. I gave her the last inch of my six-inch sub, and when she had gobbled it down, I noticed that there was a similar bit left on hubby’s plate.
“Are you giving that to the Pie?” I asked. Pie leaned forward hungrily, longingly, saying nothing.
“I wasn’t planning to,” hubby replied. Pie held her breath.
“Well, you’d better take one last bite and give her the rest,” I said. “She’s onto us now.”
Hubby savoured his last bite of sandwich, and then put the remainder on Pie’s plate. She let out her breath with an angelic smile. Rarely have a heard a more fervent and sincere, “Thank you!”
Saturday, September 22, 2007
This, apparently, is the funniest thing Bub has ever seen in his life:
I had just been reflecting that my children aren't really the type to get the giggles. Bub approaches humour with scientific detachment. "Are you guys funny?" he asks at the supper table if hubby and I are chuckling over some remark. In moments of stress, his cries of protest often culminate in the strange request, "How about some laughter?" So I was taken aback when I went upstairs last night to read the children their bedtime stories and found them rendered helpless, again and again, at the spectacle of dizzy-eyed Edwin getting bonked in the head by a hockey puck.
By the time hubby arrived with the camera, the ripples of laughter had nearly subsided, but this will give you an idea of their reaction:
Apparently slapstick is the original form of humour, and a simple drawing can capture the essence of the pratfall as well (or better) than an entire Jim Carrey film.
Friday, September 21, 2007
It’s always a rude shock when I find myself pushing my overdraft limit at the end of the month. Nobody likes being broke, of course, but what’s startling is how often I am taken wholly by surprise by the sudden disappearance of funds that I have no memory of spending. I’m hoodwinked continually by the disjunction between the actual dollar-value of my purchases and the amount of guilt and/or anxiety I feel about my spending. A thousand-dollar car repair will haunt me until it’s paid off – but the same amount in day-care expenses creates no ripple of dread as I approach the end of the month. The $7.97 I spent on an appealing but unnecessary tea-for-two toyset weighs heavily on my conscience, but the $90+ I forked over for Tropicana not-from-concentrate orange juice and microwaveable Hungarian goulash slips my mind almost as soon as it is spent. Somehow it’s easy to forget that planned, justifiable expenses still cost money.
When Bub was born, I was obsessive about spending as little as possible on him. I cringed when he pooped his way through a package of newborn diapers in under a week. I furnished his nursery with hand-me-downs and garage-sale specials, feeling like a bit of a chump for splurging $10 on a brand-new diaper holder (even though I am that rare parent who consistently transfers diapers from their packaging into this ruffled receptable with its circa-1980 country charm).
I’m not an especially thrifty person, nor did I resent the financial burden my newborn baby would impose. My resistance to spending money arose from a sense that I was in a pitched battle with the marketing forces who were trying to play upon my new-mommy angst by bilking me out of every red cent I possessed. It didn’t help, of course, that I had chosen to get pregnant in lieu of continuing my search for better-remunerated full-time work, nor that I had given birth only two months after hubby started an expensive three years of law school. But those considerations didn’t stop me from doling out five-dollar bills in exchange for small cups of flavoured creamy Starbucks beverages. They did, however, prevent me from paying for Gymboree classes or buying a vibrating bassinet.
It is not without some cognitive dissonance, then, that I have found myself signing both children up this fall for a very pricey semester of classes at the Little Gym. I have my justifications for this expense (which I won’t regale you with here), but mostly I’m just startled at how subtly the rules have changed. I’m no longer on maternity leave; hubby is no longer in school; I no longer feel the urge to justify my breeding practices by proving that I can bear children without signing all my assets over to Fisher-Price at the outset. It’s not that I can afford these new expenses (see references to pushing my overdraft limit above) – it’s more that a certain lessening in the marketing pressure seems to have deluded me into thinking I’m no longer fighting a capitalist conspiracy.
