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Two hands (extended dance remix)

On the one hand:

"Charlie is creative, inventive, and imaginative and openly shares these gifts with all the people around him.  He is becoming a better communicator in his social interaction with others.  He is able to express how he feels, including articulating when and why he becomes upset.  [...]  He always has a detailed story/experience on hand to share with the rest of the class.  [...]  Charlie is very respectful of his teachers and peers.  Although he can get completely consumed in his strong emotions, Charlie is always willing to talk problems out, working towards a true understanding of the situation and an appropriate and satisfying solution.  [...]  Charlie is a great storyteller and source of information in our community.  His innocent curiosity is refreshing and inspiring and the smiles on the faces of those around him are there to prove it."

— Notes from Charlie's parent/teacher conference, 12/22/08

Even if I read the above through the grimiest, most cynical of lenses — "Charlie never stops talking, but at least he doesn't hit.  Well, hardly ever, anyway" — damn, am I proud of that beautiful, noisy boy.

On the other hand:

T., on the phone: ...So they go around the group, each one describing the most beautiful sound they've ever heard, and all the other pagans are saying things like, "the silvery tinkle of a forest brook..."

Julie: Ha, tinkle.

T.: Shut up.  And "the breeze soughing through the majestic pines..."

Julie: Soooooouuuuuughing!

T.: ...And when it's Alan's turn, he looks around the clump of earnest hippies, all communing with the life force and whatnot, and says, "The sputtering of the coffee maker just as it finishes brewing."

Julie: Hahahahaha.  Hey, I know the worst sound in the world.  Charlie makes this screeching noise, just for the raucous hell of it.  It's like a drill directly into the brain.  No, wait — it's more like a drill through the duodenum and then into the brain.

T.: Oh, that's not the worst sound in the world.

Julie: It totally is, though.

T.: Nope.  I know the worst sound in the world.

Julie: Okay, what?

T.: A little voice saying "Mama" just as you're about to come.

Readers, you be the judge [.wav, 368K]

It was harder than you'd think to get that sound recorded.  After I'd spent weeks trying to get Charlie to stop, all of a sudden there I was asking him to do it, once more, a little louder, right into the mic.  With the natural perversity of youth — or the learned perversity of my offspring, one — he resisted mightily. "Charlie, you know that sound I hate?"  "Yes, and I won't do it annnnymore."  "No, no, I want you to."  "Why do you want me to?"  "Can you just please do it?"  "But why?  You don't like that noise."  "Maybe I've changed my mind."  "I don't think you have.  [Singsong.]  'When Mama and Dad say no, the answer stays no.'"  "Please!  Just one more time!"  "But, Mama, I want you to tell me why!"

Oh...um, no reason [.mp3, 728K].