Deborah Hill Cone: Shut up or you'll get a donkey

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I tend to opt for "quirky" rather than any of the many acronyms on offer, says Hill Cone. Photo / Thinkstock
I tend to opt for "quirky" rather than any of the many acronyms on offer, says Hill Cone. Photo / Thinkstock

I feel like I'm carrying a donkey. You know that Aesop's Fable in which the man is told off for riding his donkey while his son walks ("lazy father") then for putting his son on the donkey ("lazy son") then for not riding the donkey ("lazy donkey") until eventually they end up carrying the donkey.

The moral of the story: please all and you will please none.

If you have a child who does not fit in with prevailing social norms, I can assure you there will be no shortage of people telling you to get on or off your donkey.

This week I behaved very badly and had an unbecoming adult tantrum in my GP's consulting room. I'd been to see the doctor because a person from the Ministry of Education, during one of my many meetings with experts about my five-year-old son, had advised me that I needed to go to my GP to get a referral for him to see a developmental paediatrician at Starship Hospital so he could be officially diagnosed with something.

I have not felt inclined to get him labelled with anything, being wary that this seems to become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Remember the ferocious dog called Killer, who became docile when his name was changed to Baby?

For my son, I tended to opt for "quirky" rather than any of the many acronyms on offer, such as ASD (autism spectrum disorder), ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), ODD (oppositional defiance disorder) or my favourite PDD-NOS (pervasive development disorder, not otherwise specified.)

But I digress. There I am back in my doctor's consulting room, trying to organise to go to see another doctor, who won't really understand my son, to get a diagnosis I don't really want, and being lectured about how I can't get a referral unless I get a Kafka-esque report from the Ministry of Education saying that he needs a diagnosis in the first place.

In case you're interested, even with the requisite report, the waiting list to see a developmental paediatrician is about six to eight months. (Have hospitals cunningly cut their waiting lists using the Procrustean Bed method: arbitrarily deciding there are whole classes of patients they won't see?)

Anyway, it's lucky I don't really want a diagnosis for my son, because I am rather inclined at this juncture to give up on this practically fulltime venture of trying to manage my son to be "normal", whatever that is, and just let him grow free to be as gloriously odd as he wants, without a platoon of chin-stroking experts fluttering around telling me I need to feed him more Omega 3s and make him gluten free or have less screen time.

This is the dark side to that cosy aphorism that "it takes a village" to raise a child. Everyone feels they have a stake in telling you how you should do it - which would be dandy if it worked but even the so-called experts don't really know that much.

Also, I suspect that if you are a single mother there is a special feeling of obligation on others to tell you where you are going wrong "just because we care".

So, here is my suggestion. Let's stop telling all mothers all the things they are doing wrong.

Don't tell working mothers to stay at home. Don't tell stay-at-home mothers to get a job. Don't guilt-trip single mothers for failing to onehandedly rustle up a nuclear family. Don't tell mothers with thin children to make food fun. Don't tell mothers with anxious children to make them join in. Don't tell mothers with nerdy children to do team sports. Don't tell hippy mothers to be stricter. Don't tell bourgeois mothers to chill.

Basically, just feel free to cease telling any mother what she should and shouldn't do to make her children more acceptable and successful. Because you don't really know what you are talking about or what success is going to entail in the future or what any of it means really or whether perhaps everything was genetic and thus a waste of time anyway.

And if anyone sends me a helpful message about what supplements I should be giving my son, I'm warning you: I will send you back a dead donkey.

- NZ Herald

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