the Association Principle


No, this isn’t about the sixties pop group. It’s about the ability of a human being to create new ideas by combining two old ones. It’s about understanding the interconnection of things, and about relationships.

As strange as it may seem to some, the ability to associate needs to be taught (at least in most cases that I’ve seen). Seldom does a child come up with an example on his or her own. They have to be taught that “this” associates with “that”.

Here’s an example, from this evening’s conversation with our young one, after she had left the room and my wife and I were unable to prevent the smallest cat from eating the peanuts out of her teeny bowl of trail mix.

My wife-“Bright Eyes ate the peanuts out of your bowl. And she licked the almonds.”

The child reaches into the bowl and prepares to put some in her mouth.

Me-“You really are DeeDeeDee, aren’t you? The cat had her tongue in that bowl. You know where that tongue’s been. Why would you eat that?”

The Look…that blankly hostile look, with the jaw thrust forward, the bottom lip pouting, and the eyes ready to roll.

Me-“You don’t understand, do you?”

Child (in really small voice). “no.”

Me-“You really need to speak up (The hesitant childishness is a behavior that must have earned her cute points or something in her previous life, but doesn’t operate under her new laws). If I can’t hear you, I’ll ignore you. (I know this seems cruel, but so many of her “things” are attention-getting mechanisms that are leftover from when she was two or three years old. Stated in these terms, this gets HER attention).”

The Look softens a little. I am ON Her Side, after all. I Mean Well.

The Mrs.-“Cats lick their ass with their tongue. That’s where that tongue has been.” Aside to me-“She doesn’t “get” germs.”

“I know. Brook, do you understand about germs?”

A slightly louder No.

“Okay. Germs are invisibly small critters. The thing that made me and your grandma sick is a germ.”

That she has successfully made this association is obvious. She “gets it”. Her eyes fill with wonder as a few of the chains of association that come with this small epiphany cross her mind.

“So when the cats lick their asses, those germs are on their tongue.”

Wife-“It’s why I don’t like dogs to lick my face.”

“You see,” I say, turning to the child. “You don’t really want to eat that, do you?” An emphatic nod-NO! “Good. Go throw that out.”

“Ew,” says the child, hastening on this errand.

Precious stuff. I want to give her the universe.

It’s true. We’re trying to get her to learn to want to read. She hasn’t yet gotten it into her head that this skill gives her the universe. She thinks tv and dvds do.

It gives me a sad. She really isn’t far advanced from where she was at four, when we last saw her, in terms of her skills and her interior life. She’s been surfeited with Dora the Explorer, who is several years too young for her, and similar pablum, and bought off with a constant supply of snack crackers and candy, with the occasional ice cream and soda pop.

Ghastly. We just tell her we’re not getting things anymore. I’ll tell her we’re just going to buy water, since she’ll slip off to Circle K any chance she can get and download a 44 oz. Code Red.

When she first arrived, she had a taste for coffee. Her version has three tablespoons of sugar, about 1/4 cup of high fructose-corn-syrup-laden nondairy creamer, and 1/2 a cup of milk. A liquid truffle, more or less.

The first thing I did was cut out the sugar, after seeing how she crashes off the stuff. Want a bitchy kid? Make her vibrate in place for 20 minutes after imbibing something like that, and then watch for the crash. As soon as she yawns, try to get her to do something.

Good luck with that. She learned all of this lunacy from her mother, who is her role model, gods forfend.

While we were at the bookstore, the child stopped me in my tracks by explaining that her mother used to read to her.

Selections from “Twilight Saga”.

My knees buckled. Here we are trying to work with Black Beauty, and My Friend Flicka, and this former victim of pedophilia has been subjected to that travesty, in both book and video form.

Woof to that warp. We got her those, and a handsomely illustrated sorta Cliff’s Notes version of the Secret Garden. And a couple of jigsaw puzzles.

My wife has even gone further. She is buying the child a Kindle. One, because she’s tired of giving up her laptop so the kid can watch idiocy on Netflix, and two, to help further her education. I know how to work the controls so that she gets so much reading time, so much video time, etc.

My part was in picking up a recorder, a set of small drumsticks, and a pitch-pipe. She wants a Hannah Montana guitar for her birthday. I’m going to try to change that to something that will last a bit longer and cost less, just in case she tires of it. I’m about 90% certain that it will, and then it’ll pass to me. I’d just as soon not have to refinish the thing.

I’ve begun playing things like Simon and Garfunkel, Neil Young video content for her, just adding them to her daily audiovisual diet, in the hopes that she’ll retain that association when we begin to try to find her musical horizon.

I know that she has excellent pitch from her happy-girl warbling, and I can work with that. She wants to learn guitar and piano…but she really doesn’t understand how hard it is to be good at playing a musical instrument.. She’s never had to work for or toward anything. So it’ll be a matter of not letting her frustration cancel out her talent.

She loves my song “Blutopia”. That one’s easy enough to teach her. I have lots of sheet music and tab books.

That’s the plan.

This weekend, I’m finally feeling well enough to maneuver the various boxes and instruments and equipment from one room to another, and she’ll have her own room by Monday night. Her and the bunnies.

Then I can get myself resettled and get back to work. It’s been a long time comin’-I can’t wait. My workday is cut down by an hour on each side, because of the child’s schedule. I’ll only be able to swing 3 hours writing/3 musical…but at least I have that, and can be productive under that arc.

A short story a week and a song every two is the aim. I’ll put them up here, at least temporarily, when they’re done. The first ones will be next weekend. I have three instrumental tracks and two short stories/articles justaboutthere.

Then, with any luck at all, I’ll have some things featuring the kid. I’m out looking for tambo, maracas, wood flutes, anything that’s cheap and will make noise, and I’ll drag out my acoustic instruments and usb drumkit. Perfect timing as the arthritis has been letting up and the pain in my shoulder isn’t as bad as it has been. I need practice at any rate.

And nothing teaches discipline and confidence like making music. I look forward to it. I hope we can get the Mrs. to play too.

 

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