A Parent’s Acceptance

I love him for who is and who he is becoming every day. I love him despite the fact that he is showing early signs of Republicanism.

I had my first suspicions about my son when he was around three years old, which is consistent developmentally with what I’ve read about it. Although he was raised on a steady diet of folk tunes a la Bob Dylan and Peter, Paul, and Mary, he started showing signs early on. I remember tantrums that lasted for hours when he wouldn’t get his way, full on displays of anger and frustration. And though I’d try to meet him halfway, like saying, “The red sippy cup is in the dishwasher, here’s a blue one,” he’d be  unresponsive and uncooperative.

Later, after his sister was born, I noticed some more troubling tendencies. If I asked him to share, he sometimes flat-out refused. When pressed, he might comply, but he’d divide his spoils in unequal proportion. He seemed to want all the goods for himself: toys, sweets, attention. Now, don’t misunderstand, he loves his sister. He believes that she deserves love, affection, and even protection, but he just thinks that these should be gotten of her own volition. That he is bigger and has easier access to the toys on higher shelves or a brownie on a counter where she can’t reach isn’t an unfair advantage to his point of view. He even once said that if God wanted her to have these things, he would have made her the older, taller, stronger one.  He thinks his birth order is the natural order of things.

He loves toy soldiers. He sets them up on the landscape of my dining room table, complete with all terrain vehicles, tanks, and jeeps. He’s accumulated hundreds of these plastic guys that hurt bare feet just as much as a legos when you step on them. But it’s not enough. It’s never enough. Every Toys R Us gift card results in more military accoutrements. And no matter the state of our budget, he refuses to curb military spending.

I have one firm rule in my house. No guns. I hate them. Hate. Them. When he was born, that rule carried over to toys, but like most children, he found a way to make them out of sticks in the yard, legos, his fingers. And after he received his first Nerf Strike Blast Rifle purchased by a well intentioned friend on his fourth birthday, he’s been stocking up his arsenal at a steady pace. The fact that my husband loves the Styrofoam darts as much as he does doesn’t help my cause. Once, when I’d had enough, I attempted to confiscate his weapons, but he threw such a fit, saying that it was his right to own them. He thinks that right extends to even the NERF® N-Strike Elite Rapidstrike CS-18 Blaster, which has a clip that holds 18 Elite Darts. With a range of up to 75 feet, it’s got long-range striking power and a lightning rate of fire.

My firm rule has met nothing but obstruction.

His father works in the mortgage industry, so it’s understandable that he would show an interest in finance. Yet, in a manner reminiscent of Alex P. Keaton, he seems to favor the big banks. “Bank of America looks good, right Dad?” he has been known to say. “How about Chase?”  He is not put off by the slicked back hair and unnatural coloring of Angelo Mozilo or the posturing of Jamie Dimon.

I love this kid. I love him with a love that encompasses the entirety of my heart, that knows no boundaries. I love him for who is and who he is becoming every day. I love him despite the fact that he is showing early signs of Republicanism. (We don’t talk about it much in my family, but his maternal grandfather was a Republican. It’s one of those things that skips generations.)

He doesn’t realize it. In fact, he attempts to mask it by telling us what we want to hear, by voting for Obama in his school election last year, and in his homework.
Nothing but a cover-up

But I know it. I knew for sure last night when we went shopping for Halloween costumes. Among the zombies and witches, the make-up kits that let you recreate blood and gore, there sat the masks. Clown masks, skeleton masks, that one from the movie Scream. And Obama. He picked that one up right away, then set it back down, looking under and beside it.

“What’s the matter, son?” I inquired after him, thinking something was wrong.

There was.

“Where’s the Mitt Romney mask?” he asked, not-so-innocently.

Romney.

I wanted to tell him the truth. That the world is pretending Mitt Romney doesn’t exist anymore. That we want to pretend he never happened. And that the politicians rising in his wake are even more extreme, more outrageous, more zealous than he was. And that Paul Ryan is even still employed by the US government.

