“Do you want to go to the beach?”
“Do you want to go to the zoo?”
“Do you want to go to the aquarium?”
This is a typical conversation between my daughter and me these days, and it's not just limited to offers of big excursions. It happens when we discuss the possibility of doing anything other than viewing High School Musical 2 for the 943rd time. And as a woman who once practiced kissing techniques using a Shaun Cassidy album cover, I totally get it. Zac Efron is so fine that even a newt could recognize the hypnotizing hum of his sky-blue eyes. And there's always the possibility that he and Vanessa Hudgens will finally get that uninterrupted kiss. A glass tank full of shimmering sardines has nothing on that.
Any opportunity I offer my child—from walking the dog to taking piano lessons to learning about tsunamis through wild bathtub splashing (who wouldn't want to do that?!?)—is met with a definitive oh-hell-to-the-N-O! It's unbearably frustrating to be on the receiving end of such assholery. It's like a never-ending tap dance: See me over here? (Rhythm roll.) I'm trying to entertain you! (Shuffle-ball-step.) Trying to make your life fabulous! (Windmill arms, jazz hands. Big! Smile!)
Response from my child: No.
It makes me want to punch myself in the face while wearing the jagged, over-priced, purple quartz ring I was forced to purchase at Hunt & Gather after it broke when Ruby dropped it on the floor—after already having been reprimanded (twice!) for dropping other breakables on the floor. Mark my words: I'm going to give her that ring on her wedding day.
Worse, though, than the self-face-punching frustration is the gut-punching thought I had in recognizing this pattern of now-predictable negative responses: Is my daughter a Republican?
Oh, how the head spins. I nearly had to lie down after typing that. That my child should grow up to be a Republican is my third worst nightmare. (The second is that she would also be an evangelical golfer, but I'm going to stay positive.)
When I first voiced this concern to my husband, he brushed me off. “Don't ever say that!” he said. That I should accuse our Pride and Joy of such an ugly thing made him angry, which is totally understandable. The possibility makes me angry, too. For six years, we've worked hard to raise a good, solid liberal who can one day hold her own against the 19—or is it 20 now?— children that have been delivered into the world through Michelle Duggar's Slip 'N Slide vagina.
We own a hybrid. We recycle and eat organic. We clean trash off the streets in our neighborhood several times a year and donate to the less fortunate. We practice throwing peace signs at aggressive drivers with ugly bumper stickers. We have naked time. We listen to Michael Franti.
Despite all these efforts, the growing evidence is disturbing.
Our child is selfish. And greedy. And she doesn't like to share. That is, unless we have something she wants, and then, of course, we're expected to share. No discussion, no meeting half way. She balks at reasonable concessions and then goes nuclear, taking what she wants as we're still trying to figure out a compromise. This, because getting what she wants is in her best self-interest and long-term goals, everyone else be damned.
She is—and it pains me to admit it—a hypocrite.
To make matters worse, she comes in a mesmerizing package filled with promise. With giant brown eyes, dimples and a gap-toothed smile, she can wrinkle her forehead and present herself in a seemingly genuine and well-intentioned manner. The kid can placate a gullible crowd with a determined, passionate and convincing argument, even though—upon closer consideration—it lacks rationale and is filled with holes and, yes, sometimes a few fibs. She's so good that we, too, are susceptible to her sideways, circular, grammatically challenged fast-talk. Thanks to a few well-played hugs and kisses, cuddles and compliments (“Mama, your eyes look so pretty today!”), she tends to get most of what she wants, often at our expense.
Horrified by this set of circumstances, Sam and I put Ruby on the couch the other day and forced her to watch Inside Job, followed by Sicko and two episodes of The Rachel Maddow Show. We then offered a comprehensive lecture about the dangers of global warming; the constitutionally protected right of American women to have access to safe abortions; why gay marriage, prostitution and pot should all be legal; and how it's totally normal that a shirtless Zac Efron makes her blush.
After she passed a short quiz and went to bed, we turned to the child-development literature where we learned that Ruby is right on track with respect to age-appropriate behavior. Not only is she behaving exactly as she's supposed to be, but she's also still ripe for the imprinting of our atheistic, heathen-based, live-and-let-live belief system. She is not (thank every pagan God) a Republican. She's just acting like one.
Please send your behavior-modification tips and tap dance videos to email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org.