Tricks, string and things

One of Zach’s favourite food was string. I tried ripping up celery to make it look like string. But he just ignored it.

When I substituted paper with rice paper, he gave it a go, but quickly returned to the pages of my magazine.

He also loved picking up little bits from the carpet and eating them. So I scattered tiny seeds and nuts all over the floor, almost as if I was feeding the birds.

Again, Zach didn’t fall for my tricks. He knew exactly what he wanted.

“You’re a smart cookie,” I had to concede with a smile.

Extract from Take a Break Winter 2013.

The context is a mum talking about her three-year-old son, who has both autism and pica. Obviously, he’s not “seeing through her tricks”. He almost certainly doesn’t even know she’s trying to trick him. He’s just, y’know, eating string and magazines and bits of stuff off the carpet. He eats what he wants to eat and he’s indifferent to her attempts to change that.

I’ve thought for a long time that there should be a word or a phrase to describe the times when you think someone has seen through your tricks, but in reality they haven’t even noticed your tricks and are ploughing on oblivious.

I suppose it’s an odd form of self-flattery to think that someone has seen through your clever ruse. Attempting a trick and then having that trick unmasked represents a dialogue, however distorted, with the person you’re trying to trick. But if they’ve ignored your attempt completely, it really was for nothing. That’s partly why I found this Take a Break story so sad.

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One Comment on “Tricks, string and things”


  1. […] written about this before: when you think someone has seen through your attempt to deceive and you credit them with insight for ignoring it, but in fact they never even spotted your attempt […]


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