My five year-old twins learned a new word from a friend. Puh-china. They had many thoughts on this word: what it is, where it is and also, that one time? When they fell? On their bike? They hurt-ed their puh-china. They were deeply amused when I offered the proper pronunciation.
“Vuh? Like van?” they crowed, cracking up in hysterics. “Nooooo, Mommmy! LIKE YOU EVEN KNOW!”
“I didn’t learn that word until 4th grade,” my 8th grader drolly remarked.
My how times have changed. Oh, for the days of yore when the most scandalous word my little kids said was the “s” word; you know, stupid. It’s funny with a big family because younger siblings seem to grow up so much faster than the older ones. I don’t know what it is, exactly, but when the twins busted onto the scene they stole the show. And our dignity.
Time was, we sent out annual Christmas cards and enrolled our kids in All The Proper Activities. We did Mommy n’ Me and weekly library trips and flirted dangerously with that thing called cotillion—which, I later realized was just a fancy way of saying “table manners.”
But the twins’ arrival in our lives heralded a new season. Or, rather, became a harbinger of doom for our highly Orange-County-ified parenting egos. It was a necessary death, I can see that now.
Still, it was a slow, death-by-a-million-little-embarrassing moments—like when your twins start shouting PUH-CHINA! in Trader Joe’s at four-fifteen in the afternoon while all the Responsible Parents are picking up their gluten-free kale and raw quinoa for a properly whole-paycheck dinner, followed by a side of cotillion no doubt.
NOT THAT I’M COMPARING MYSELF.
Actually, comparison was the first thing to die. Mainly, out of sheer exhaustion. Something had to give and, frankly, I just couldn’t worry about what other parents thought of me anymore. Not even when I got passive-aggressive mass emails from Room Parents wanting to know if Those Parents Who Haven’t Volunteered Yet could be troubled to bring in a container of disinfectant wipes and, p.s. teacher’s gift money is past due! #SaveOurSchools #ForOurKidsSake
When I was feeling particularly undignified, I bolstered myself with poetry, particularly the words of Elizabeth Bishop whose poem, One Art, is about love lost but never mind that. I appropriated it to my own means: dignity lost. Because “the art of losing isn’t hard to master;/ so many things seem filled with the intent/ to be lost that their loss is no disaster.”
It’s no disaster I began repeating to myself in grocery aisles, in church pews, in the company of parents with 2.5 children.
And you know what? It’s really not. It’s really not a disaster when one of your twins—the melodramatic one—throws herself upon the floor of Peet’s Coffee and wails about wanting a MABLE-NUT-CONE!
Because she’s absolutely right: maple-nut scones are delicious and as you scoop her up and waltz out of the coffee shop you can whisper in her ear that yes, life is terribly unfair but it’s also bursting full of wonderful things like free sunshine, raindrops on roses. And whiskers on kittens! BRIGHT COPPER KETTLES AND WARM WOOLEN MITTENS!
This is the second lesson in mastering disaster: you really must break into song because children are easily distracted by the sound of music. Indeed, the way I see it, the butcher’s case at Albertsons is aliiiiiiive with the sound of doe a deer, a female deer.
Granted, your middle-schoolers might skedaddle to the produce section while you yodel through the meat department but your little ones will gape at you with shining eyes. Your heart will suddenly explode with the unabashed epiphany that nobody—not nobody, Mama!—can be The Best Parent to your child except you.
Yes, you with all your quirky, undiginified ways because in the end, all they really want is you and I’m not sure why it took me five children to figure this out but the Universe works in mysterious ways, so they tell me. And yes, sweetheart, doe-a-dear, a female deer has a puh-china. I think. I don’t know if that’s the official name, use my iPhone to look it up on Wikipedia.
Oh, that’s another dignity loss/disaster. Screen time. When my Big Kids were little, I was all about the limited screen time. The restrictions. The rules. The reading of books before the watching of PBS and educational movies, so help me Rhonda. I was so progressive back then, dammit.
I miss my old, progressive self like I miss my size zero jeans. Which is to say, not at all.
[SIDEBAR: Because what IS a size zero, exactly? Is that like Coke Zero for denim—all pretending to be Diet Coke but with sucky taste and 1,000 calories of self-importance? Last time I checked, being zero wasn’t all that great. Being zero meant being nothing and I’m not nothing, I’m something. In fact, I’m the most important something to my kids, stretchy yoga pants and all. But I digress.]
What I really want you to know is that I had a long, responsible discussion with my twins about puh-chinas. We discussed all the necessary things and I made gallant promises to re-up my classroom volunteerism, master the art of losing my dignity and also, introduce them to quinoa. Who knows? I may even enroll them in cotillion--because CLEARLY we needs some manners up in here.
But when the twins asked me why boys have “lines” coming out of their bodies, I said we can wait until they’re in 4th grade to discuss that. After all, there’s only so much disaster I can master.