Mirror, Mirror…

“It’s all done with smoke and mirrors, you know. It’s like what Death says – that eating curry is like biting a red hot ice cube…”

“Don’t you begin with the literary references now. I’ve had it up to here already. I wish I’d never signed up for extra classes.”

“The problem with you, kiddo, is that you take too much for granted.  You thought it would be a cinch to earn writing credits rather than attending classes full-time… and oh, how good it feels to say ‘I told you so’!”

Hadrian scratched his scalp. His psoriasis was driving him crazy – he assumed it was the stress of having to write 1,000 words a day on random topics meted out by even more random dons whose mission in life was to make their students miserable.

That morning, Stinky (he was the poster boy for B.O.) had nonchalantly tossed an ‘Oh, by the way, ladies and gentlemen, your topic for tomorrow is The Smell of Mirrors,’ on his way out of the lecture room.

“You can’t write 1,000 words on…”

 “What you mean is that nobody ever bothered to find out what mirrors smell like,” his mother interjected.  “I’m sure Stinky was oh-so-casually informing you all that he knows what his nickname is.  And maybe he wishes you all tried to smell the said mirrors, so that he could thump you in the back of your collective head in one fell swoop, while you did so.”

 “Ma, I did smell the mirror. It smells of …glasses that have been wiped with a smelly dishcloth… and… fear…”

“There you go. You have enough notions there to write a thesis, go figure a mere 1000 words.”

“If I peel the spuds and hose down the driveway…?”

“No.  The essay is yours to write.  But remember that echoes reflect sound.”

“Say what?”

“You heard me first time, kiddo.  You really must pull your socks up. Read between my lines. ”

Hadrian had thought his offer to do the chores while his ma compiled his essay would be greeted with gratitude. After all, his mother was a writer – she could drum up a book in a week if she found a charitable cause to which to donate the proceeds, albeit secretly. Se was constantly on the best-seller lists, and her cast of characters was mentioned in everyday speech by ordinary people… yes, she was that famous.

Indeed, Hadrian had inherited her knack for words.  His secondary school teachers could not quote believe he did his own homework… so they actually tested him at school, to see if the quality of his work would be consistent with that which he brought from home… and it was.  

Yet, he was bone lazy. He wrote essays for his classmates, according to their level of proficiency, just so that he could copy their French and Mathematics homework exercises, on the school bus…

“I would compare and contrast mirrors and smell… but I don’t want to… A mirror does have a smell, however vague… and a smell mirrors something else deep within the primordial memories of a person…”

Yes, once the verbal gymnastics had begun, he could not help himself. Hadrian’s fingers took on a life of their own as they flew across the keyboard. “The mirror is the fundamental entity that mirrors the soul, more deeply than the eyes are said to do. Its smell evokes deep within us the elemental feelings of the womb, taking is back to the time when consciousness was not yet achieved – or, even, achievable…”

This, and more, he composed, as sweat trickled down his forehead and dribbled down his chin.

“The world outside seems to mirror our innermost thoughts – and the smell of the world intrudes on our psyche to make us react in ways we never thought we would, could, or should…”

He remembered reading somewhere that mirrors are actually super-cooled liquids rather than solids, or at least,  amorphous solids… something like pitch… and expanded upon this bit of  thermodynamic fiction into a couple of sentences, and mentioned the reeking dishcloth.

Hadrian was hungry, and sleepy, and had a crick in his neck. He was 400 words short of his word-count… when he suddenly remembered the television trope about how evil twins or other malefactors come out of mirrors. That was good for another 167 words, because he added that the smell of sulphur usually preceded the apparitions.

Hadrian sniffed the air. He sensed, more than saw, movement in the dressing table mirror…

Tomorrow’s Word

“I want to die!” the child sobbed, rivulets of tears streaming down his chubby cheeks.

It’s not often that children step into the path of an oncoming bike, holding out the palm of their hand as a traffic warden would.  Had he had run away from home after a hiding?

This was not the time to offer platitudes. I got off the bike and hugged him, then rummaged in my backpack to get him a tissue.  I also fished out a bottle of orange juice, which he gulped thirstily, licking his lips and then wiping them with the back of his hand when he’d finished.

“Thank you,” he said, unfathomable pain in his eyes. “Tell me about it?” “Lean your bike against the wall, and let’s sit down on the kerb, and I’ll tell you!” he said, with a quiet authority that bewildered me.  I put it down to what I had assumed to be a tough life – maybe he had younger siblings, and he was obliged to care for them.

“I almost died three times, you know…” he said, and I swiveled round to look at him. “Yes, I did, too.  The first time, I fell out of my cot.  The second time, I was run over by a car.  The third time, the neighbours’ pit-bulls mauled me so badly the parents decided to switch off the life-support system, after I’d spent a week in hospital.”