My writing students are doing an essay this month analyzing the rhetorical strategies in magazine advertising. In preparation for the assignment, I handed out sample ads last week pulled from a parenting magazine I happened to have on hand. The articles in this magazine are aimed mostly at parents of toddlers and elementary-school-age kids, but the ads were almost exclusively targeted to mothers of newborns: formulas enriched with AHA and DHA; wear-on-your-wrist baby monitors; organic infant cereals. I’d like to think that advertisers have simply given up on more experienced parents, believing them to be less easily duped by the myth that their children’s future depends upon exposure to the latest stimulating gadget. But experience suggests otherwise. Companies don’t advertise extensively to parents of school-age children because they don’t need to: peer pressure takes over where glossy magazine spreads leave off; we’re too beaten down and exhausted by now to continue the vigilance that protected us through those first few months of pushing strollers around toy stores and nobly resisting the urge to buy.
I went to Las Vegas once and spent an enjoyable four days taking advantage of all the promotional freebies the casinos employ to get patrons in the door. I watched pseudo-Mardi Gras celebrations, ate prime rib for $6.99, and stood in front of the Mirage to watch the exploding volcano. I nibbled the bait carefully and avoided the hook, knowing that the salaries of the acrobat pirates at Treasure Island were being paid by people less vigilant than I. Parenthood feels surprisingly similar to a trip to Las Vegas – except I’m no longer sticking to the nickel slots, and the remortgage-your-home ATMs are starting to look awfully tempting.
Thursday, September 20, 2007
I'm on the giddy upswing now, after Tuesday's plunge into the abyss. I'm not bipolar, but I'm the kind of person who is occasionally given the "Are you bipolar?" interview by concerned doctors. In the aftermath of any traumatic event, I fly up into a state of ungrounded optimism, buoyancy, and energy. Last night's four-hour block of sleep was the most I've had in three days, but today I'm mopping floors, delivering enthusiastic lectures on The Odyssey and brainstorming multiple blog posts.
And I'm in the mood for hats. Sage, do you know how much I love you? Your "quiet authority" remark at Denguy's place made me grin to myself in the dark as I lay awake at five this morning, picturing myself vanquishing Dr. WRE with the calm authority that no peanut butter or Special K dare defy. (It seems evident to me now that Dr. WRE is thorough and conscientious, though sadly lacking in social skills and saddled with an involuntary response of polite disbelief to even the most mundane remarks. We should pity him, really, poor man.)
So here they are - the promised well-lit hat pics (too late for Wordless Wednesday, so look at all the words up there - the freedom! the liberty!):
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
Dear Aunt Bubandpie:
I am a doctor – a specialist, in fact – and I’m concerned that my patients have insufficient respect for my authority. What can I do to put uppity patients in their place?
Doctor World-Renowned Expert
Dear Doctor World-Renowned Expert:
You ask a very good question. In this age of Internet access, many physicians are faced with arrogant patients who believe that an hour of browsing on Google qualifies them to offer an educated opinion about their disorders or those of their children. The honour of the medical profession is contingent upon our ability to convey to these parents a sense of their presumption and ignorance.
A common mistake many doctors make is to display their superior knowledge by sharing it with patients. While this may make a good first impression – especially if you are careful to use plenty of polysyllabic medical terms – ultimately this tactic defeats the purpose. The knowledge you share with your patients will serve only to narrow the gap between your expertise and their lowly ignorance. The best way to avoid such a scenario is to follow this simple maxim: Ask questions. Reveal nothing.
Of course, asking questions carries a risk as well. Patients may develop an overly exalted sense of their own importance. It’s essential to use at least one of the following tactics to ensure that patients come away with a sense of confusion and inadequacy. When a patient answers a question, do one or more of the following:
- Raise your eyebrows skeptically and grunt non-committally. Remember that your goal here is not to suggest that the information provided by the patient is worrisome but rather that it is exaggerated, unimportant, or delusional.
- Respond with a sentence beginning with the word “But.” The rest of the sentence doesn’t matter – the patient will be on the defensive and unable to absorb what you’re saying anyway.
- Ask follow-up questions the patient is not in a position to answer. Since you are a specialist, a good approach would be to focus on making the patient account for the motives of the referring agency.
- Shrug your shoulders frequently – not in ignorance, of course, but rather to belittle the answers your patients provide.
- Nip in the bud any attempt the patient makes to turn the tables by asking questions of you. A curt “I can’t answer that” will usually do the trick.
