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