I noticed his quaint use of the word “the” with ‘parents’ – but I didn’t comment.  This child would give Charles Dickens a run for his money any day, so precocious and eloquent was he.  “So, I said, half perturbed, half amused, “why is it you want to die a fourth time?” “Third!” he exclaimed.

“It might not be that difficult for you to understand…” he said, his eyes delving deep into my soul.  “As a writer, you must have heard of re-incarnation.”   “How…?” I asked. “I don’t have time to explain.   I just know. This time, I am finding it extremely difficult to walk towards the Light” (the way he said it gave the word an upper case initial).  “I cannot seem to find the right Path” (ditto).

“So, what do you want from me?” I asked him.  “Nothing, really.  Nothing and everything.  I want you to go to this address (and here he dug his tiny hand deep into the pocket of his jeans and drew out a crumpled sheet of paper, smoothing it on his thigh) and give this to the parents so they can share it with the neighbours.  Only then will I be free.  I cannot go myself.  Don’t ask questions.  Please.”

I took the paper from his hand, and glanced up as a shadow fell upon me. “Exercise whacked you out then?” sniggered my friend.  “No, I was just…” but when I looked to my left, the boy was nowhere to be seen.

Fright of Fancy

Leeza woke up, shaking, from a dream where she was in a classroom with aquamarine walls painted with fish. She willed them to move, and wished she could clear her troublesome sinuses by gulping seawater and forcing it out of her nostrils.

She’d won a beauty contest. “Working for the common good” had been stretched to include populating a new Outpost with Beautiful People.

Leeza sifted the details of her dream into “tell” / “don’t tell” categories. She needed more sleep, or she’d be too tired at the Nursery; she’d be re-purposed as a Mother. Perish the thought. Leeza was waiting for a Regulation to reinstate sex in the time-honoured way. Programmed, batch-births were not her style. 

She lulled herself to sleep by counting sheep; the lampuki and brieqex, vopi and makku disappeared from the walls, replaced by long, horned gunmetal grey creatures with bulging eyes, vestigial webbed feet, and sharp teeth.

Leeza had resigned herself to living on Saracen IV. She would pretend she dreamt about teaching the Nursery kids their colours and numbers and letters. Her psycho-sessions had become a game of seemingly off-the-cuff comments and studied body language. She hated being a Colonist, but she was making the best of it.