These tactics should ensure that your patients leave your office with a strong sense of their inferior position in the doctor-patient hierarchy. Do not cloud the issue with any complimentary or reassuring remarks. Before long, you will begin to see a newly respectful demeanour in place of the brash overconfidence that has become all too common in these degenerate days.
Yours in doctoral solidarity,
Posted by Bea at 9:45 AM
Tuesday, September 18, 2007
That so wasn't worth a whole night of not sleeping.
We spent an hour with the psychiatrist, during which time he interacted minimally with Bub: asked him to come over to a chair (he refused), asked him how old he was (his answer: "Elephant!"), and said hello and goodbye (which Bub ignored initially, and then reciprocated when prompted).
Other than that, he interviewed us: got us to describe what our concerns were, asked a few follow-up questions, wrote everything down on a notepad. He was deliberately inscrutable, refusing to form a hypothesis until the diagnostic process is complete. All he said, really, is that our task is to sort out whether Bub's issues derive wholly from his language delays, or whether there are social and behavioural components causing his problems with language use.
I feel vaguely embarrassed, as if I've been revealed as some sort of Munchhausen-by-proxy mother, seeking attention by obsessing over her child's minor quirks. While we were in the waiting room, a tall, lanky teenager came in, his face sunburnt, his hair bleached almost white by the sun. A clipboard-wielding therapist brought him over to his mother and said, "I'll let Kenneth tell you how we did."
The boy looked down silently, miserably, and after a moment the therapist conceded defeat. "Basically, we did not establish contact."
The mother exhaled sharply. "That's just great." She stood up to go and her son immediately rose to his feet and followed her.
8:40 - Phone rings. The psychometrist is sick. Would we like to cancel the whole day and reschedule for sometime in November? No, we would not. We can still go for our afternoon appointment with the child psychiatrist, and the morning appointment will have to be rescheduled at a time yet to be specified.
Bub's now at nursery school, and I'm feeling vaguely as though I ought to go to class and sit in on the lecture my T.A. is giving, but instead I'm home blogging about it and downloading this:
Bub was up several times during the night, and between times I lay awake agonizing or fell asleep long enough to have strange nightmares in which I wandered through crowded rooms clutching only a cushion and a blanket for clothing, or belatedly slathered sunscreen on my children's sunburnt backs while the skin peeled off in my hands. (I hastily patted it back into place).
Just before six, Bub woke up screaming, his nose completely clogged by a bad cold. He's efficiently spooning Honey Nut Cheerios into his mouth right now, feeling better now that he's upright, as people with bad colds sometimes do. (After hubby poured the bowl of cereal out, he looked up with an enchanting smile and said, "Can I have some beautiful milk?")
As it stands, we're still going for the evaluation - but the day has barely started and already I'm leaking tears.
Sunday, September 16, 2007
I was walking on the beach this time two weeks ago. It’s dark right now, as I type – the curtains are drawn and the children are sleeping – but then it was just sunset, a glow that looked most spectacular when I was walking away from it, tossing a glance over my shoulder every few minutes to squint at the dazzling crimson brightness behind me. I walked barefoot in the damp sand, passing by elaborate sand-creations, the work of a long day’s holiday: mermaids, pyramids, bikini-clad space aliens, along with messages drawn with sticks in the sand: “John was here, 2007, single male heterosexual.”
The smell of wood smoke was in the air, and I walked the full length of the beach before I realized that the strangely off-sounding melodies pounding from loudspeakers were karaoke, drunken voices stumbling through the lyrics to out-of-date country hits like “All My Exes Live in Texas” and “Forever and Ever, Amen.”
The beach was dotted with clusters of lawn chairs, people gathered with blankets spread over their knees and dogs curled up at their feet to watch the sun go down. I avoided eye contact as I walked past these groupings, directing my gaze out to the calm blue lake, empty now except for one or two brave swimmers.
Even so, I could hear bits of conversation as I passed. “The college kids I used to teach were like that,” someone said, and in spite of myself I turned to see a woman my age, or possibly younger. Chunky glasses, streaked hair, a well-defined chin. “I couldn’t believe how apathetic they were, how averse to taking responsibility.” She laughed a little. “But then – when I think back to when I was twenty-one or twenty-two – well, I wasn’t exactly my best self then either.”
