Over the summer I have been taking both my eldest boys to speech therapy. I was dreading loading all three into a hot, sweaty car on a hot, sweaty day when all of them would probably rather be in bed, comatose with exhaustion from occupying each other for a whole morning. And also when I would probably rather be in bed, comatose with exhaustion from occupying them for a whole morning.
But much of the summer has been halted by rain and the Wednesday afternoon speech therapy has been a welcome diversion from the joy they have trying to kill each other in slow time. Last week however it was sunny and the boys wanted to go to speech therapy as much as I wanted to have them home for the summer ALL OVER AGAIN so I dragged them, flailing like Kate Bush dancing in one of her eighties videos (them not me), into the car and off to the hospital. We had twenty two minutes of moaning and shrieking, alternated like an ambulance two-tone siren for maximum effect, followed by seven minutes (and I was counting by this stage) of refusing to get out of the car, nimbly bypassed by the thought that they might see the slightly unsavoury man that had graced us with his sweaty presence the previous week (they could see he was dirty, but they also mistook his mental illness for drunkeness which would be a fair point except I’m wondering how they actually knew about drunkeness given that nobody in our house drinks at the moment, although god knows I’ve thought about drinking two bottles of red wine straight down without stopping in the hope that I might sleep, or the baby might sleep, or preferably both). So I took another two minutes to explain how some people had a problem in the head and that it made them act funny.
We made it into the waiting room. ‘Where’s the drunk then Mummy?’ Eldest Son asks too loudly. ‘I don’t know and remember, he was a poorly man, please don’t talk like that.’ ‘I’ll wait for the smell to come then I’ll know he’s here,’ he says sniffing the air for confirmation of the man’s absence. The receptionist looks at me with pity. You poor mother with too many children, what were you thinking, have you not encountered birth control? her look says. My look back probably said something like, you’ve NO idea what my day has been like so far, don’t look at me like that or I may be forced to tell my children, ‘I bet that nice lady would love to tell you all about what happens at a doctor’s office’. Or it would have if I’d had the courage to look her way.
Sam our speech therapist, a lovely, young and very patient woman came to get us. The boys adore Sam, she smiles indulgently at their silly behaviour but I feel like saying, you’ve no idea what my day has been like so far, don’t smile at them because it makes them worse, but it’s to no avail because now they’re hyped up like dogs locked the wrong side of a door from a bitch on heat and not only that, but now they have An Audience. The session starts well but soon deteriorates as the heat rises and their attention spans drop. Soon, everything she asks them to do is greeted with a silly comment or action. I take them aside repeatedly and tell them to behave. Eventually I threaten them with the Big Guns: behave or Lightning McQueen gets it. I’m reduced to using a Disney Character to discipline my children. I feel like weeping. Or drinking those two bottles of wine.
‘But we just being silly Mummy.’ No kidding.
After ten minutes even Sam realises today is a lost cause and begins to wind things up. She tells me what we need to work on before next week. We are, jointly, teaching the children to lisp in order to get rid of their speech impediment. How’s that for a solution! I don’t have a lot of faith in this but she’s the expert and without it, the way things are going, they’re going to grow up to sound like Sean Connery: ‘More ishe for my ballsh, Missh Moneypenny.‘ So I listen with one eye and watch the children with the other because with the din they are making my ears are rendered useless. The baby decides he has had enough milk and lets me know by biting me in an attempt to tear the nipple off my boob so he can consume it whole and in the process burps long and loudly enough for us all to hear. I look down and see rivulets of posset dripping down my stomach.
For a moment I sit there with my head bowed. I wonder whether I can tie all three up, bundle them like firewood, put them under my arm and get out without having to look Sam in the eye. When I look up, Second Son William is starting to pull his trousers down. ‘William, wait,’ I implore. ‘Do you need to go to the loo?’. He is looking at Sam, oblivious to my question. He pulls his underwear down. ‘Stop,’ I’m shouting now, envisaging having to drag him back through reception to the bathroom with his bottom half naked. But no, he stands there, in his full glory, pauses for a moment for effect then with both hands he scratches long and satisfyingly between his legs like a monkey.
I am mortified. I feel weak with parenting-exhaustion. I want to crawl up in a hole and die. So I do what any self-respecting mother would do and I laugh. I laugh uncontrollably. Until tears are running from my eyes and I remember how I should be doing more pelvic floor exercises.
And when I look across at Sam her eyes say it all, ‘If I ever thought about whether or not I might have children you’ve made up my mind for me.’
And just then, I might have wished I was the person I was before I had so many children too. But I was laughing too hard.