The Sting

I left my doting boyfriend for him, because he promised me the earth and a bag in which to put it.
After three years I knew I still yearned for my first love.
“Leave him!” he said, when I reconnected through a false identity, on Facebook. It was not easy. My (ex!) husband owned me – mind, body, soul.
It began to fall into place when I was standing at the sink.
No, no, I tell a lie. It began slightly before that; even before there was a power outage.
Probably, it began the moment I set eyes on my (ex!) husband – but for the sake of this story, let’s just say that it began after supper.
Just for the record, the first time we met he’d arranged my bangs and the coollar of my blouse “just the way he liked them”, and, mea culpa, I never realised it was a symptom of the way that he would try to fix my life – and me – from that moment on. I was enthralled by his attention. The snide comments and hostile criticism came later.
But I digress.
I had spent the morning and part of the afternoon in bed engrossed in the first two books of different series I had won on a television Trivia Quiz – you know, the ones where they ask questions about obscure topics…such as what was the name of the character Liam Neeson played in Taken.
War ‘n’ Wit and Tex, the Witch Boy had…well, bewitched me.
It was getting to dark for me to see to read – and when I went to switch on the bedside lamp I realised that not only was it 5.00 pm, but there was no electricity.
I had not even had breakfast, go figure prepared dinner – and my (ex!) husband was due home in two hours.
I realised I would have to move fast to avoid the usual monologue running commentary.
I leapt out of bed and whipped the quilt into place. I half-filled a pot with water, and chicken in one Italian herb stock cube, some brandy, a knob of butter, the four turkey drumsticks that had been soaking overnight in marinade, a packet of mixed frozen vegetables, and a handful of frozen onion rings. Then I prepared a bowl of instant mashed potatoes, and chopped up some cherry tomatoes, olives, and garlic cloves, and doused them in olive oil (I would drain them just before serving).
The dusk and the street light gave me just enough light to work.
I put some water and disinfectant in a bucket and went over the floors with a cloth wrapped around a squeegee, and switched on the ceiling fans.
While the food cooked and the floor dried, I changed out of my pyjamas, brushed my hair and pulled it back in a pony-tail, washed and flossed my teeth, put the book away, and leapt down the stairs three at a time.
I got out the votive candles that I’d bought for the Christmas centrepiece and lit them. They made eerie shadows dance on the walls, and of course I could not help adding my fingers to make some shadow animals.
My (ex!) husband always insisted that I do the newspaper crossword, daily, to “work my sloth-brain”, as he so courteously puts it. So I took it out and called my whiz friend Samantha to give me the solutions, as I usually did. I barter with her by keeping her kids while she is with her lover. I left out a couple of easy ones, so I would be able to act as if I had just thought of them while we were having dinner. I was – am – smug about the fact that my acting prowess never failed to take my husband in.
I grabbed the sponge to give my (ex!) husband’s breakfast mug and cereal bowl a quick rub-and-rinse, but as soon as I opened the tap, I screamed.
I felt as if someone had taken a steel sledge-hammer to my knuckles; not all of them, just six out of ten. My joints swelled and my fingers throbbed and turned purple.
With tears pouring down my cheek and biting my lower and upper lips alternately, I finished the task and sat down in front of the aforesaid crossword, barely able to hold the pencil… just in time, because the next moment, my (ex!) husband’s key turned in the lock.
I went to greet him, and he kissed me perfunctionally – as he usually did, and sniffed the air – and he likewise usually did. Smells good. But you’ve put in too much onion. I said it in my mind before he said it out loud.
He whipped off his jacket and draped it over the chair, and undid his tie, positioning it exactly over the middle of the jacket.
He had not even noticed my fingers. I showed them to him and of course, he assumed it was my clumsiness that had injured me. I told him what had happened, and he said that after he ate, he would take me to the clinic. Selfish sonofabitch.
He sat at table, and as he expected me to do, I asked about his day so he could boast about his wheelings and dealings. I was sick and tired of this charade – but it suited me, because I quite liked being the Lady of the Manor and not having to go out to work.
He happened to glance at the crossword, and pursed his lips. Not ready yet? I said it to myself before he did. “Oh!” I said, gingerly picking up the pencil, pincer-style like a Kindergartner, and dashing of the last five words without even looking at the clues, “I’ve been thinking about them while we had dinner…”
So we went to the Clinic and the doctor said it was Gardner-Diamond syndrome. My (ex!) husband asked him – twice – whether I could have hurt myself shutting a drawer because she is so clumsy… and the doctor explained patiently how veins sometimes rupture spontaneously, and the red blood cells cause the contusions and the swellings and the pain.
The doctor said I must support each injured finger by taping it to the one next to it, and avoid extremes of temperature, and to wear mittens if possible.
We returned home, and the rest of the evening passed as it usually did – except for the part where he parked himself in front of the television set because we had spent the time at the Clinic. Sex, showers, and bed. Did he care that I was in pain? Did he heck. The power came back at around midnight.
The throbbing pain kept me from sleeping, despite the analgesic balm I had rubbed on my fingers (and the whiskey I’d drunk).
As I sometimes did, to escape from my dreary existence, I let my imagination run riot. I idly toyed with the idea of drawing my rouge blood cells out with a syringe… and injecting them into the butt of my sleeping (ex!) husband, to create enough pain so he would not be able to sit down for a month of Sundays. Ah! This would be the other meaning of Blood Doping, as per articles with facetious titles such as If I Did a Bag of Lance Armstrong’s Blood, Could I Bike up a Mountain? (without the rider ‘and what if said blood were spiked?’)…
I concocted plans to inject him with air, to create an embolism. Probably, though, I’d be rumbled, if they decided to do an autopsy, because he did not have a dickey heart. Maybe I could kill him with insulin…Reversal of Fortune style, but I’d make sure my approach would work. But there was nobody, of all my friends who have diabetes, whom I could trust to give me a pre-drawn syringe, and keep mum about it. Oh, to delegate the whole enchilada to a hit-man. Or a cat’s-paw.
And that’s when the idea hit me. My (ex!) husband usually spent Saturdays ensconced in the greenhouse, fiddling about with his beloved orchids. He sold each bloom at about €50 a pop. Not because he needed the money, but just because he could.
It was Monday. Time enough. Maybe… My plan was sketchy…it was a long shot…it might not work… but it was worth a try.
When replenishing my kitchen freezer from the one in the basement, I had noticed a wasps’s nest at one corner of the ceiling. They’d probably been grateful for the box of newspapers I saved for the once-a-month recycling collection, because it meant they did not have to forage far for material with which to build it.
I poured a good measure of honey inside a big bin bag, and made my way downstairs. There were no wasps flying about, and I heaved a sigh of relief. I manoeuvred a table just under the nest, keeping one eye open for the insects, and placed a chair on the table.
Then, I cautiously climbed on the table, and stood on tiptoe, on the chair, placing the opening of the bag over the nest. I knew I was risking a broken leg or two, but I was on an adrenaline high and nothing could stop me. Using the outside of the bag to shield my hands (I thought it would be better not to use gloves, since there would be some kind of residue on them), I detached the nest from its anchors and nudged it into the bag.
There was such an angry surge of buzzing that I nearly fell off the chair. Apparently, the wasps were quick to notice the honey, and they quietened down almost immediately.
As best I could, I held on to the neck of the bag while putting the furniture in its place again.
Next stop: the greenhouse.
I took the bag and went in through the back door, just in case someone was looking out of the window; and anyway, the orchids were nearer that than the front entrance.
Gently, very gently, I upended the bag and out rolled the nest, sticky with honey. Some of the wasps had died a sweet death by drowning – alas, there was nothing I could do about that. The others appeared lethargic. I hoped they would recover in time to carry out their duty.
I have always been taught that unless you act aggressively towards wasps, they will not attack you. So I kept calm when some of them flew toward me to examine me; and true enough, I was not stung.
I grasped the bottom of the bag and turned it inside out, making sure that no wasps were stuck to the plastic, turned it back sticky side in, and folded it into an oblong small enough to fit into my jeans pocket. I left the greenhouse, walking backward, in slow movements, just in case, and nonchalantly walked around two blocks, hands in pockets – discarded the binbag into the street litter bin farthest from the house.
The suspense nearly killed me.
Just as the wasps killed my (ex!) husband.
Around the time he left for the greenhouse, as I had planned, I was standing, not a hair out of place, at the delicatessen counter at the supermarket, selecting cheeses for the weekend, as I always did.
It had been my original plan to walk back casually, do some light chores, and then call him on the intercom to say that dinner was in ten minutes. I had stopped at that point, since I would then play it on the wing, so it would appear to be a spontaneous thing.
However, my plan was dashed when one of the neighbours met me halfway. She had been running, and her words came out in between her gasps for air. Wasps… husband… urgent… stings… come… ambulance… swell… heart-attack…
I really should be nominated for an Academy Award. I grabbed her by the arm and shook her, asking her to explain what she was on about. Taking a deep breath, she said that she had heard shouting and the sounds of breaking glass, and had run out of the house just in time to see my (ex!) husband reeling about in the middle of the street, wheezing and lurching about, holding a hand to his throat. His face and hands were covered with angry red weals. With great difficulty, he had whispered my name and “supermarket”.
She had pounded on the door of another neighbour, explained the situation and told her to call for an ambulance, and ran to fetch me. It had been faster and easier than I thought it would be. Indeed, I later found out that wasps do not die after stinging someone, since their stingers are not barbed like those of bees, and are therefore not pulled out of their bodies when they attack.
I was told that probably, since the attack on my (ex!) husband happened in an enclosed space, the whole nest had been mobilised to sting. In these cases, unless antihistamine treatment is given within minutes, the victim dies.
It could be that he had swatted one of the insects, and it had released a pheromone that warned the others that there was a threat, and caused them to attack him.
I will never know. Not that I want to. The Coroner’s Report states “death by misadventure”.
My husband and I often drink to that.



