My family’s kajillionth listen of Idina Menzel’s “Let It Go” was suddenly interrupted by the ringing of my cell phone on the car’s Bluetooth. This did not faze the Twins, who just kept on singing, reminding their audience that the cold never bothered them anyway. My wife and I had just picked them up from school, and like most school days, they’d gotten a fresh jolt of energy during the drive home, proceeding to uncontrollably kick the front seats and belt out lyrics with absolutely no regard for the melody or their mother’s migraine.
Without even looking at the caller ID, I answered. Typically my mother calls us on our drive home to see how the Twins’ day at school was. They’ve been attending semi-sporadically since the summer of last year, but as my PhD work has gotten increasingly demanding with each passing semester, we’ve slowly been increasing their weekly amount of school days. (And yes, I’m calling it “school” for a reason. This place has a big-kid curriculum, individualized learning goals for each kid, and even parent-teacher conferences. It is decidedly not a “daycare.”)
As you may remember, for most of the time I’ve spent on campus to do my doctoral work, my mother has very graciously taken care of the Dynamic Duo. However, due to some other important family commitments (which are beyond the scope of this Twincident), she’s been in and out of town, prompting us to seek other (tragically not-for-free) care options for the kids. The transition hasn’t always been easy, with several month-long plagues of sickness throwing off any weekly routine we hoped to establish, sometimes resulting in tearful toddlers at the morning drop-off, but lately, we’ve finally, finally, FINALLY found a groove.
And so whether she’s here in town, hunting Chupacabras in the Mexican wilderness, or scaling Mt. Everest to destroy the Eighth Horcrux, my mom calls us nearly every school day on our way home to see how the Twins’ day was, partly because she really and truly wants them to do well and partly (I’m guessing) because she misses them and wishes she could see them more often.
But when I answered the phone, I found that it wasn’t my mom after all.
“Hello?” I barked casually.
“Hi, I’m looking for John?” said an unfamiliar female voice, cranked to 11 on the car stereo while the kids were still screaming Frozen lyrics.
“Yes,” I called, clawing for my phone in my pocket to turn off the Bluetooth. “This is John.”
“Hi John, I’m calling about the position you interviewed for yesterday.” She hesitated for a moment, assumedly due to the stereophonic pixie voices booming, “I don’t caaaaare what they’re goooing to saaaaay!” Then, she continued. “Is this a good time to talk?”
1. Get into a fistfight over a Lego
2. Get into a fistfight over a sticker
3. Get into a fistfight over a toy we’ve bought two of so they won’t fistfight over it
4. Steal Daddy’s phone
5. Get into a fistfight over Daddy’s phone
6. Reply to emails from Daddy’s dissertation chair with gibberish
7. Break something, causing a fistfight
8. Break something, during a fistfight
9. Climb onto the kitchen table
10. Go streaking
11. Dump out the dog’s water dish and claim to be ice-skating
12. Empty the toybox I just spent a half hour filling while they sat on their asses singing “Clean up, clean up, everybody everywhere” and contributed a single toy between the two of them
Looking up suddenly from her macaroni and cheese, my daughter boomed, “Merry Christmas!”
Across the table, in his own high chair, my son shook his head, grimacing. “No, Sister. It’s not Christmas yet.”
However, my daughter’s holiday spirit would not be shaken. “Merry Christmas, Daddy! Merry Christmas, Brother! Merry Christmas, macaroni and cheese!”
This time he screamed. “NOOO! No, Sister! It’s not Christmas yet! You stop saying dat!”
Having heard this same interchange about five times throughout the course of the day, I decided it was time to moderate—if, for nothing else, my own sanity.
“Okay, kids. Listen,” I began. “It’s not Christmas Day yet, so Buddy, you’re right. It’s not Christmas Day. But right now, it is Christmas Time, because Christmas is coming. So because it’s Christmas Time, we can say ‘Merry Christmas.’ So Sister is right, too.”
My explanation was greeted with dead silence. I could tell two little sets of wheels were turning. The dog, who was waiting for dropped food under the table, began to hum the Jeopardy Theme.
Then, my son stood up in his high chair, raised his arms (a spoonful of mac and cheese in hand), and shouted, “Merry Christmas, everyone!”
Yes! I’d done it. I’d finally negotiated the end of the Battle of Merry Christmas, and no longer would I have to listen to this constant…
Potty training is in full force at Fort Pseudonymous, opening up the entire dwelling to excretory crossfire. We’ve had good days and we’ve had bad days, but the bad days are way more eventful, and thus way more entertaining. Accordingly, I’ve curated the following very special moments from our experiences with The Great Transition, so that you may laugh at our expense. (Fair warning: This is called “House Potty” for a reason.)
. . .
The Organ Trail
“Hey baby, do you have to go potty?”
“No,” my daughter giggled as she sprinted laps around the house with her brother in crime.
I’d asked her at least three times in the past five minutes because she’d just downed an entire cup of water, and I knew it was coming.
I returned my attention to the mound of dishes in the sink, and after rinsing a few more glasses, looked up again to see her standing in the middle of the living room with a look of distress.
“What happened, baby?” I asked, dread welling up inside me. “Did you go pee pee?”
I then noticed the carpeted floor surrounding my daughter, where she had left a liquid trail behind her: first a circle around the perimeter of the room, then looping around the ottoman, a few sharp turns, and finally a puddle at her feet.
She had essentially created a real-life version of the Family Circus comics depicting Billy’s wayward path through various scenes but…well…with urine.
My daughter–who stood there frozen–had still not answered me, so I asked again. “Baby, did you go pee pee?”
I used to laugh at my mother.
It would begin with her getting on the phone with a customer service representative. (Keep in mind that this was back in Ye Good Olde Days before Al Gore singlehandedly invented the Internet, when instead of yelling at ambiguous, unhelpful websites or cussing at incompetent live-chat reps in all caps, the only game in town was to actually haggle with a real person about bills, warranties, and Hooked on Phonics.)
While my mother attempted to insult the intelligence of whatever dolt she was dealing with on the other line, some semblance of the following events would transpire.
My two younger sisters, who were a year apart and constant playmates, would be “Doing a Story,” their name for playing out an improvisational narrative with a star-studded cast of Barbies, My Little Ponies, and whichever Legos their brother failed to hide well enough. In choosing which playthings each of them would voice, the oldest of the two would always weasel her way into First Draft Pick.
“I’ll be Malibu Botox Barbie.”
“No! You got to be Malibu Botox Barbie last time we Did a Story!”
“But this is the sequel. I have to be Malibu Botox Barbie again or else we’ll tank at the box office. The fan base expects me, not some young, up-and-coming no-name. Here, you can be Especially Flamboyant Ken.”
“Girls!” my Mom would hiss. “I’m on the phone!”
Fully engrossed in their heated casting session, their battle would rage on without even acknowledging my mother.
“Then be Less-Exciting Sister With the Arm Missing Stacie!”
“Why can’t I be one of those 20 other Barbies?”
“Because I’m Barbie.”