Stand Up

Cookie,

When you’re older, you’ll learn that Muslims are people worship God a little bit differently than we Christians do, and because a handful of Muslims did some very bad things, lots of other people want to treat Muslims badly.  In your four year-old mind, you’d call this “bullying.”  Unfortunately, as you get older, you’ll learn about “discrimination,” “bigotry,” “fear-mongering,” and “hysteria.”

This is the sad part of human nature, Cookie.  The human mind wants to draw similarities and see patterns in an incomprehensible world, and  when we’re scared or hurt, we lash out, and those that appear different or strange are easy targets.  In kindergarten and elementary school, it’s the kids with the funny names or the stutter or somehow stand out.  As we get older, Cookie, it’s the people who are disadvantaged or different, who don’t look like us, who don’t believe the same way we do, or who just happens to be the target of some politician trying to gain a few votes at any cost.

Stand up to the bullies, Cookie.  In the words of Martin Niemöller, speak out.

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Edjukashun: We’re Doing It Wrong.

For the last year, Cookie, we sent you to a Saturday morning Chinese language class at an aftercare center near home.  One hour.  Full immersion.  Short.  Easy.

Too easy.

Mommy and I wanted something a little more challenging for you (you wanted something more challenging for you), so we signed you up for a three-hour weekend class in the middle of Chinatown.  Unlike, the local Chinese class at the non-Chinese aftercare center, the Chinese class in the heart of Chinatown is taught in English.  The teacher speaks mostly in English to teach a handful of words to kids who speak English because of the fear that parents might complain that their children won’t understand what the teacher is saying.  Immersion?  HAH.

Yes, Cookie, Mommy and I made a mistake.  Next time, we’ll head back to Chinatown… and sign you up for an ESL class.  At least that class will be taught in Chinese.

That Dreaded Time in Every Father’s Life

Everyone says that daughters are karmic punishment for fathers who had a little fun when they were younger.  Yep.  Underdaddy gave me a challenge to come up with a more creative than a simple gun collection to fend off some punk from my baby, or at least scare the living daylights out of him to put him on his best behavior.  Unlike Underdaddy, we don’t have a yard, so I’m a little more limited in my planning, but Cookie, you should know by now that I love my practical jokes.

It’ll start off with the doorman when the little snot arrives at the front desk.  “You’re not going to see Cookie are you? … You’re loco.  That’s jefe’s little girl.  Don’t you know what happened to the last boy who even texted her?  Yeah, Brian said he broke his leg skiing, but you and I both know better.”  (There’s got to be somebody out of school for a period of time for some reason, we’ll adapt the situation.)  “Look, jefe looks like a normal guy, but they’re the most scary ones.  See that condo for sale?” (There’s always a condo for sale in a high rise.) Here, the doorman draws his finger across this throat. “You’ve got cojones, kid, but don’t mess with him, and just listen to everything he says and do everything he tells you to do, ok?  And you didn’t hear nothing from me.”

Being known as a joker and being close with the front desk staff has its benefits.

By this time the kid has got to have a couple of doubts that I can use as he rides up the elevator.

I’ll greet him at the door, and if you’re anything like your mother, you’ll take a while getting ready, allowing me a little alone time with him.  If you’re not like your mother, your mother will delay you.  She likes jokes too.

We’ll sit in the living room.  There will be a high powered rifle on the table, disassembled (I’m going to get licensed and start that gun collection sometime, but I hope I can procrastinate for many years, right, Cookie?)  We’ll have a normal conversation while I’m cleaning and inspecting the gun.  I’ll ask about the restaurant that he’s planned to take you to, tell him you hate it (your palate is probably the stuff of legend amongst your friends at this point), and offer him a restaurant of my choice (“this place is her favorite”).  I’ll even call and make reservations (reservations already will have been made).  We’ll continue our normal conversation where I grill him about his background (“no criminal background?  Good, good.  Are you sure the police don’t have your prints?”), his intentions, and his future, but I’ll occasionally pepper those questions with other ones about things like muzzle velocity, accuracy, and “how much do you think 10 crates of these things (pointing at the gun) are worth?”  When you’re almost done, I’ll pull him closer.  “I need a favor.  Do you speak Russian?  No, no matter.  At the restaurant, in the back booth, there’s a Russian and his bodyguard.”  I’ll hold up a photo of a friend.  “After the waitress clears your appetizers, go back there, slowly, with your hands out of your pockets, and tell him that the rugs have arrived.  Got it?  The rugs have arrived.  And don’t tell Cookie about this; she doesn’t know what I do.”

To help convince him that I’m not joking, at the restaurant (one of our usual places), one of the waitresses will spill water on you (just a little) when she fills your glass for the first time.  She’ll apologize profusely, begging you not to tell me and begging that she meant no disrespect.  (Being known as a joker and being close with the restaurant staff at our usual places has its benefits.)  Your confusion at her behavior, your assurance that nothing is out of the ordinary, and your familiarity with the wait staff will only help sell the story.  Even if you ask her if this is one of my jokes, the waitress will only respond with more fear (she’s gunning for Broadway anyway).  If you press, she’ll only loudly whisper to the boy, “Don’t listen to Cookie.  She doesn’t know!  Oh, I’ve said too much,” at which point she will disappear to be replaced, eventually, by another of the wait staff after the others inform you that she’s abruptly left for the night.

At the right time (thanks, wait staff), I’ll text the boy, “Is it done?”  It may jar him a little that he never gave me his number (I got it from you, Cookie).

When he walks back to the booth, two or three of my friends will be sitting there.  One will be a cop or someone with a concealed carry permit.  They’re there to keep an eye on you two (I’m buying them dinner), but the kid will only see older adults with holsters under their jackets.  He will hear a bad accent asking his business, after which he will be handed a post-it note with a large number written on it.  If you happen to recognize the friends, so much the better.  Anything you say about them will only sell the story further.

If he doesn’t approach the booth, my friends will approach him, berate him for being cowardly and disrespectful, before tossing the post-it note at him (“for when the rugs arrive”), tasting his food, and leaving (to watch you guys at a discreet distance).

When you return home, I’ll meet you two at the door and let you inside first.  “How much did they offer?  Not bad kid, you did good.  Remember, you’re an accomplice and just as guilty now, and You.  Saw.  Nothing.”  I’ll pat him on the cheek and bid him good night.

If he’s still around for a second date, I’ll invite him to join us on a family trip to [insert semi-dangerous former Soviet republic that happens to then be in the news here] as a second task.  If he’s still around after that, we may just actually take the trip, and imagine the fun I can have with him while there.

Just think:  If he buys the story, he’ll be extra well behaved around you.  If he doesn’t buy the story, then he knows you got a crazy dad with a rifle.  Either way, I can’t lose.

Yes, Cookie, this will be your dating life before college.