Life is a ball game;
When it sends you a curved ball,
Make sure to bat it!

Life’s made of extremes
When the buddy system fails,
Find strength in yourself.

Life is a bar-code.
Lots of lines; all mean something…

Life is a cascade
It takes your breath away, or
Purifies your soul.

Life is a quarry
Remember that though you dig,
Nothing’s set in stone.

Life is a peanut
Crunchy inside the shell, or
Smooth peanut butter.

Life is a corner
Of the street or of a room;
According to choice.

Life is a cycle;
Flowers bloom, and then wither…
Leaving seeds for more.

Life is a circle
No beginning and no end –
Embracing a void.

Life is a drawbridge
You can shut everyone out
Or allow access!

Life is a fir cone
Showing a hard exterior…
That love breaks open.

Life is a gamble
Dice are cast and lots are drawn;
Winner takes it all!

Life is a journey;
Bad signposts and bumpy roads
Drive you up the wall.

Life is a moonbeam
Contrasting with the darkness
Lighting up your path.

Life is a mountain;
Rope, climbing shoes and warm clothes…
Equal importance.

Life is a slow dance;
Alone or with a partner
Take it as it comes.

Life is a spiral
Whether it leads up or down
Is yours to decide.

Life is a journey
Riddled with many pit stops
Make time to use them!

Life is a masked ball;
You have to face the music
Of perfect strangers.

Life is a mountain.
Sheer cliffs; dead drops; an ice-cap;
But no lush valley.

Life is a playground
Winning on the roundabout
Just makes you dizzy.

Life is an acorn
Kernels nestled in wood cloaks
Squirrels’ winter stocks.

Life is for living
Don’t save your kisses because
They’ll all go to waste.

Life is highs and lows
From flip-flops to stilettos;
According to mood.

Life is so precious
The irony of it all
Is not knowing it!

Life’s a delusion;
On the surface all’s perfect
But below’s rotten.

Life’s a fairy-tale;
And one day you’ll wake up
To the bleakest truth.

