I am reassured when I read that “other families” are noisy too. I know that there are lots of quiet families too, but it's the noisy ones that give me peace of mind.
We endure a forty minute journey in the car, ironically, to the Humane Society. My daughter sits calmly in the centre back seat, a brother on each side. It is her misfortune in life to be the central divider. Her arms are folded across her chest as she looks out of the window and comments to me on the various points of interest that she sees. “Look mom, do you see that balloon thing?” she bellows but in a mild tone. She has no option but to yell because the amount of noise emanating from her brothers is strong competition.
“Why do boys like bunnies? Why do boys like bunnies? Why do boys like bunnies?” he chants in his robot voice. As usual, I have no idea where he has found this gem. I keep an eye on the GPS map on the dash board as the woman's voice that provides verbal directions is too quiet to hear. A least I know that my son is coping her voice, even though I still can't identify the source of the new phrase.
“Internet! Internet! Internet!” he blasts before reverting to the original phrase. I need to install an ‘off’ switch in this child. His older brother talks in a Pokemon voice and plays out a Pokemon scene, the same scene, the same discourse, the same exchange for the entire journey. Without his medication he has reverted to monosyllabic and echolalic and ever so happy. I'm not sure which one of us is more delighted, him or me? He is no longer irritated by his little brother's motor mouth. Once again he finds him a source of camaraderie and amusement. Even his distinctive laugh has returned, the one that sounds like the Flamingos in Alice in Wonderland. The Flamingos turned croquet mallets with that infectious giggle. I lack his generous spirit.
“Dogs eat trees, dogs eat glass, dogs eat metal.” He pants afterwards, in dog mode. His brother hoots with laughter and repeats the phrase sotto voce before returning to the Pokemon spiel. “Look Mom, there's a car with a dent in it. Do you think it was in an accident?”
“Could be,” I answer as non specifically as I can muster.
“Dogs eat pens, dogs eat pans, dogs eat poops.” Cackles of laughter reverberate around the car. I wonder how long we will have to endure the dog stage of development?
“Ooo look, there's another one that was in an accident, the side is all bashed in.”
“Dogs eat pebbles, dogs eat rocks, dogs eat boulders.”
“They call that a side swipe I think.”
“Dogs eat mountains, dogs eat twigs, dogs eat sticks, woof, woof, woof.” Every so often, his older brother repeats his little brother's words. Sometimes it's echolalic, sometimes he's just giggly. They enjoy a very exclusive brand of humour.
“What do they call it when the back is all smooshed?”
“Dogs eat grass, dogs eat green, dogs eat fields.” Perhaps I should just install volume control?
“Dogs eat men, dogs eat wimmins, dogs eat…..dogs don't eat kids.”
“What about the front smash?”
“Dogs eat bottles, dogs eat glasses, dogs eat spectacles.”
“Er bonnet bashed?”
“Dogs eat shoes, dogs eat newspapers, dogs eat machines.”
“That must be the English, what's the American?”
“Dogs eat Italians, dogs eat Frenchians, dogs eat Germ mans.”
“Um fender bender or humped hood.”
“Dogs eat cars, dogs eat bicycles, dogs eat rockets, woof, woof, woof.”
“Are you sure, that doesn't sound quite right?”
“Dogs eat galaxies, dogs eat clouds, dogs eat worms.” Nothing sounds quite right at the moment, least of all my own brain.
My eyes flick between the rear view mirror and the GPS screen. I need to concentrate so that I don't miss the exit. I'm not particularly bothered about taking longer to arrive, but I am particularly bothered about spending any additional seconds confined in this moving torture chamber. I long to drive a black taxi cab, the kind from London, where you can pull up a soundproof screen between the driver and the passengers.
I glance back at my daughter. She seems calm. I think she is calm. I decide to check. “Are you alright dear?”
“How do you mean?”
“Well with the noise and all?”
“Oh yeah sure.”
“It doesn't bother you?”
“Er no. Does it bother you?”
“Well,” I veer to the right a little.
“Are you asking my advice?”
“Er yes, I think I must be?” I admit to my 9 year old daughter.
“Well you just need to shut your eyes and blot it all out, think about other things, peaceful things.” She pauses, “I spose that's kinda tricky if yur drivin.” I love how she flips between English and American.
I swing into the car park and the last free spot. I take a deep breath, a full lungful, enough to sustain through the next step of our sequence. My mind races through all the pitfalls that the next hour holds for us. Will we succeed or will we have to beat a hasty retreat? My youngest son bellows, “d'you know dah one fing dat a dog can't eat?”
We all look at him. It appears to be a genuine question and he has everyone's attention. “A dog cannot be eating his own tongue coz den he will not be able to woof.”