Ed. note: I discovered this unpublished post last night. I wrote it several months ago and never posted it because the tone was a bit too dispirited (as we felt about the back seat happenings at the time ) and I couldn’t  figure out how to lighten it up. I’m happy to say that things, while not perfect, have definitely improved since then.

What happened to car rattling stereos? I remember my high school days where kids would roll up bumping enough bass to literally shake the screws from their car, where the deep rumbles would press ear drums so close to the point of bursting that aural cavities would weep gooey tears. Maybe a whole slew of nearly deaf older siblings successfully counseled their younger counterparts to lay off the bass, but that would require the teenage collective to have gotten more intelligent, and there’s nothing else I’ve seen to suggest that to be the case (prime example of the opposite: YA book Allegiant is a best seller).

More likely it’s that styles change. Music has to change to fit the culture, and we need just a bit less bass to get to match the current dancing trends:


Not that I miss the bass. My own stereo in high school rattled the car, but that’s more a testament to the shoddy stainless steel design of the then upstart Subaru than to the power of The Dogs. The speakers would burst like a lightly touched building in a Michael Bay movie before the volume could cause any real damage. But that’s not what I’m talking about. I mean I have enough going on to rupture my eardrums these days without the help of a decibel defying drumbeat.

Finley has sensory issues. His Occupational Therapist explained it as such: most people, when they’re not getting enough sensory input, shut down, which often leads to sleep. On the flip side, too much sensory input leads to overload and meltdown, typified by the screaming toddler in the middle of Costco on a Saturday afternoon. The sweet spot is right in the middle, where you’re awake, aware, and not wailing like a demonic spirit has possessed your body, crying out for revenge.

What Finley’s sensory issues mean is that without constant input, he’ll drop more quickly than a typical kid into the shut down range. To avoid that, he is constantly seeking sights and sounds to  stay aroused. On the flip side, hearing one too many tweets will catapult him right past that sweet spot into demonic possess territory.

We’ve fought this for years. We started with the general parenting advice of ignoring behaviors you don’t like. This led to us to such failed attempts as sitting outside the car on the middle of a long trip while Finley tried his best to shatter glass with his voice. The behavior didn’t diminish.

I should note here that screams weren’t screams of pain or outrage or joy. They were just screams of “there’s not enough noise. I need noise. I’ll MAKE noise. Now there’s TOO MUCH NOISE so I need more noise to offset the noise!”

Then Kella came along, and it turns out little sisters are slightly worse at ignoring behaviors they don’t like than parents (but only slightly). The sound track to our car drives was screw rattling screams accompanied by gasping wails and tears.

That’s mostly where we are right now. If we can’t find a way to keep Finley entertained for our outings, no matter how short, our backseat changes from a serene sunset over a still bay to the climax of a slasher film, minus the buckets of fake blood (though we did spill a bucket of red paint back there once).

So what’s our solution? We’re still working on it. I’ve calmly talked back, I’ve sung, I’ve screamed, I’ve rolled down the window, I’ve put on noise cancelling headphones (alternatively on Finley, Kella, Amy, and me), I’ve taken a bottle of aspirin and hoped it would still the pounding in my brain, I’ve begged, I’ve prayed, I’ve taken Finley out of the car and walked him home while Amy’s driven.

None of it works. Even now, my left ear still has the faint hint of a buzz from the last time he screamed into it.

The only thing that’s been somewhat effective is handing him the iPad, and, at times, food. And to think I used to criticize parents who’d turn on their build in car television set for a quick jaunt over to the grocery store.

Heaven forbid we’ve forgotten to charge the tablet, because when that happens, we’re again at the end of Friday the 13th, with the volume turned up loud enough to make those 1999 high schoolers jealous.

See, a bit dispirited. Thankfully, the screams are much fewer now. Even, occasionally, without an iPad interceding on our behalf.