Let’s arrange a play activity situation – yes, it’s playtime in Fortune-speak
‘MEDDERS, take that frown off your brow.’
‘But I am thinking, dearest petal.’ ‘Thinking should be a pleasure, not the cause of
‘Oh, sweetest, if only it was that simple.’ ‘What’s the problem this time? Let me guess. You have evidence suggesting that Ronaldo is a better footballer than Messi?’ ‘Not possible. No, not that.’
‘You have been reading that detective novel ‘Murder in the Mess’ only to find it was missing the last five pages?’
‘No, everything was present and correct. The bugler did it.’ ‘You have found a fertiliser guaranteed to make parsnips grow as big as footballs but it costs €100 per gram.’
‘Wow! Is there such a thing? I don’t care what the price is. Pawn the children. Flog The Jalopy. Put The Pooch out to stud.’ ‘I give up. What exactly is it that has your forehead so furrowed?’ ‘I am trying, ma cherie, to work out whether Joanna Fortune is a menace to all I hold to be correct or is she a mystic to be followed as a latter-day messiah.’
‘Who on earth is Joanna Fortune?’
Who indeed? I chanced to hear Joanna Fortune the other day on the car radio. She was introduced by Newstalk afternoon show host Sean Moncrieff as a parenting expert and child psychologist, answering parent’s queries on the parenting slot.
You know the sort of thing: Our baby sings note perfect operatic arias – should we put his name down for La Scala now or wait until his third birthday? Our teenager will not let us into her room – should we ignore this or send for Rentokil and the bomb squad?
Joanna reviews all issues with commendable lack of drama. Your son is not the first toddler who wants to assassinate his grandmother with a hatchet. Don’t be flustered by the notion that your daughter in fifth class wants to go on a date with a 44 year old man she encountered on the internet. And then she comes up with practical solutions likely to be of genuine assistance.
It is not her advice, however, which has me frowning but the language in which she couches her replies. Joanna Fortune communicates in a way which takes English into a new and slightly scary dimension. Let us overlook Joanna’s tendency to use words such as ‘relatable’, ‘individuate’, ‘estrangement’, ‘normalise’, ‘internalising’, ‘incongruent’ and ‘self-regulate’ or ‘co-regulate’ which out of other mouths might come across as showing off. She passes them off as a sane part of normal conversation.
Concentrate instead on the phrase making. I nearly crashed The Jalopy, totally distracted, when Joanna came out with the expression: ‘Sensory-wise it’s an over-stimulating experience.’ She was referring to a trip to a swimming pool. In the interest of safety, I changed down a gear and plodded along through the countryside translating this Fortune-speak into common lingo: ‘Teenagers are digital natives’ - teens use smart phones, a lot; ‘Language acquisition’- babies starting to talk;
‘Acting out behaviourally’- toddlers stomping and screaming; ‘Social engagement’ - visiting someone else’s home.
The Fortune definition of religious faith may not go down too well with professional theologians – ‘magical omnipotent thinking’. And it goes on. There are podcasts full of Fortune-speak for those who care to listen back to past episodes of the parenting slot: ‘Touch to learn processing’ - patting a puppy; ‘Rudeness and meanness is something we really want to empower our kids to address and solution focus approach themselves’ – and so say all of us;
‘See if you can arrange a play activity situation’ - invite a few of his pals around for football in the garden.
I need help to understand what Joanna Fortune means when she talks about ‘a psychological process of mentalisation that’s really important’. Likewise, I am left floundering when she raises the ‘neuro-anatomic component’. The wonder is that Joanna sounds perfectly reasonable even when at her most obscure. And occasionally a ray of poetic insight breaks through the psycho-babble, as when she describes a less than diligent Leaving Cert student: ‘She hasn’t creased the cover of a book.’ Perfect.