The Elephant In The Room

I sat down on Wednesday last week thinking about what to write for this week’s blog post. I have been working on writing some of the recipes I promised some friends I would write down, but was a bit ‘stumped’ on which thing I should write about first.

As any great man would do, I asked someone else…Twitter. Thankfully @MuddlyMum came up with the suggestion:

Elephants!!

I loved this idea – but what to write? I often try to come up with ideas when walking my two dogs. One, the older one, is a labrador called Ollie and the other munchkin is a Bullpei called Lola. They are mental just like my kids. Taking them for a walk provides me with a time when I have no distraction and I have spent many a dark night plodding the pathways around my hometown of Bridgend pondering the day’s events, even the odd existential crisis or two. Taking the dogs on a walk resulted in leaving my iPad unattended for an hour, in which my lovely kids (I am not sure which one) decided to post this blog unfinished. I still managed to get two likes – maybe people thought I was being ironic in some way, or they wanted to make me feel good. Either way, I laughed a little and thought I may as well get to writing that at some point.

I first thought I’d write about my experiences of being on an Elephant sanctuary in Goa. That was an amazing experience by the way, but I came to the conclusion that story would be worth a separate post when I’ve dug out the old photos for proof I actually did go. To be honest, it’s an age ago since that happened and I thought I had better figure out what I could remember before I tackled that trip down nostalgia lane. In the end, I came to the conclusion that I would write about the English proverb: The Elephant In the Room.

We have all been in that situation, whereby the whole room want to talk about something or someone but can’t seem to get it out of our brains, and subsequently our mouths. I can be like that sometimes, although apparently I can be a bit more outspoken on times, which inevitably leads to awkward silences and gasps. I tend to keep it at bay more often that not. In my youth I always got into trouble at work for opening my mouth when I shouldn’t and have since then become more accustomed to observing the elephant than trying to tackling the beast head-on. It’s worked out well as I don’t offend people as often anymore. I must be growing up…or something like that. I kind of hope I go the other way as I get older and come full circle. A right of passage into becoming a grumpy old git.

Anyway, I will get to the point. As a parent of a disabled child, and one who is often ill and has many challenges to face, I often get asked when meeting new people, what’s wrong with him? Or what’s his disability? The git in me, that comes out every now and then, is often tempted to say there’s nothing wrong with him! He is perfect in every way. It’s the truth. Well mostly, except for when he constantly ignores me or when he wants the third or fourth Babybel. To get back to the point, I can often see the difficulty in this situation and the embarrassment of the person asking. It’s not their fault. It’s human nature – you can see a child/person is a little bit different and you’re intrigued to find out about their story and what is their life is like. It is no different to asking a personal question to any other family or person. What makes this situation so awkward? Why do some people not ask, when you can see it is what is on their mind? I have come to the conclusion that most people are genuinely interested and I always honestly answer and tell them all they need to know. The people who can’t bring themselves to ask, or ask it in curiously awkward manner are trying not to offend. Isn’t that amazing! Genuinely, I love this: a person, that doesn’t know you, wanting to make sure that you are happy and not insulted unintentionally. We need to acknowledge the situation, put people at ease and thank them for the question. I like to initiate the conversation, to help them out a bit. I like to focus on all the amazing things my son has done. How his resilience and determination shines through. It is an inspiration to myself, my family and friends and the people he meets. I will also talk about his sister and how amazing she is with him. I like to be positive and see the good in people. Cynicism is a cruel position to view the world from. It is a poison that is all-encompassing once it takes hold, and trying not to sound to cliché – the world is a better place half full of optimists, than a world half full of pessimists.

There are so many situations that the elephant in the room gets in the way of good friendships and relationships. I had a member of staff that was a muslim in a previous job. I found it fascinating as a catholic: I had gone to catholic school; been to a catholic church for many years, but did not have much knowledge about other faiths. I find that in today’s world climate and with attitudes towards religion, people can be frightened to ask about other beliefs and cultures. I don’t really care for prejudice. Unfortunately it happens, in mind my due to this elephant in the room problem. I asked him what his religion was about and how he practised his faith. I am glad I asked! We had a much better and more open work relationship because of it. It was interesting to find the similarities and differences of his world compared to mine. I think we become richer people when we open ourselves to different communities, different ideas and faiths, and fundamentally more understanding of the complexities of world around us.

Most recently, that elephant has visited me when explaining my decision to become a stay at home dad. It is an odd conversation. The look on people’s faces when I say I am not working when I leave my current job. I am going to be a stay at home dad…there’s an awkward silence that follows. I reassure them. It is a decision that felt natural to me, but apparently is quite uncommon. Only 250 welsh dads took the option in a recent report. Yep, only 250!!! I will become part of a  special club of lunatics, or visionaries….time will tell.

I will leave that there for the time being as I think I have tackled the elephant challenge in my own way. Feel free to add your thoughts in the comments. If you’re feeling generous hit the share button and follow me for more ‘dog walk’ inspired postings.

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