On Saturday, The Wife took The Kid into The City out for a good chunk of the day, which enabled me to get an enormous amount of work done on my various quixotic projects. I was very grateful for the chance to write uninterrupted, and I hope I can get these things that I’m working on into people’s hands before long. (/tease)
When they returned in the evening, The Kid wanted to tell me all about her adventures that day. First I was told that she had ridden on “seven boats!” over the course of her afternoon. In truth, it was the ferry to Governor’s Island and back. When it comes to a kid’s eyewitness account of something, you usually have to take whatever they say they saw and divide the stated quantity in half.
Then she told me she a “big parade for a contest!” What kind of contest? “I don’t know, but everybody was yelling and singing and waving signs and puppets!” Oh, that sounds like fun. “They were singing, ‘This is denockasee looks like!'”
I asked her to repeat this last part, and she did, but it was no clearer than the first time. She was repeating what she thought she heard–This is denockasee looks like–even if she didn’t understand it.
And then it hit me: She must have seen one of the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations, since the Governor’s Island ferry terminal isn’t too far from the center of the whole thing. I assume The Wife told her it was a protest, but since she had no idea what a protest is, her brain interpreted the word as contest. And what she heard people “singing” was the old standby chant This is what democracy looks like.
Sometimes I correct The Kid when she mispronounces words because I want her to the right way of doing things, and sometimes I don’t because her misinterpretation is so adorable and she’ll only be this little for so long. This clearly should have been one of the latter instances, and yet I corrected her anyway. That led to her asking me, “What’s democracy?”, a moment that would have been too precious and on the nose for a Family Circus cartoon. All I needed was little squiggles charting her course back from Manhattan with a ghost-grampa watching on.
Democracy, I said, was the kind of government we have, where we elect people to represent us, like senators, or the president.
If this were a TV show or a movie, she would have had some follow-up question that would expose the hypocrisy and helplessness that all of us feel when we resign ourselves to the harsh realities of adult life. Instead, she said, “Oh,” and asked to watch a Harry Potter movie.