When I became a mother, I was initiated into to a whole new vernacular. Words and phrases that I had never heard of, let alone had occasion to say, became common parlance. Prior to the birth of my daughters, for instance, the term “butt paste” would have truly alarmed me.
Today, I could give you a long list of ways in which I find it useful, none of which are even remotely intimidating. One winter, it proved a very effective cure for the chapped skin on my daughter Stella’s face. I rubbed it all over her cheeks, and she was ridiculously sticky, and we both giggled as she hugged me, smearing that shit everywhere. She woke up perfect. Just perfect.
It makes sense that my lexicon expanded as I took on the role of parenting. Before I even put down my first pregnancy test, I was overwhelmed with terminology related to caring for babies. Just as my daughters quickly developed the ability to understand and express thousands of words, so too did my own vocabulary grow apace. It would have been impossible to communicate had we not shared the timely experience of language acquisition.
Of all the words and phrases I’ve learned to decode over the past seven years, the invented language of my daughters has by far been my favorite. They developed unique ways of identifying and labeling the world around them–their words personal, intimate, and exclusive to our relationship. My oldest daughter, Maddy, called stickers “shee-shees” and Band Aids “boo-boo blankets,” and these words have steadfastly remained part of our family lingo in spite of the fact that she outgrew the designations a while back. For the past two years, Stella has referred to breakfast as “bweftixt.” We have done the same. It’s just so special and fun.
Of course, everything changes over time. Everything has to.
Earlier this week, Stella walked out of her room, and asked us what we were having for “breakfast.” She said the word slowly and deliberately: brekkkk-fist. She was so very proud, but I was so very unnerved by the undeniable evidence that she is growing up. Is that selfish? I find myself in a state of near panic when I have one of these sudden moments of revelation that life is passing by without my really recognizing that it is doing so. I look at baby pictures, and I simultaneously experience a sense of nostalgia–yearning, really–and immense relief that it is over. It’s disconcerting. I cried in my husband’s arms not too long ago, sad beyond words that I can’t remember the physical sensation of their tiny bodies snuggled into mine, the fuzz on their heads tickling me as they rested quietly on my shoulder.
I’ve long since come to understand that I must recede so they can expand, and I know I can continue to say “bewftixt” until I’m good and ready not to. These days, Stella is a charming conversationalist, and I am really happy that we can sit down and have a good chat. Typically, she tries to manipulate me into submitting to her demands by telling me that I will “fill her bucket.” Already, her invented words are being replaced with invented logic. That’s fun, too.
In the coming years, there will be new language. Knowing Stella as I do, I imagine her signature expressions will be sassy, salty, sophisticated, and sunny. She’ll teach me how to use new words to feign street cred, and I’ll teach her to avoid textese (for goodness sake!) in everyday conversation. She’ll pick up on my reckless profanity, and I’ll admire how she uses her talent for discourse to fully inhabit the world and make it known to me in new ways.
I admit to being impossibly sentimental; I notice too much, I think too much, I feel too much, I love too much. My daughters will have to get used to that. One of these days, I will be an utter embarrassment. For now, however, before we move on from this particular moment, I would like to share some words of my own: enchantment, tenderness, affection, devotion.
Adore. Adore. Adore.
Bweftixt is over, so it would seem, but I’ll see the girls at lunch.