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I know it's impossible, but I can't help suspecting that some misguided revolutionary has been secretly indoctrinating my child.
Even though the girl is only two years old, she exhibits all the knowledge of a well-trained social protestor. For instance, she's practically perfected the art of the sit down strike. It doesn't matter whether we're two miles from home or two houses, when she's tired of walking, she simply sits down.
No amount of prodding or threatening will move her. She plops down on the sidewalk and patiently waits. She usually pulls this stunt when I am at the greatest disadvantage. I've got a bag of groceries in one hand and I'm pushing a stroller containing her little brother in the other.
I used to think it was cruel when I observed other mothers using the threat of abandonment to bring their kids into line. "Okay," they would say. "Bye, bye. I'm leaving. Don't forget to drop me a line." Then the kid would hasten to follow, with fear in her eyes.
But frankly, I've resorted to this tactic many times. Unfortunately, she's seen right through it. I walk briskly some paces. Then slower. Then stop. But no matter how far I get, when I turn around she's still sitting, unflustered, unworried, unmoved.
While I'm standing there shrieking and shaking my finger, she's sitting like some tiny, inscrutable Buddha, serenely waiting for her mother to reach enlightenment.
Eventually, I'm forced to return to retrieve her. That's when she demonstrates her skill in passive resistance. When I reach down to take her hand, she doesn't hop to her feet. She behaves like a 35-pound pile of overcooked fettucini.
My plan is to lift her to her feet, and then encourage her to use them. But she somehow always avoids placing her feet on the ground. She holds them, hovering, just above the surface or dangles them, limply, like a pair of wet socks.
More than once I've had to drag her lifeless body the last two blocks to home, pushing her brother in the stroller with the other hand and balancing the groceries on my head. I wouldn't mind so much except usually Mrs. Duboce is in her garden. She never fails to cast a look of horror and heartbreak my way.
My daughter is also well-versed in guerilla warfare. When we enter a supermarket, she quickly adopts a policy of strike and disappear. First, she darts to the baked goods, grabs a croissant and runs. By the time I've reached the bakery, she's in the soup, busily dismantling the grocer's artistic display.
Even when she walks beside me politely, looking up at me innocently with a cherubic smile, she's usually managed to sneak some item in the cart. It's always something I can't refuse to purchase, like a half-squashed banana or an open jar of Cheez Whiz.
She's been known to hold hunger strikes and has occasionally taken hostages. It's difficult to deny her demands when she's dangling her little brother off the deck.
And with the onset of language, she's become an expert at making those demands. "Mommy, read a book?" she often asks sweetly. But if I'm foolish enough to refuse, she screams "READ IT!" and shoves a hardback copy of Heidi into my groin.
Still and all, I suppose it's far-fetched to imagine that a former UC Berkeley student is hiding out in our basement, surreptitiously sneaking up each night to coach her in the theory of power to the little people.
After all, what would be his ultimate goals? Unlimited viewing of Mr. Rogers for the masses? Freedom of speech for the inarticulate? The inalienable right to each pudding with every meal and have Grandma represent you in all management disputes?
No, I suppose the whole idea is too fantastic. Far more likely she's the reincarnation of Malcolm X.