I felt an irrational urge to linger, eavesdrop a bit more, possibly even introduce myself. I shook it off and walked on. But I wonder now, as I plan lessons and pack spare outfits to send with the kids to day-care, who that woman was and whether, in another life, we might have been friends.
Friday, September 14, 2007
“I think I’m coming down with something,” I told hubby yesterday. My throat hurt, I was dizzy and nauseous, and the thought of food repelled me – but hubby had booked the day off to take the kids to the fair, and I didn’t want them to miss it.
In retrospect, it seems so obvious. Vague flu-like symptoms, an upset stomach but no concrete signs of illness such as fever or barfing – this, for me, is a classic case of anxiety. It was the upper-intestinal gas that really gave it away – I belched loudly all the way to the fairgrounds, and then felt a sudden rush of returning good health as soon as we walked through the gates.
The odd thing, as always, was that I didn’t feel anxious – sure, I was a little stressed about how late the Pie’s nap was running, a little worried that Bub had not fully recovered from a brief bout of fever, but these concerns were hardly overwhelming – if worse came to worst we could always brave the weekend crowds once everybody made a full recovery.
Today the symptoms are back – mostly just dizziness – and again, the solution seems so obvious I’m amazed that I missed it: this is all about Tuesday.
I’m filling out the paperwork this week, rating Bub’s problems on a three-point scale. Refuses to comply with adult requests? Three. Leaves seat in situations where remaining seated is expected? Two. Spiteful or vindictive? Zero. The nursery school teachers are filling out forms as well, noting his attachment to objects, the absence of empathy. Ruby left a reassuring message on our answering machine, explaining that they’re erring on the side of overestimating his problems, not wanting to minimize anything in case that would prevent him from being seen.
I’ve done my homework – I know how to crunch the numbers, and the fact is that Bub falls well short of the threshold for autism according to the checklist we’re using: he has anywhere from 8 to 11 “wrong” answers, and the cut-off for Asperger’s and PDD-NOS is 15, while children with classic (Kanner’s) autism usually score above 22.
But then there are the things that don’t show up on the checklist. The way he refuses to touch the car door when there are a few droplets of rain on it. The difficulty he still experiences remembering and talking about past events, even exciting events that occurred only a few hours ago. I’ve been yo-yo-ing madly these last few weeks, seeing massive improvements in pronoun use and episodic memory, but also being confronted with some spectacular disasters (Ejection from VBS; Meltdown at the Little Gym).
To be honest, I find Bub to be a pretty easy kid to get along with these days. He is cheerful, polite, compliant. But when I go to pick him up at his new home-care, I discover that he has met every request that day with a shout of “No!” He wouldn’t go out for a walk; he wouldn’t play in the back yard; he wouldn’t sit down for his lunch; he wouldn’t eat his snack. He’s spent five afternoons there (including lunch and snack) and has eaten almost nothing.
Briefly, I see my son through this care-giver’s eyes: he’s defiant, troublesome, a bad example to the two-year-olds who look up to him and follow his lead.
We went to the fair last night, and Bub rode a pony. He spun around on the Berry-Go-Round and met a giant talking robot. He sat at a picnic table and ate cheese slices, yellow peppers, and a banana (he refused to try my cheese pizza). When he was done his makeshift supper, he and the Pie grabbed sticks and took turns tapping a tree trunk, dancing to the Celtic music that was playing in the bandstand. “Do you see a tall, beautiful tree?” he asked me, and I told him that I did.
We went to the Birds of Prey exhibit; we rode a tractor-pulled wagon to the Agricultural building and said hello to the geese and piglets and newborn lambs.
In three hours of near-constant transitions in a completely unfamiliar environment, there were no meltdowns, no protests, no signs of exhaustion from the sensory overload of the midway.
I don’t know what to expect or desire from Tuesday’s session at the PDD Diagnostic Clinic. I don’t feel afraid or worried – but maybe my body knows something I don't.
Thursday, September 13, 2007
Here are some words that I am, apparently, constitutionally incapable of saying:
- Thank you.
- I’m sorry.
I’ve just sent off the third of three emails to a creative, lovely, tasteful blogger who graciously made and mailed this to the Pie:
(Inadequate photo, I know. I’ll try to get a shot that isn’t underlit and blurry some other time.)