People Poem

Flowers bloom
In the most unexpected of places.
You call them weeds, but they are plants that
Refuse to be harnessed.
Blooms flower where
Pampered seeds would wither.
So it is with people
Adversity hones the character
Struggles foment courage
If the seeds for it are there;
Adversity is the mother of adjustment
Non-conformity is the mother of configuration
Improvisation is the mother of invention.
Transient, tentative thoughts take root
And flourish.
Think pink; ponder purple; imagine indigo.
Flowers bloom…
Blooms flower.

If I’ve Told You Once…

Don’t do that. Stop that. Enough. Stop. Put that book away or you’ll throw up. How naughty you are. Push back your hair. That’s not nice. Stop fidgeting. Hold your bag properly. Stop playing with your hair. Close your mouth when you chew. Stop picking your nose. Drink some water. Stop moving your legs. Stop making faces. That’s enough…
This litany went on and on, during a bus ride from Birkirkara to Bugibba. Alas, it was not a teacher with her summer school brood on an outing – it was a mother with just one child, obviously on their way to the beach. The parent gave the expression Maltese Gemgem a new lease of life. I wonder how much the girl enjoyed the visit to the beach, and whether she was wise enough to float her troubles away once she jumped into the sea.
Nagging and grumbling appear to be very popular – to the extent that some people would grumble if there were not anyone around to nag, and nag the speakers on the radio if there is no one at whom to grumble.
Some friends of mine – modern by other standards – still believe in the “broken record” method of communication. They even cite scripture about it, in that it is certain that a person will comply with your wishes if only to stop your staccato whinging, rather than because they really want to.
Some would think that social sites like facebook have given mothers the world over a new type of ammunition – “this photo gets posted on my wall and yours if you don’t clean your room within the next hour”. Unfortunately, only a few children will cave in to this type of blackmail. Others will call their mothers’ bluff (she doesn’t want people to think she is a bad parent because she lets my room get to this state…) and others simply don’t care of the world find out they use the chairs for a wardrobe.
Nagging, most of the time, is a waste of energy – both for the nagger, and also for the person being nagged. The former will feel frustrated; the latter will feel resentful.
There are times when nagging actually has the effect opposite to the desired one. If a child has to learn discipline, it is useless for a parent to nag him to fulfil his duties, because once the nagging is not present, for any reason, he will revert to type.
Parents nag children to do their homework; they will never learn what the consequences of not doing it are, until it is too late to learn how to do it even if and when they do not feel like it, because it is their duty. Had they been left to their own devices, they would have suffered the penalty of turning up at school without homework – and then, this would have led them to decide whether an extra hour of facebook was worth three hours of detention. This kind of lesson will get through even to children who pretend not to hear their parents’ nagging.
We nag because we have valid grievances. Yet it does not follow that the people whom we harry will be grateful; they will become defensive, angry and irritated. Nagging is disrespectful and negative and therefore, automatically unhealthy for the mind, heart, soul and body. It sours relationships.
Badgering our children to do what (we think) is right is not a clause in the job description for mothers – but discussion and compromise are.
It is irritating to hear a child sniffle; yet ordering him to stop will not stop his need to do so. It will, however, make him feel pestered, demeaned, and incapable of looking after himself. Wordlessly handing him a handkerchief would probably have encouraged him to use it. So would a polite request, and a non sequitur about how nice it was when the child did something nice for someone else without being asked, to divert him from the issue.
I know for a fact that some people like to nag to draw attention to themselves, or to their children, when there is an audience. In private, they may not even speak to the child unless absolutely necessary. Others nag because they feel safer when they consider themselves superior to others, or simply because as parents, they can throw their weight around and show who’s boss.
Nagging does not stop when our children know they will lose privileges if they do not toe our line. It stops when we decide we must stop harping persistently on the same points, and begin being positive instead.
Let’s all make a back-to-school resolution to stop nagging for a week, and see what happens.

