You can only imagine, then, how stoked -- yes, stoked -- she is now that she is a more sentient, interactive 4-year-old. It's "On Morning Joe..." this and "Politico reported..." that. She channel surfs between MSNBC and CNN during rest time, and darn if I can't get her to bed after Chris Matthews plays his latest game of Hardball.
Her enthusiasm is rubbing off on her brother. He will now only stick objects in his mouth if they are red, white, or blue. Children are just such sponges, aren't they?
My husband and I decided to take the bull by the horns. Drawing on past success, we figured the best way to teach them the ins-and-outs of our political parties' nominating conventions was to bring the lesson close to home. It worked so well when we taught them about paying taxes by making them line up all their favorite things and then giving us half of them so that we could use them for unidentifiable purposes.
For this civics lesson, we told them that our family made up the Diaz Nutso Convention, or DNC. We explained that we would be gathering to elect Papi as father of our family. With this as our foundation, we then followed the 10 steps I have set forth below. I urge you to try this with your family. Also, be sure to pin the 10 steps to your "1,001 Ways to Raise Ill-Informed Children" Board on Pinterest. I mean, pay it forward, right?
- Pick a host location. Obviously this needs to be done with careful planning and an advance team with a mind for details and a stomach for fast food restaurants. The host location should scream of armpits. As in, the armpit of X state or the armpit of Y region. Because you want your host location to be the exact opposite of the stratospheric ideology you will spend your convention blowing out of your mouth. You want a host location that is seedy, run-down, and bordering on the brink of catastrophe (political, economic, social, and/or meteorological). That helps to put your high-minded, gloating arrogance about the divine mission of your convention in starker relief. If it's helpful, I am proud to share that our DNC took place at Funtown, Splashtown, USA (just past the baker's dozen car dealerships in lovely Saco, Maine).
- Fundraise. This is where you hammer home to your kids that politics is all about making it rain. Rain money, that is. Because who cares what your message is or what your plans are if you can't shout them from atop a bank-busting checking account? It is very important to bring your children into the effort to collect money from extended family members, unsuspecting friends, and people who are fast and loose with their PayPal account. Inspire people to donate by preaching to them that your family will be a model in frugality, budget monitoring, and belt-tightening. Then spend more than 5 months' mortgage payments on helium balloons. Follow that up by drafting a speech about eliminating wasteful spending. Teach your children the phrases "selective consciousness" and "total lack of self-awareness."
- Prepare your platform. This part's fun. Identify the most harebrained aspects of your family life, and decide to champion those. The more extreme the position, the better. Say that these ideals will be what defines your family, but then work very hard to make sure that no one outside of your family ever hears what they are. Ever. Because they should be that embarrassing. Again, to help you here, one of our major platforms was a nod to our 11-month-old. We agreed that all of us - adults, preschoolers, everyone - would wear diapers. All day, every day. No matter that 3/4 of us were potty-trained. If there was any way to get buy-in to our family from the baby of the family, this was going to be it. So we'd do it. Or at least, we'd say we would. And then we'd hope like h-e-double-hockey-sticks that no one would ever look too closely at our bulging mid-sections.
- Check credentials. Make sure the people who will be voting on the father of the family to become the father of the family are qualified to do so. Find your kid's birth certificates, take them to Staples, laminate them, and hang them from lanyards around your children's necks. Make sure they're the long-form birth certificates. A simple certificate of live birth will NOT do.
- Praise God. Take some time here. Make sure everyone understands that we've reached the most important part of any convention. Engage the family in a scavenger hunt to drum up every religious artifact in your house. Bring them all to the convention. The Children's Bible. The potato chip that looks like Mary Magdalene. The nails. Whatever is boring. Then, engage a local barbershop quartet to sing "Amazing Grace" every 15 minutes, and a local priest to say grace every time someone pops a piece of gum. When the children look confused and remind you that their father hasn't been to church since his First Communion, look at them in horror and accuse them of being crazy and/or stupid and/or a terrorist for saying such an asinine thing. (Later, give them a hug and say that of course they're right, but rules are rules and if they can't follow them, well, they can move to Canada.)
- Vote. Speed through this part. Even though the convention is ostensibly convened for the exact purpose of an election by way of vote-casting, emphasize that the purpose of the convention should not get in the way of all the balloons and fun with confetti. I mean, everyone already knows that Papi is the Papi of the DNC, right? It's been known for ages, in fact. Silly children. Notwithstanding the foregoing, after taking the vote, everyone should cheer wildly and the New York Times should be conscripted to send breaking news alerts that Papi has been elected Papi of his family.
- Speech from Mami. Balance is crucial here. Mami's speech should be good, but not too good. Upstaging her husband would be catastrophic. At the same time, Mami needs to win at least the hearts of her audience. She needs to remind them that even though Papi sometimes has to lay down the law, and even though he sometimes seems distanced when he first ambles through the door after work, he's really a delightful, ticklish, stud of a guy. Anecdotes about Papi saving/rescuing Mami in some way are helpful. Reference should most definitely be made to some stupid nickname he never uses or that endearing coffee run he went on 9 years ago.
- Speech from Papi. Now we're in the big leagues. A speech that should be soaring, with lots of gesturing and perfectly-timed pauses that indicate applause would be appropriate. Papi should make sweeping promises with almost no detail, and should say exactly what he thinks everyone wants to hear -- even if some of those things are either mutually exclusive or internally inconsistent. Making sense doesn't matter. Making history does.
- Speech from the Next Guy. Carve out time for a primetime speech by the Next Guy who will take over the role as The Guy in your family. This is, of course, kind of awkward. We're all supposed to be excited about the current father of the family, after all. No one is supposed to be looking down the road at who's coming next, before Papi has time to cement himself in our memories as the Papi Ronald Reagan Bill Clinton. But it must be done. Find a Guy who has already kind of endeared himself, but who's younger and more fiery and more awesome. Reassure the kids they'll have 4-8 years to get used to the idea of calling this Guy "Dad."
- Move on. As soon as all the balloons have fallen and the confetti has been canon-shot, go home. Forget about everything that just happened. Start hating each other again. Let Papi ignore all the promises he made, but resent him for it all the same. Start counting down the days until the Next Guy takes over.