Here are some things I said in those emails: I’m so excited! I can’t wait to show it to the Pie when she gets up! You are so awesome! I wish you could have seen Pie’s face when she put it on!
I am not, apparently, averse to the blatant overuse of the exclamation point; I am, however, totally unable to utter a simple thank-you.
Not that I didn’t try. I actually typed the words a few times, then deleted them. I tried couching them in some kind of ironic “Look how bad I am at saying thank you” disclaimer, and then deleted that too.
Is anyone else like this? Is it because I think I’m too good to utter just the ordinary words of gratitude used by the rest of the population? Do I believe that I have to be dazzlingly original in all my utterances?
“I’m sorry” is even more impossible to say than “thank you.” Its purpose is twofold: (1) to apologize, and (2) to express sympathy. I’m equally stuck in both cases. With apologies, I’m constrained by a fear that apologizing will precipitate an uncomfortable discussion of what I did, why it was wrong, how the other person felt … I’d far rather stick with the policy of pretending everything is okay until it actually is.
Sympathy is another matter. I love to sympathize, to offer comfort – but only if I don’t have to actually use the words, “I’m so sorry.” Ideally, I’d like to have a gem of insight, some nugget of experience or wisdom that will bring comfort. Failing that, I’d at least like to be able to rush in with my own parallel experience, relieving the poor unfortunate person of the burden of being in the spotlight. Everybody will be more comfortable, surely, if we just talk some more about me.
Kgirl, Sandra – I’m so sorry. And I’m sorry it’s taken this long for me to say so.
Wednesday, September 12, 2007
Tuesday, September 11, 2007
“Oh no! It’s running away! They have to chase it!”
Bub is issuing panicked proclamations from the living room. The runaway object is the letter O, which is desperately needed so that the Word World people can form the word “BOX.”
It always amuses me how little it takes to plunge a child into a state of almost intolerable suspense. The animals in the zoo are in cages! Who will help them? The dog is covered in jam! He needs to clean up … but where will he get a towel???
Life-and-death peril – like the gun-chase scene in Wallace & Gromit's The Wrong Trousers – has little to offer in the way of suspense: it’s all about fast-moving action and enjoyably dramatic crashes. Suspense – and empathy – are created by more mundane dilemmas: lost and stolen objects, sticky substances, entrapment in situations from which one cannot escape without assistance.
I vividly recall the almost physical discomfort of reading Nancy Drew novels when I was eight years old. I would get permission to read a chapter before bed, but when the chapter was over, Nancy would invariably be chloroformed or forced off the road by a masked man in a dark green sedan, and I would turn out the light in agonies of suspense. These situations were remote from my daily life, but they tapped into my half-conscious conviction that such perils lurked patiently in the shadowy corners of my ordinary suburban town, potential kidnappers skulking behind bushes, chloroform-wielding bad guys crouched in elevators, foiled only by my preference for strong lighting and parental supervision.
Suspense is surprisingly immune to spoilers. I knew that Nancy would escape, solve the mystery, and catch the bad guys – and knowing all that didn’t help when I was lying awake wondering how she would get out of a locked dungeon. Puzzle-driven plots depend upon our ignorance of the ending: once we discover which Hogwarts Professor is really helping Lord Voldemort, the tug of curiosity loses its urgency. But knowing how the story ends has never stopped me from urging Romeo to wait just a few more minutes before swallowing that poison; I hold my breath and grip the pages as Odysseus pokes out the eye of Cyclops even though I know that he survives to tell the tale.
Adult suspense depends upon the survival instinct: at some point we develop the ability to school our racing pulses so that they beat only in response to physical danger. But my children do not yet know what death is, so for now they experience plot at its most basic level: something is dirty and then it is clean; something is lost and then it is found. This, surely, is the stuff of which all great stories are made.
Sunday, September 09, 2007
Next Sunday is Invite-a-Friend Sunday at my church, so in preparation for that event, this week was Guilt-Trip Sunday or, more accurately, Public-Shaming Sunday. To wit: the organizer of the Invite-a-Friendstravaganza got up and issued a series of proclamations.
