"Mom, turn the music down!" Joey demands as I try to tuck him into bed. He has repeated this request several times every night for the last three, maybe four nights. The problem is, there is no music playing. He hasn't been very interested in his CD player, and the radio in the van is broken. Perhaps he wants me to turn down the music in Andy's room? I can just hear it, if the room is quiet; perhaps Joey is having some sound sensitivities, or problems filtering out sounds, and that faint sound is bothering him?
"Honey, you aren't playing any music," I remind him in my I'm-being-patient voice; the one that would probably infuriate me if I was trying to tell you something and you answered something completely absurd in it.
"Turn the music down, turn the music down!" he repeats, covering his ears as if several bombs were exploding all around the house. Andy's CD has ended. The silence is deafening. There is no music.
"Do you want me to turn the music on?" I ask, trying the same change of tactic I have tried the last three or four nights, trying to coax the words of what he's really asking out of his mouth. I do this because I am insane: trying the same thing over and over, in an attempt to get a different result. For some reason, Joey has taken to saying the opposite of what he means. For example, if something is cold, he complains that it is too hot.
"Turn my music down!" he tries again, just as insane as I am. However, the slight change in the phrase catches my attention: his music, not Andy's music. I go over to the CD player. He bounces and gives me some signals; the kinds of slight changes in his attitude and body language he once used almost exclusively to communicate, and I know so well. I have done the right thing- i have moved over to the CD player. Perhaps he really does want it on; but when I move to press the button, he flinches and covers his ears.
"Turn it down, turn my music down!" he cries out warningly. Connections are made, synapses fire, my brain reads his twitches, his face, the slight turn of a child at once wanting something very badly and yet terrified to get it. I turn the volume way down before pressing play. Sure enough, even with the turning down, it is a touch on the loud side; i quickly turn it down more, so that it is more of a soft-lullaby sort of volume. Waltzing Mathilda wafts gently through the air.
Joey squeals, giggles, claps, bounces. He begins to sing- a little loudly- to the song. He laughs and hugs me, unsolicited.
"Gold star, Mommy! You get a Gold Star!" he laughs, his whole person a beam of sunshine, as I have not seen him in weeks. I leave him dancing and singing in his room. He can do it all night for all I care, as long as that smile stays beaming upon his face.