Monday, June 25, 2007


You think he learned this in school?

We're driving back from the Carp Farmer's Market, a bag containing fudge and homemade salsa and fresh cukes and tomatoes at my feet. The boys are chattering in the back seat as we meander through the back roads bisecting rolling countryside.

"Mom, I know how to say cow in French," Tristan informs me as we pass a herd of Holsteins noshing in a nearby field.

"Oh yes?" I ask. "How do you say cow in French?"

"Vache!" he announces with authority. I confirm he's right, and tell him that the French word for horse is cheval. The boys continue to discuss French and English for a while, until out of the blue, Simon asks me the French word for penis. I am neither entirely that the version of the term I know colloquially is the appropriate clinical translation nor sure that my 3 and 5 year olds need it in their vocabulary, so I tell him I'm not sure.

"R-3-8-H-M," says Simon. "That spells PENIS!"

I decline to comment. Tristan does not.

"No, no, Simon," Tristan says. "This is how you spell penis." He thinks for a minute. "P-E-N-N-E. That spells penis. Oh wait, there's an S too. Um, P-E-N-N-S. That spells penis. Yep, P-E-N-N-S spells penis."

I shoot a look at Beloved, who is concentrating very hard on the empty road in front of us, the little muscle in his jaw flickering in the effort not to laugh. Personally, I'm conflicted. Spelling words out loud is a new talent of Tristan's. Do I praise his effort? Celebrate the mentorship over his younger brother? Correct his spelling? Feign deafness and ignore the entire exchange?

Some milestones are more ignominious than others. We continue through the pastoral countryside, both boys misspelling penis at the top of their lungs. I can hardly wait for the 10-hour road trip.