“Stand up if you’ve been up here on the platform at some point over the last few weeks to promote Invite-a-Friend Sunday,” he began. Several people stood up. “Okay, now stand up if you’ve talked to a friend or neighbour about coming next week.” About a quarter of the congregation rose to their feet. “All right,” he continued, “stand up if you’ve prayed for this outreach.”
I was sitting near the front, so I didn’t turn to see how many people besides myself were still seated. Organizer Guy leaned meaningfully over the pulpit, piercing us with his convicting gaze. “The rest of you need to examine your hearts.”
So I’ve examined mine, and here’s what I’ve come up with: I do not believe, in my heart, that artificially imposed deadlines lead people to share their faith sensitively, humbly, or effectively.
There are a lot of things about my church that I love: the friendliness, the at-times awkward mix of old hymns and contemporary songs, the Scotch Calvinist rigour of the preaching (which I don’t always agree with but find stimulating all the same). What I do not get from my church is the sense that I can bring visitors without running the risk of subjecting them to alienating spectacles like this morning’s Public Shamefest.
This harangue was all the more disconcerting given that it was also Care Group Sunday. The pews had been removed – we were seated around tables with cups of coffee and plates of store-bought cookies. I munched my fruit creme savagely and contemplated leaving the church while the Care Group leader began the discussion. Mary Shand spoke in a soft English accent, acknowledging how difficult she found it to heed this imperative to evangelize. I noted that her husband wasn’t there with her – his Alzheimer’s has progressed to the point that he can no longer attend Sunday services. “I always assume people are hostile to Christianity,” Joan Carter admitted (an assumption that comes easily to her given that she herself was hostile to the faith for many years). At the end of the session, Donald Baker agreed to lead us in prayer for the soldiers in Afghanistan – but not without emphatically reminding us that he wasn’t going to pray for “the guy who sent them there!” I grinned and gave him the thumbs up, knowing that his opposition to the current Prime Minister was unlikely to be shared by the rest of the table.
The service ended with a presentation of gifts to the longest-serving members of the church. The deacons had purchased trinket boxes for those with more than thirty years of membership. In a class by herself, however, was Fiona Skene, who joined the church in 1936 and has remained an adherent ever since. Seventy-one years of belonging in a community – that’s a feat that can, I imagine, be accomplished only with an astonishing capacity for forgiveness, tolerance for change, and loyalty to people who aren’t always nice or easy to get along with.
It’s easy to leave. So for now I’m going to stay.
Friday, September 07, 2007
Two beaming faces greeted me this morning when I arrived to pick Bub up from his third day of nursery school. Neither one of them was Bub’s – his face was buried in the book he was reading, perched on the bench of a playhouse while the other children rode bikes and built sand castles. His teachers, however, were jubilant.
“He ate his snack!” Ruby declared. On day one, he had refused to sit at the table; on day two he had reluctantly obliged on the condition that he could bring his book with him; today, he sat down with the other kids, putting his book down for later. “He digs his heels in whenever there’s a transition,” Ruby reported, “but he doesn’t melt down – we can negotiate with him, and he complies.” That’s not to say that we won’t have meltdowns later, she warned – she plans to up the level of difficulty, gradually expecting more of him, requiring him to respond to more instructions, to tolerate greater infringements upon his autonomy.
“Did he interact socially with any of the other children?” I asked. Pie was pulling me toward the sandbox, and Bub was pulling me toward the car – in the midst of this mommy tug-of-war, we dissected the day.
“That will be the last piece to fall into place,” Ruby said. “But he did say hello to Eamon today when I prompted him to do so.” We grinned at each other, bolstered by this success, excited and relieved that this first week has gone so much better than it might have.
“I’m going to the big, big, BIG nursery school!” Bub announced on our way there this morning. And as we left he gave the second teacher a big hug.
“Did you have fun today?” I asked as we drove home.
Bub thought about this. “I ate corn-raisins,” he responded (corn chips and raisins, according to Ruby – they served cupcakes as well, in honour of a birthday, but Bub did not sample these – he observes a uniform boycott of cake and ice cream).
I wondered why I had tears in my eyes as I bustled around the kitchen preparing lunch. I think it’s because for the first time I don’t feel so alone – I’m not the only one who knows when Bub is likely to stumble, the only one brainstorming solutions to the puzzle of his social and verbal development. Ruby has a plan – she’s challenging him in just the way he needs to be challenged – and she is as elated as I am by his success.
