The daily school run used to be a rather sombre affair – two thirds of the journey being completed in a deeply resentful silence born initially out of sibling conflict, and then cemented by maternal rebuke!
Having first barged passed each other on their way out to the car (often accompanied by some strategic ‘following through’ of the elbows and / or feet) the incessant verbal needling would then begin, serving as a brief prelude to one (or both) of them dealing a meaningful blow – and all of this before my key had even turned on the ignition! No amount of adjustment to the morning routine seemed to dilute the intensity of their testosterone charged rivalry and I used to arrive at work wondering quite where it had all gone so horribly wrong!
Now that my eldest is responsible for making his own way to school, however, the school run has changed beyond recognition. It has become a conversation rich environment in which my brain is frequently left scrambling for answers that are (almost) equal in quality to the myriad of questions posed by my youngest son. Being someone who deals in facts (rather than opinions) and takes things literally, he used to struggle to understand the meaning behind commonly used figures of speech. However, dogged determination on his part (no doubt bolstered by an unrelentingly competitive streak) has meant that he is now able to casually toss one or two examples into sentences of his own – delivered, I might add, with a generous helping of conceit!
One early example of the kind of confusion that can easily arise from speaking figuratively, was when (in response to a damning assessment of one of his classmates) I cautioned him not to ‘judge a book by its cover’. No sooner had the phrase left my lips than I was met with a plethora of reasons as to why the cover of a book was, in fact, a useful tool for deciding whether to read it…
Conceding that he had a point, I have since dropped that particular phrase from my ‘repertoire’. However, I was reminded of it again today when I saw a friend’s post on Facebook and very nearly fell foul of my own cautionary advice…
My friend had uploaded a photo of a chocolate bar and the accompanying caption was along the lines of being excited about eating it later. I’ll admit that I was about to scroll on when (sensing that there might be ‘more to it’) I realised that, far from being a frivolous post about harbouring a penchant for a particular brand of confectionary, this was a touching and well-written explanation about something (or rather someone) close to her heart. In this case, that chocolate bar had been given to her daughter as a birthday gift but instead of keeping it for herself, the little girl had chosen to give it to her mum.
Further explanation is needed, however, because this is a young girl for whom life did not begin favourably. Having suffered untold sadness and neglect, she had eventually been removed from her birth mother before embarking upon the long and painful road to adoption. With the continuing love, patience and support of her adoptive parents, the healing process has evidently begun in earnest and (no longer fearful of going hungry) this little girl was happy to part with the entire chocolate bar.
Parenting can be hard – even when your relationship with your little one began with a totally clean slate. One can only imagine how much harder it must be, when a veritable cocktail of emotional and physical trauma, deep-seated fear, and an almost blanket distrust of adults stands in the way of that crucial relationship building process. Only by having read the post in full, was I able to begin to comprehend its significance.
By all means then, use the cover as a guide – but don’t forget to read the ‘book’ in its entirety before you attempt to form a judgement of any kind.
And even then, it’s probably wise to tread carefully.