I don’t remember the exact date I turned five for the second time. It was a gradual occurrence. There was no “Happy Birthday to you,” sung the second time around. There were no presents. It just sort of happened. Funny thing is, I’m pretty certain I was already an adult.
Best I can tell is that I turned five some time after my children started obsessing about bodily functions (they are boys, after all) and “bad” words like stupid, butt and stinkyhead. My husband and I would try all the parenting tricks we knew. Our favorite being the tongue spanking – a dash of Tabasco sauce on the tongue when a “bad” word is overused.
By the way, if you are going to administer tongue-spankings, be careful to avoid eateries that set Tabasco on their tables. You may encounter the following: Five says, “Mom and Dad, look! They have tongue spanking on the table. Did you tell them to put tongue spanking on the table? Like in case we were bad or said ‘stupid’?” Before we could answer, the server approached the table and Five launched into a monologue. “Why do you have tongue spanking on the table? Did my parents call you? I really don’t like to have that on the table. I don’t like tongue spanking but sometimes when I say ‘butt’, or ‘stupid’ or ‘stupidbutt,’ or when I say I hate my brother but I do like our baby and my mom and dad, then sometimes I get a tongue spanking.”
The server looked bewildered, as if she had just listened to a foreign language book on tape at high speed.
But I digress, which is okay because I’m five and five-year-olds are all about digressing. But let me give you an idea of a day in the life of a five year old second-timer.
My son, Five, is being mean to his brothers while they are eating lunch. I am tired of hearing him talk in a nasty tone, so I say, “Okay everyone be mean to Five so he sees how it feels.” Uh, yes, that did come out of my mouth. (Don’t worry, we plan on saving just as much for therapy costs as we do for college.) Then Five says, “Mom, can I have more juice?”
“No!” I answer firmly.
“Why not?” he asks.
“Because you’re not being nice, so I’m not being nice.” Indeed I have become five, and a shameful five at that.
At night, I am tucking Five into bed. He asks me if I think it’s disgusting to burp because “daddy burps but my teacher says it’s disgusting. So which is it? Disgusting or not?”
“Well, it’s certainly not polite,” I answer in an adult manner. “Most people don’t enjoy hearing another person burp aloud.”
A kiss, a prayer and a tuck, tuck, tuck and I’m a perfectly mature mother. But as I got off the edge of the bed to leave, I felt something rumble and tumble in my tummy and I knew I had to do it. Without warning, I turned toward Five and said in the loudest burp-ese I could muster, “Juuuuust be sure to say excuuuuuuuse me.” I collapsed into fits of laughter on Five’s bed and he burped back in a measly guttural, “Oooookay.”
The next day, I was in the car with Five and his friend, FiveToo. Five and FiveToo are engaging in potty talk. It’s business as usual. They try to shock me with the ‘p’ word. Not pee or even pissy. They say it several times just to make sure I have heard them. Penis.
“I hurt my penis,” says FiveToo.
“My penis itches,” chimes Five.
I find myself amused at their efforts. I tell them that ‘penis’ is not a bad word. It is actually the correct term for your pee-pee. I am a joy kill. No more penis talk the rest of the trip.
They don’t skip a beat. FiveToo says, “Hey, I know a lady named Mrs. Stinky.” Five says, “I know a lady called Mrs. Stinktree.” STINKTREE they exclaim, laughing so hard they wake the baby tucked snuggly in his carseat. I want to say, “That’s preposterous;” but I don’t because I am five and five-year-olds really don’t know that word. I mean, let’s be realistic here. Instead I say, “I really do know a lady named Mrs. Higginbottom!” They laugh. They laugh hard. They laugh long. I feel like the funniest five-year-old ever.
The next time I was in the car with Five and FiveToo, I recalled our last time together. How funny I was with the whole Mrs. Higginbottom thing. This time the boys have wax eyeballs they received from my husband’s office. Don’t ask. FiveToo loves the eyeballs. I tell him to play a trick on his mom and dad. Put the eyeball in your hand, without anyone seeing it, and pretend to sneeze. When you lift your head keep one eye shut and open your hand with the eyeball in it. Tell them you sneezed so hard that you blew your eye right out of your head. I start laughing at the thought of it, and I expect to hear roaring laughter from the backseat. I look in the rearview mirror and see Five and FiveToo smiling. Sort of smiling. Maybe. If I used my imagination they were smiling. After a minute, FiveToo says: “I don’t really get it.” Steeeeerike. My little gag must have been geared more toward a six- or seven-year old instead.
My five-year-oldness is not a constant. Sometimes I am more like an awkward 10-year-old not knowing what to do with my hands. At times I drive like I’m 16 and a half, and sometimes I dress like I’m 21… which is embarrassing when I come to and realize I’ve gone out in public wearing a miniskirt and a shirt that says “Duran Duran” across my chest.
Yet I believe I am made up of all these ages and some of them just surface from time to time, especially when one of my children is that age. Of course I’m not proud of the immaturity to which I stooped with the “be mean to Five” scenario or even recently when I broke a couple rules on my son’s field trip, like an entitled fifth grader who doesn’t think the rules apply to her. But I have relished in my second time around as a five-year old… relished in wax eyeballs, silly words and inhibition at hugging a buddy anytime, anywhere.
So while I am always learning what it means to be a grown up, I feel conflicted that my “fiveness” is fading. Conflicted because I know too much now. I know that the potty talk will subside and Five will be tempted with talk that is far more damaging. I know that while Five struggles to write a word here and there, he will soon write sentences and paragraphs that have the potential to encourage or crush someone as he weaves them together. And I know that soon Five will not be caught dead hugging another boy in public.
My hope is that my children will be able to harness their various ages throughout their lives, without being too Peter Pan-esque, and share their imagination, dreams and sense of adventure with their own children.
Maybe when I’m 80 I can still burp the alphabet to impress my 5-year-old grandchild – unless it’s a girl, in which case I will deny I ever burped a word in my life.