Thursday, September 06, 2007
My Job: To make sure my children know that I love them.
Not My Job: To pour into them every ounce of my being.
My Job: To protect my children from foreseeable harm.
Not My Job: To insulate them from every inconvenience and minor hardship.
My Job: To foster my children’s intelligence.
Not My Job: To maximize their future earnings.
My Job: To equip my children to be flexible, resilient, caring adults.
Not My Job: To make my children happy, now or in the future.
My Job: To bolster my children’s confidence.
Not My Job: To make my children “winners.”
My Job: To recognize and embrace my children’s personalities.
Not My Job: To replicate myself.
My Job: To share with my children the things I love: beaches, autumn leaves, chocolate-chip cookies, The Chronicles of Narnia, The Wizard of Oz.
Not My Job: To take them to Disney World, give them cars for their 16th birthday, or provide them with their own computers, TVs, and cell phones.
My Job: To set aside what money I can towards the cost of a university education.
Not My Job: To ensure that my children never have to work a part-time job.
My Job: To be vitally interested in my children’s lives.
Not My Job: To do their science fair projects, micro-manage their friendships, or tag along when they go clubbing with their underage friends.
My Job: To ensure that my children get what they need to develop their potential: nutritious meals, an educational environment in which they can learn, time to play with their friends, the knowledge that God loves them.
Not My Job: To decide what they will do with that potential.
My Job: To direct my votes, my volunteer hours, and my charitable giving towards fostering the potential of all children in my community.
Not My Job: To ensure that my children receive no benefits except those that are available to all.
My Job: To model respect and reasonableness and expect the same in return.
Not My Job: To build the family's routine around the children's soccer, piano, swimming and golf lessons.
My Job: To temper my children’s natural greed by encouraging them to share, to forgive, and to turn the other cheek.
Not My Job: To ensure that they never let anyone push them around.
My Job: To give my children fun, companionship, and safety.
Not My Job: To ensure that they get the best of everything.
(Another Hump Day Hmmm… a day late and a dollar short as usual.)
Tuesday, September 04, 2007
The Careful Use of Compliments* - the latest installment in the Isabel Dalhousie series by prolific author Alexander McCall Smith - is a study in contradictions. It is a slow-paced mystery novel, a deep-thinking beach novel, and a deliberately old-fashioned tome that features meditations on the value of the traditional family while also telling the story of a single mother who - with the author's full approval - turns down a marriage proposal from her baby's father. Recalling a conversation about Anna Karenina and Madame Bovary, Isabel observes that "Like Madame Bovary, she had fallen for a younger man, although in her case she had no husband and there was no Flaubert to punish her. Women who fell desperately in love in defiance of convention were punished by their authors - Anna had been punished too; Isabel smiled at the thought, and wondered whether she would be punished for loving Jamie. She had no author, though. Isabel was real."
Not real, perhaps - but Isabel has a more genial author than either Anna Karenina or Emma Bovary. McCall Smith does not punish Isabel, though he does ask us to notice, from time to time, the gap between her theory and her practice. Isabel is a philosopher, editor of the Review of Applied Ethics, and she is conscientious to a fault, scrupulous in her efforts to define her duty and carry it out. None of that prevents her, however, from stealing her niece's ex-boyfriend, bearing a child out of wedlock, using her inheritance to buy out her editorial opponents, and weaning her baby to a bottle after only four days of "discomfort." She is not a simple character, but she is a likable one.
I wasn't a big fan of the first Isabel Dalhousie novel, The Sunday Philosophy Club. It presented itself, far more overtly than its sequels, as a species of detective fiction. There was a mysterious death, an amateur investigation, and even some fear that the heroine herself might be imperilled. Worst of all, there was no resolution - Isabel felt confident that she had solved case, but I found the evidence on which she based her conclusions to be shockingly thin.
With the sequels, however, from Friends, Lovers, Chocolate to this most recent offering, McCall Smith seems to have found his footing. There is still a thread of mystery - a case of suspected art forgery, in this novel - but the tug of suspense is only sufficient to maintain the reader's interest. The true stuff of which this novel is made is reflection - tiny, everyday incidents which become the basis for elaborate flights of fancy or intricate moral analysis. In short, this is a novel made of pure blog fodder.