But that was a horror story too scary for even those surroundings.

Instead I took a long look at my son. And with a deep breath, I readied myself for all that is to come: his own self-realization when he figures out what this is inside of him, the bravery that it will take to come to us with this truth, the truth that he was born this way. I tried to imagine and accept the day when he says that he wants to marry a Republican.

But I’m not ready for that.

Let’s just say I’m evolving.

Author: Jaime Franchi

Jaime Franchi is a freelance writer living on Long Island. Her work can be found on Salon.com, Milieu Magazine, Punchnel's and the New York Times. www.JaimeFranchi.com

8 thoughts on “A Parent’s Acceptance”

  1. Having raised two sons and a daughter, I can say with gusto, they go through stages and identities as their critical thinking skills evolve and their basic personality tends to get enhanced by experience. Making sure they are exposed to knowledge, facts, the news, volunteerism, in our case, a higher being, discussion, and negotiation,can make them into adults that you want to be around and proud of. I know that it is trying but, I did play with GI joes and tanks with them, I did play barbies, I did not flinch when they asked about abortion and I did not try to shut them up and down. I let them have their say and if I thought it needed more thought, I shared that. I was giving them the benefit of my education and experience at every turn. They didn’t like my singing and told me so, they didn’t like some of the sunday school bs, they liked to play together and also alone. We had reading competitions to earn by page number if we could meet our quota for vacation that year…it was unique. We always took them interesting places, we stayed at a gay bed and breakfast because they would take our dog we traveled with. We did all sorts of things that some parents would probably never think of. We did it as a team. We have team players now, innovative thinkers and trail blazers. We gave them what we could and it was easy because they were most important to us. The time and attention work. They are forming, like clay in your hand.

  2. Thanks Sheila – This was meant tongue in cheek, of course. The tantrums he has outgrown – unfortunately Congress has not. We talk here about important things and unimportant things. I’m outspoken and often have great conversations with my husband that my kids absorb and interject as they see fit. I love watching them develop. And I learn from them every day.

  3. My longest, best friend (we’re pushing 60, now) is the middle kid of three boys. His mother has referred to the youngest as her Republican son, with a shiver, for as long as I can remember, which doesn’t go all the way back to single digits, but very close. All three boy are high achievers. All are physicians. The youngest is a prick. We love him. We just see him for who he is. It’s great that you, like my friend’s Mom, recognize that it will happen or not regardless of the environment you provide. I know this all sound kinda negative. I don’t mean it to. He’s very happy. So are his kids. He’s successful. I’m just glad my sister didn’t fall for him.

  4. This is brilliant, Jaime. It definitely went in a different direction than the FB teaser indicated, and when I realized what you were doing, I felt the corners of my mouth curling up into a smile. Of course, your son will soon be much more mature and empathetic, but for now you should start calling him “Ted.”

  5. Loved this. Loved, loved, LOVED THIS. Especially since I’m the kid whose political views fall far left than those of her parents. Brava! Oh, and, you have my sympathies… 😉

  6. “I remember tantrums that lasted for hours when he wouldn’t get his way, full on displays of anger and frustration. And though I’d try to meet him halfway, like saying, “The red sippy cup is in the dishwasher, here’s a blue one,” he’d be unresponsive and uncooperative.”

    hehehehehehehehe fan-tastic!

  7. If, at some point, you need hedge his bets, Jaime, we can find him place in the Mittness Protection Program, and he’ll live wealthily ever after.

  8. Wonderful read.
    As my dear friend Dorian can attest; see as a parent does, do as a parent does, do not necessarily actually apply to us nor our children.
    Undoubtedly, children are influenced by their genetics, their provided environments and of course their observations.
    My best hope is that our immutable love for our children sets a foundation fertile enough to root such influence as a seed that grows within, so they become thinking, feeling and caring individuals as well as unique.

    FEC

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