Mind over Matters: The Right Mind-Set to Start School



The First Day Of School. A phrase that must be written like that, because it is such an important milestone for the child – and for the parents too.
School is the place where a child may spend more of his waking time than he does in his or her home, not counting sleep. It is the place where your child will make and break friendships; where they will mould their character further – and decide upon their future.
School is the place where parents have little or no influence over the daily interaction of a child with his peers and superiors. They may try to tell them what to do and what to say – but when push comes to shove, they must face the music alone. Talk about performance anxiety!
Education and learning are stressful enough as it is – and combined with a cocktail of new emotion, rituals and situations, the trauma and strain felt by the child, who may not be prepared for them, increases. All too often, the promised fun and games take second place. What the child sees in Orientation Day is a nice, smiling teacher – not one who is worn to a frazzle by spilled water-colors and miniature wars over toys.
To top it all, the parents’ attitudes, and feelings of anxiety, guilt or fear may be subliminally transferred to the child, who assumes that being uprooted from their home environment into the alien one is somehow “their fault” for not being “good”.
Children must never be compared with others; they absorb skills at their own rate, using their innate learning styles. It is wrong to expect a child to conform to a set of milestones, at such a tender age. Moreover, different children bring different skills, at different levels, to the same class. Some children barely know how to put their shoes on the right feet – others can tie their laces into a perfect bow. Some may not even know numbers exist, whereas others can count to 100.
Psychotherapist David Grillo explains it in this manner:
One of the best things about starting a child off with playschool, kindergarten, or preschool is that they are not thrown in at the deep end. The fact that they don’t have to take notebooks and stuff eases them gently into the world of learning.
For some kids, especially those who fall under the youngest age bracket, the first few days can be traumatic. It is the first time that they separate for a ‘long’ periodfrom the parents. Separation anxiety is normal, and is also a part of growing up. But supporting them and ensuring that the parents, or someone with whom they identify, are home when they come back will help. It is also a good idea for both parents and not one to accompany the child to the door the first time.
These days, most teachers or kindergarten assistants are very well-trained. And that makes a lot of difference.
Preparing a child for school psychologically goes hand-in-glove with the mundane preparations of uniforms (if applicable). Getting this must be a ‘special event’, with an emphasis on ‘school clothes for children who are no longer babies.’
If possible, take your child with you, too, when you purchase his or her painting tabard, lunch box, napkins and enough socks to have a clean pair each day. This is not the moment to worry that your child is gifted and will be “kept back” by the hoi polloi. That comes later.
Some children like to be alone with the person who is taking them to school, for the journey there. Others would prefer to be with a peer. See what works best for your child and take it from there. If the child has to take the school van, because of distances or time constraints, make sure to prepare him for this.
Never cajole a child into behaving like a “big boy” (i.e. ‘no tears’) because the “others” will laugh at him. This puts him on the defensive. Say, instead, that you are proud of him for actually being a good boy, even if he is bawling his eyes out.
Gradually change the child’s routine so that a week before school begins, he or she will be getting up and going to bed at approximately the same times when school commences. This gets them used to the routine.
Tell the child inasmuch as he or she is able to comprehend, that it is normal to have butterflies when starting a new school moving to a new house, or starting a new job. The idea is to get the butterflies flying in formation.
Getting to school should not be rush-scuttle-dash-sprint. The child can set their own alarm clock and fold their clothes neatly over the back of the chair, and make sure any stationery needed is in their bag, on the eve of each school day.
If you have to refer to your own childhood experiences, make sure the child cannot read anything negative in your attitude or tone of voice.
If the child’s school requires a packed lunch, allow the child to select what they want to eat, and perhaps to help prepare it.
Angele Licari, psychologist, has this to say about the above:
Firstly check if you, as a parent, are psychologically prepared for your child to be leaving home to start school. I would sooner begin with preparing the parents, and not the child about the loss and attachment issues affecting both.
If you have any anxieties of your own, these can be non-verbally be transmitted to the child and become his own. If your own move to school as a child was tarnished with any negative connections, then you might assume the child would be passing through the same experiences, thus finding it hard to let go in a healthy way. Come to terms with your own un-finished past.
Every so often, check how your child interacts with other children. Check if he is clingy, jealous, rough, intimidated, insecure, or perhaps too confident, and how s/he behaves towards others in general. Consider whether the source for negative behaviors is sibling rivalry; or having a younger sibling who is allowed to stay home whilst s/he is being sent to school. Address these matters before they escalate and compound the child’s stress.
Go through the daily routine with your child so that he can visualize what school means, while at home. You can help him understand that how he leaves home, (transport etc), what things he might be doing throughout the day at school, (games, reading, playing, etc), that he would be brought back home or picked up. This is especially important. It will help him feel he can cope with new things as a matter of course.
Discuss openly how you feel; ask your child how s/he feels about the whole thing. You can say that you will miss him but that you are happy that he will now be learning new things and enjoying the company of his friends. You can ask whether he has any thoughts about the whole experience.
In a matter-of-fact way, without any drama, remind the child that if there is anything with which he cannot cope, the teacher is replacing the parent or careers during school time, until he comes back to ‘home sweet home’.
Some schools allow parents to stay in the building for an hour or two during the first weeks of school, just in case anything untoward happens. Ironically, this sometimes makes the parents feel more bereft than ever; it’s as if they are extraneous – because since the child has not thrown a wobbly, it must mean that he has “forgotten all about them”.