Early on, Isabel acknowledges that "of all her manifold failings, thinking too much about things was one of the most egregious." I enjoy a novel that can work in the word "egregious" like that, and I enjoy a character whose thoughtfulness is so debilitating that it slows her conversations to a snail's pace, allowing time for Isabel to dive down each rabbit hole her agile mind encounters. The paying of a casual, not-wholly-sincere compliment requires her to weigh honesty with civility; the making of a lunch date prompts a reflection on the difference between Scotland and New Zealand (in the former country, the words "Let's do lunch" are a mere courtesy; in the latter, they constitute a formal invitation).
Isabel's many ethical dilemmas seem pleasantly random and meandering, but the idea that exerts the most gravitational force in this novel is the question of obligation. To what extent are we obligated to one another as human beings? The liberal individualist seeks to limit those obligations in order to secure the greatest degree of freedom. ("Don't go swimming with a liberal individualist," Isabel warns - "he might not save you if you started to drown.") A moral impartialist, on the other hand, believes that moral obligations apply universally: if my son is trapped in a burning building with a total stranger, I would be obliged to decide whom to rescue based on a toss of the coin: to rescue my son first would be to deny the equal value of all human beings.
Even before picking up the book, I had been thinking about the relationship between community and obligation due to a few recent posts around the blogosphere. The debate about redshirting, for instance, has raised the issue of how we balance our children's welfare against that of society as a whole. (For those who haven't been following the debate: "redshirting" refers to the practice of delaying kindergarten for a year so that one's child will be among the oldest kids in the class rather than the youngest.) At BlogRhet, Misc Mum has asked about the nature of obligation in the blogosphere. What do we owe to our readers, and to the bloggers whom we read? And Lawyer Mama posted a fascinating ethics dilemma last weekend that raised questions about our obligations to those who ask our help. Under what circumstances are we obliged to set our own plans - whatever they may be - aside in order to help someone else?
Isabel Dalhousie responds to such questions with a consistent desire to recognize the deep mutual obligations that bind people together. When her niece takes it upon herself to make a dentist appointment for a dental-hygiene-challenged employee, Isabel demurs initially but then admits that she would do the same: "The loss of one tooth diminishes me," she quips, paraphrasing John Donne, "For I am involved in mankind." Her stance is attractive and laudable, even if it occasionally leads to accusations of interfering (indeed, her work as an amateur detective usually stems from her inability to mind her own business).
I admire Isabel's ethical commitments - but I'm not sure I share them. I would never have pegged myself a liberal individualist, but I find myself increasingly resistant to the language of obligation. I just can't help thinking that although it's very nice to help a desperate stranger to get across alligator-infested waters so she can see her boyfriend, it's not an ethical or moral requirement. And when reading OTJ's post on redshirting a couple of week ago, I found myself nodding most vigorously in response to this comment from Ewe are Here:
I believe that you have an obligation to do what you believe is what's best for your own kids in terms of when/when not to start school. How the needs of your own children affect those around them can't be your primary concern. It just can't. Those concerns need to be addressed by society as a whole.
The same goes for blogging. In the various meta-blogging discussions that arise I always find myself fiercely resistant to the language of obligation. Blogging, like so many other things, seems healthiest to me when it's free from the bonds of guilt and compulsion. Read the posts that interest you, comment when you have something to say (and time to say it), offer support when you can. But keep the bar of expectations low for yourself and others. That's my Gospel of Selfishness in Blogging (and Life). Take it with a grain of salt.
*Review copy provided by Random House.
Monday, September 03, 2007
(Posted by Mr. B&P)
I am informed that posting about your cat is a sign that you've run out of things to blog about. In a wonderful confluence of events, this guest post sees me rhapsodizing about one of the smaller members of the family, firmly establishing that I have nothing worth posting about so please let's never bring up this guest post thing again, shall we BubandPie?
Arctic blue contemplation:
Fluffy grey hair
Oracle, pads quietly,
Regally stealthful till
X-Men's yellow zealot.
(For more alphabet poems, see Slouching Mom's list.)