It took a while before our doctor could refer us to a paediatrician that would see us. It something we've gotten used to now. Even after all the events on the news, people still think it's some kind of joke. I feel sorry for Jeremy, he is going to have to deal with this kind of prejudice his entire life. It makes me so mad sometimes.
Both Sarah and I were concerned. We'd bought a whole load of books when the baby was on it's way. Various pieces on how to raise a child, what was healthy for them, when we could expect to see various things happen. Of course, we'd given up on some of them, like hearing his first words. Cars don't have voice boxes, though it turned out a radio did just as well. When he was born we didn't need to add any more books, Sarah had them already: The VW Beetle Automotive Repair Manual was our bible. Even after all the denial and accusations, by way of an apology VW had quietly offered us 24 hour support on a private number, which was very nice of them. Every one of our books said that 3 years old was a little old to only just start talking (and the repair manual said the radio should have been working straight away, but I think we could safely ignore that one) so we were a little concerned to say the least. Jeremy was our first child, he was special in so many ways, it would be so unfair if he was also, well, disadvantaged.
We got to the paediatricians office without much trouble and were introduced to Dr. Lacy McKay, a 40-something blonde woman with a kind face. Names were exchanged and hands shaken and once the pleasantries were over we got to business. We all sat in a room furnished with two sofas and numerous children's toys dotted around, Jeremy was put on the carpet and Sarah and I sat on a sofa opposite the doctor.
"Hello Jeremy, my name is Doctor McKay." she said, kneeling down towards him.
Jeremy reversed away and hid behind my legs. "Hey there little guy, it's okay. Go on, say hello to the nice lady."
Jeremy didn't seem to be convinced though and stayed firmly behind my feet until I parted them. The doctor waved through the gap and Jeremy hid himself again. Eventually this became a game of peekaboo between my legs which lasted for about five minutes before the doctor sat up and addressed us.
"So Harold, Sarah, why do you think you're here?"
"Well, we wanted to know if something was, umm, wrong with Jeremy. Isn't three a little old to have only started talking? It's just, I've never done this before. I just want to know that we're doing it right."
The doctor smiled. "Okay. Why don't you tell me a little about Jeremy. What has it been like since he was born? What have you done?"
"To be honest it's been stressful and wonderful and crazy. I don't know. All the craziness with the media, the doctors, just getting to see you. Everything is so hard. But it's been wonderful too. I wouldn't give up Jeremy for anything."
"And what have you been doing since he was born. Both of you."
"We've been at home, taking care of him." Sarah answered. "Both us spend as much time with him as we can, making sure he's okay, playing with him, talking to him."
"Any family outings?"
I saw where this was going. I answered for us. "No, none of us have really left the house much for, well, almost a year and a half. Damn it, you're right. I don't know why we didn't see it before. You must think we're awful..."
I just hung my head in my hands while Sarah draped an arm over my back.
"No, no, it's fine, understandable even. You've been living under certainly what I'd call... unique circumstances. You've had the media to worry about, not to mention Jeremy himself out in the world where he can get hurt, where people might react badly. You're perfectly entitled to be afraid and it's not uncommon for new parents to be a little overprotective, especially when their child is special, as Jeremy clearly is."
Jeremy was next to the doctors ankle, pushing a building block towards her.
"Oh! Is this for me Jeremy?"
"..ya!" burst out a sample from the radio.
"Why thank you Jeremy." The doctor said, bending down and scooping up the block. She placed it besides her and gave us a smile. I had a feeling we were going to like Lacy.
"Your child is fine, you don't have anything to worry about, he's just a late starter, that's all, but he seems to be making progress. I would recommend though that you start leaving the house. Not only are you starving Jeremy of new and interesting things to see and do, but yourselves too. " She leaned over and smiled at Jeremy. "Nobody likes a boring, grumpy mummy and daddy."
"One thing I will warn you on though is this. Jeremy's use of the radio is something to be concerned about. As a parent, there are several things on the radio you might not be happy with him listening to. Now I can't say whether or not Jeremy can hear everything that might be available on his radio or not, we'd have to run through some tests, but remember that is he a car, not only are you teaching him, but it's possible that he's learning things from the entire spectrum of radio broadcasts. You need to make sure that it's you he turns to as his parents and not some voice on the radio. You can do that by making sure that you're the ones to teach him things and take him places. We're all on new ground here, there isn't any precedent for any of this so I can only offer best guesses but my general advice is that you need to start involving Jeremy in the world around a lot more than you have been. For the good of both yourselves and for Jeremy."
Sarah and I sat there for a bit as we absorbed all the doctor had to say. She was right of course.
"So he's definitely okay?"
The doctor picked up another block that Jeremy had deposited at her feet and held it up. "Yes, I think so. If you are interested in running those tests, and I highly recommend you do, then please let me know or if you would like we could schedule in an appointment now."
I looked at Sarah. We were still a bit antsy about submitting Jeremy to 'tests'. Once we did one then what next? We didn't want to end up a few years down the line with Jeremy as a nearly permanent fixture in a lab somewhere., being poked and prodded by men in white coats. We both decided we'd take it one step at a time.
"We'll get back to you about the tests." I stood up and shook the doctors hand. "Thank you so much for seeing us."
"Yes, thank you. It means a lot." Sarah joined in.
I went to pick Jeremy up to head back out to the car park but Sarah stopped me. "Let's let him drive with us, just to the elevator."
We said goodbye again and called Jeremy over and with a beep he scooted to the door. As we all got in the elevator and the doors closed I picked Jeremy up.
"Well now, we're going to have lots of adventures together now aren't we? No more tearing up the house for you."
Jeremy revved in approval and as I carried him to the car, I swore he felt heavier.