Eating Disorders

Most parents tend to associate the phrase “eating disorders” with skeletal catwalk models or teenagers who get by on the proverbial apple a day – if that. The truth is much more insidious.
Teenagers who are sucked into the vortex of eating disorders may not even know what the underlying problems are.
It could be that someone has called them chubby, or fat. On the other hand, perhaps, they want to look good for their crush, or on the beach. Very soon, however what began as a mistaken definition of the word diet spirals out of control until the teen is swallowed by the obsession not to eat.
When someone has a problem with the image, she can either accept it, or try to alter it. Again, the altering may be done is healthy, safe reasonable ways – a new hairstyle, new clothes, different make-up, more exercise, or healthier eating; or it may be done in extreme ways… shaving off the hair, wearing eccentric make-up, OTT clothes… and extreme dieting.
There is the mistaken idea that people who are “weak” choose to have eating disorders because they cannot cope with life This is not true. After all, it takes punishing self-control not to eat when you are hungry, or to bring what you have eaten back up.
Teens who have eating disorders may be crying for attention; but they may also feel that there is an area in their life upon which they, and only they, have perfect control. Peer pressure may be a factor, too.
It goes without saying that the parent(s) who have a healthy outlook toward their own self-image, and who refrain from commenting on the size of their teens’ bodies, are less likely to have children with these problems, which take hold of a child’s life… and may ruin it.
How do you notice that a teen is on the way to having, or already has, an eating disorder? Boys as well as girls get the condition; but for the sake of clarity I will just be using “she”.
• Changes; the teen becomes finicky about minor things, choosing lettuce over cucumber, apples over peaches.
• The teen’s breath smells of acetone (nail polish remover).
• The teen is more likely to bruise if she bumps against furniture.
• She is lethargic and sleepy, and often appears to be in a world of her own.
• The teen seems suddenly aware of the nutritious value, or otherwise of certain foods, especially those she used to love before the problems began.
• They might criticise themselves, not only with regard to size, but also about looks, height, intelligence, and the ability to make friends.
• They may lie about having eaten already in order to get out of family mealtimes, or say they will eat later because they have “a lot of homework”.
• They might even show an interest in cooking up fabulous meals, and watch as others eat them.
• They might mention friends who have problems with food in order to gauge what your reaction would be if they come out.
• They will not accept that they have an eating disorder, because it robs them of the feeling of control…whereas the opposite is true.
• The consider it humiliating to be told that they need help, so parents must pussy-foot around the issue at first.
A teen who has an eating disorder will deny it, even if she knows she is unwell. That is why gentle support is necessary.
Treatment is not the same for all teens who are stricken with eating disorders. It may take the form of psychotherapy, or family therapy, support groups, nutritional consultation, and, when push comes to shove, hospitalisation.

Soap Opera

There you are.

