Have you ever stayed up late at night, lying in bed with a special someone, talking about music and taking turns quietly singing choruses in the dark? And then after a while you fall into a companionable silence, sharing a pillow, thinking your separate thoughts. And you feel so connected and so content in that moment that you whisper, “I love you.” And he responds by shouting, “I YIKE COLDPLAY” in your face.
Our kids are talking so much these days, making us laugh and wounding our egos a little, too. As their language snowballs, it picks up everything in earshot. That, combined with their awful pronunciation, makes for some interesting moments.
A few weeks ago Bran came into the kitchen where I was unloading the dishwasher and yelled “Pussy!”
The insidious word rang out like thunder across the valley, making cattle low and cats flatten their ears.
There are many bad words bandied about in these parts, but that word is not one of them. As I tried to gather my wits, Bran held something up at me. It was a train.
He was showing me Thomas the Tank Engine’s best friend, Percy.
Oops! My bad! Lolz!
These kinds of mix-ups happen all the time here in Twosville. It took a full day of the three of them yelling “fuck” at us before we realized they were asking for a frog and then another couple of days before we realized they were actually asking for a fork.
When they’re not shocking us, they’re delivering an emotional chafing. My first legit group chat happened on the way to daycare last summer and went like this:
Bran (pointing out the window): Car!
Me: That’s right! See, there are blue cars and red cars and white cars and black cars–
Jem: Be quiet, mama.
This was an improvement over previous attempts at conversation in the car, such as:
Me: Old MacDonald had a farm, e-i, e-i-
Small voice from backseat: Mein Kampf.
Our conversations these days fall somewhere in the middle between colors and Hitler. Mostly they revolve around the boys’ favorite superheroes: On-Man (Iron Man and/or Spiderman), Hulk-Mash (Incredible Hulk) and Me-Cop (Captain America).
We talk about their favorite songs—“The Muffets” soundtrack, Adele’s “Heddo” and Queen’s “We Will Wok You.”
We chat about who is sad and who is funny and who is a bad guy and who is a good guy in their favorite movies, which are currently “The Yego Movie,” “Printhess and the Fuck,” “Tangooed” and “Stah Wahs.”
But the most entertaining interactions are the ones that happen between the three of them. This morning I listened to a lively discussion where Bran asked to have Darth Vader for breakfast and Jem posited that Darth Vader would taste yucky while Finn argued that he likely was very yummy.
Darth Vader aside, there’s still not a lot they can agree on. These kids constantly volunteer each other as tribute for stuff they don’t want to do, like clean up or get out of the tub. They fight like the dickens and they rat each other out worse than a bunch of jailhouse snitches. But language hasn’t only brought their competitiveness to the surface; it’s also dredged up some kindness.
I cannot fully express how neat-o and gratifying it is to hear your children comfort each other. Bran, who is our most considerate tyrant, will pat his brother’s back and say “It’s OK, buddy” when something bad happens. Jem, who is our most easily confused tyrant, will say, “Sahwee bubba” through his tears, even if he’s the victim. And Finn, who is our most tyrannical tyrant, can be the sweetest of all three when he wants to be.
The Terrible Two’s get a bad rap, and in our case it’s pretty well earned. We have our asses handed to us every day. But there is plenty of terrific stuff in there that gets glossed over. Once your children start speaking in sentences they become much more knowable. Those inscrutable little people we met in the hospital are becoming more scrutable by the minute. I know that Finn loves music, fuzz and apples. He also needs his alone time and lots of affection. I know that Bran is a helpful little fellow who is obsessed with his blankey and his “bunny” (pacifier) and enjoys Legos and being chased by monsters. I know that although Jem is physically brazen, he can be shy around new people, is picky about what he eats and wears and believes that all things should be thrown. I know these wonderful guys better than ever, now that we’re talking.
And I know that, at the end of the day when I tell them I love them and they start talking about their feelings for Coldplay, they really mean they love me, too.
Because, let’s be real—no one really gives a frog about Coldplay.