“So, what do you want for dinner?”
“Well, there’s chicken or – “
“Scuse me! Whatchu talking ’bout?”
“Um, we’re talking about what we should have for dinner. So, there’s chicken or –”
“Scuse me! I want noodles.”
(Elle has discovered the power of politeness: If she yells “Excuse me” at any given time, her parents are all but required to stop what they’re doing and pay attention to her.)
“I guess there’s that leftover pasta. Did you make it to the store to buy milk? Because we could make –”
“Scuse me! Whatchu talking ’bout?”
And so it goes. I’m pretty sure my husband and I haven’t spoken to each other in unbroken adult language in a few months. When we do get a quick respite from the constant verbal onslaught of our 2-½-year-old or the fussing of our 3-month-old, our topic of discussion is far from profound.
“Did Elle have any accidents today?”
“No accidents, but she didn’t have a very long nap. Emme slept well, but she didn’t eat much…”
With the monotony of everydayness seeming to suck the life out of everything Craig and I have found to talk about lately, I was looking forward to last weekend’s family getaway. True, it wasn’t to anywhere exotic or adventurous: But even a trip to Tulsa, Oklahoma, for a family wedding would get us out of our routine long enough to give us something “adult” to talk about. At least there would be plenty of aunties and cousins to occupy our children, perhaps giving us a few minutes alone to talk about something other than our children’s sleeping, eating, or pooping patterns. At least I thought it would.
Sure enough, our conversations were different than usual:
“What was that?”
“I don’t know. It looked like an armadillo. But my grandmother said they didn’t have armadillos up here.”
“Yeah, but I think it was an armadillo.”
“Yeah, I think you’re right.”
Since having children, have my husband and I lost our ability to talk about meaningful things to each other? What did we talk about, anyway, before we had kids? Politics? Religion? Philosophy?
Whatever it was we used to talk about has been replaced with discussions about where Elle might have hid her panties and whether Emme will be too hot in a long-sleeved onesie.
Craig and I sat side-by-side at my cousin’s wedding, and for ten rare minutes both of our girls were quiet and preoccupied. Of course, a wedding ceremony is no time to talk; but it did give me a chance to listen.
The officiant read a part of the The Velveteen Rabbit:
“What is REAL?” asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room. “Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?”
“Real isn't how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It's a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”
“Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit.
“Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are Real you don't mind being hurt.”
“Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,” he asked, “or bit by bit?”
“It doesn't happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That's why it doesn't happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and generally very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand.”
The officiant went on to say that marriage is very much like becoming “Real” in the story: That sometimes it hurts, and by the end of it your eyes might drop out and you could get loose in the joints and become generally very shabby.
This, of course, elicited a good chuckle from the crowd – especially those of us married couples, with kids. The ones whose hair was still wet from a shower, and had baby spit-up on our shirts… yeah, the ones who tried unsuccessfully to sneak unnoticed into the wedding we were late for, pushing a stroller and pulling a toddler by the hand.
Later that night, after speeches and dancing and cupcakes, Craig and I sat side-by-side in our rental car – not talking, of course, since our little angels were still both wide awake and cranky.
In an attempt to pacify the two tired and wailing little girls in the backseat, I suggested we sing a song.
“Old MacDonald had a farm…”
We always let Elle pick the animals. Once we’re really into it, after the obligatory cows and ducks and sheep, Elle throws in an elephant.
My husband and I are now making what we believe to be elephant sounds, which is kind of like a high-pitched horse’s “neigh,” but you have to hang one arm out in front of you and wave it up and down like a trunk.
We pull into the parking lot of our hotel, three of us laughing (the baby is still crying, louder now, probably frightened by the elephants.)
We may not share deep adult conversation much anymore, but we share something else that may be deeper than anything either of us could say… or sing, for that matter.
Raising kids may not be glamorous, but it’s damn Real.