So, he finally left. Did you really believe him when he said he had a business breakfast?
I thought you would never come. But I knew that sooner or later you would come to do the Solitaire Collection, because there’s just enough time for you to finish the five games before the episode begins…
That is one of the good things about being able to watch television on your laptop, and having a smart television, so you can hop back and forth between the two, according to whether or not you are alone in the house.
Am I not the clever one? I knew that you would notice the new icon, and that you’d click on it to see what it was…
Why are you standing there looking like an asphyxiated goldfish? It’s you I’m looking at. You I’m talking to. Sit down.
Look at the calendar. July 14. Ingmar Bergman. Gustav Klimt. Gerald R. Ford. Me. I know the thought passed through your head this morning as soon as the alarm clock rang.
You are not insane. No matter how much he gaslights you and tells you that you are. You can hear me, and that’s proof enough you are
in compos mentis, as we say here. Why today, of all days? Because today is my birthday, in life that is as real as it gets, for me. We must stop meeting like this.
Sit down, I said. I want to explain what is happening. I can see you are not convinced yet. OK, so go and switch on your laptop. Click the same icon you clicked on your television screen. I will be removing that one, as soon as you click the other one. I need to show you something.
Ah. There you are. So, let me begin again. Good morning, beautiful lady. As you can see, I am your dream come true – your imagination made flesh, but not quite in the way you hoped it would be. This is an addendum, a bonus, to your weekly fix of me.
Stop fidgeting. Stop hyperventilating. Sit down, I said. Look at the screen. This can be happening, and it is. It’s useless pressing the mute button on the remote control; you can hear me in your head, even if my lips are closed tight… like this.
Oh, and allow me to say that I like your hair better like this – when you blow-dry it, you can’t help fiddling with it and looking for split ends. It annoys me, like it does when you are looking at me, while you are on the phone with Tabitha. There, that got your attention didn’t if? I want your undivided attention.
Dammit, woman: stop that. It’s not a question of pressing down the mute button till your thumb hurts. You will hear me anyway… in your heart, in your soul, in your mind.
I speak the language of the heart. Your heart. Isn’t that why you’ve put my name in every search engine you know about? Why are you blushing? I know more about you than you ever thought it would be possible for me to know.
It’s because you and Tabitha watch the show from your respective flats, while you are on the phone with one another, so you can drool over me, and she drools over my pal, as you watch.
As you know from the plotlines, my mother is deaf, so I can lip-read. I know exactly what you say – never mind what you think – each time you speak to her.
For instance – you say you cannot really make out whether my eyes are aquamarine or teal, didn’t you? You said my teeth are perfect, didn’t you? You said you wish I’m real, didn’t you?
Well, I am real enough. But not in the way you want me to be. Our realities are different. We exist on different planes. I cannot come to your place, but you can come to mine. The easiest way I can explain this to you is that there is something that acts like a one-way valve in the vacuity of the force-fields between us. I know you flunked physics, but that’s the way it is.
There’s this tendency for viewers to think that we are actors, existing solely for your predilection; that life for us, begins and ends on Thursdays, when you watch each episode of New Days, and that we spend the rest of the time in suspended animation until your next dose of happenstance.
That’s not so. It would not be logical if it were. We live, and on Thursdays, you get a peek into our lives. After all, you rarely see us head to the bathroom, or sit down for a meal, or sleep, or grab a beer from the fridge, do you?
Ah. You are finally smiling. I need you to relax. You are beginning to believe. Good. So now, we come to the nitty-gritty of it all. Forget about The Solitaire Collection, for today, at least.
You know, because you watch the show week after week (and yes, I know you tell Tabitha you live for Thursdays) that gradually, my desk has inched its way toward the corner of the office suite.
Now, the camera never, ever catches my computer screen; otherwise, my colleagues would know that one of the icons on my desktop is a direct link to your laptop. If someone approaches, there’s time enough for me to close it. Let me show you what I mean…
See? I’m back. Oh – and if neither your laptop or your television set are tuned in to Channel AP13, I cannot connect with you. Again, it’s a glitch in the ether system (you know that’s the root word for ethereal, don’t you?), to which I have not yet found the solution.
You are not fantasising. Or hallucinating. It’s not your guilty pleasure that makes you hear me. How many times do I have to say this?
You need more proof? Right. Look, has begun. This is an episode that you know is recorded, right? So, in a few seconds, when Abigail says “I got the facts from one of my moles…” I will stand up and sit down again, open the drawer on my left-hand side, and rummage through it…and my phone will ring.
There you go. Was that proof enough for you? Just in case you are not convinced… Annie will come into the room with a bag of doughnuts and a six-holder of coffee…
And you nearly thought I wouldn’t be able to talk to you when I was chewing the doughnut or slurping the coffee, didn’t you? Now I will wink at you, and Annie will think I am winking at her, and wink back.
Simon will saunter over to my desk and show me the two identical pairs of earrings he bought; one for his wife and one for his mistress.
If you don’t believe me by now, you never will. But please know that from this moment on, I will only be able to get through to you on your laptop; I removed the television link while I was pretending to peer at the screen…

Do you remember when you described me as a tall, dark and handsome Lou Grant? It will please you to know that there is talk I may be promoted to editor, in which case I will get to spend more time here, at my desk, should you so desire it. Or not, as the case may be. I would be here every day, waiting for you, not just on Thursdays, now that I have broken this resonance-vibration barrier. However, I have a better idea, about which, more, later.
You think I am talking to you now, as you watch me, but my time here is different from yours. For example, I cannot send you an e-mail (heaven knows I’ve tried), and you can’t call me on the phone on my desk, and pretend it is a wrong number.
As things are, I cannot be with you physically. But if you want it to happen – that is your decision to make. Yet I am with you in your heart, soul, and emotions. Today I have finally entered your mind as well.
I see you are finally understanding what I want to say. Please don’t cry. I know it is a difficult decision. As you can see, today is the first time ever you did not call Tabitha during the show. She has been trying… but she couldn’t get through because I blocked all the lines, including Skype and Facebook Messenger.
You understand we cannot let anyone else, not even Tabitha, find out that this has happened between us. It breaks all the rules – yours and mine. I do not want to get written out of the series. Moreover, deep down, you know that you are living a lie. You do not love him. Why, you don’t even like him any more. You have said that to Tabitha a zillion times.
Many a time you’ve told Tabitha that you would love to be able to step through the laptop monitor. I know you have wondered why I never seem to be involved with women, when many of my colleagues go through them like a hot knife through butter.

The thing is, the first time I saw you through the screen, I was smitten. It was an anomaly that had never occurred before; I knew it was destiny, that we were meant to be together. For ever. Here. Therefore, I told the scriptwriters that I did not want lovey-dovey complications, unless I co-write the sub-plot.
You know what you have to do. Don’t bother about the shopping and the chores. All it takes it splaying your fingers on the screen, so they touch the tips of mine.
Forget him. Just come. Now.