I am the proud father of a wild eyed, curious, perceptive, funny and revolutionary daughter.
Last Thanksgiving weekend while visiting my in-laws, Catie (my 6 yrs old daughter) while playing around with her brother, kept coming to sit on my lap, for just a few minutes -sometimes second- She would get up and go back to play. Noticing that she kept doing it with complete disregard of anything I might have been doing at the time, I naively thought it was a perfect “teaching moment.” Patiently I just waited for the next time she sat on my lap, to hug her and have a simple conversation about disposable and utilitarian relationships. So there you have it, the patriarchal proud father, trying to teach his little daughter a lesson, completely unaware that it was going to be her the one to do some sort of pedagogical jujitsu and BAM! take me down.
Me – “Catie, what are you doing?”
Catie – “I’m playing.”
“why do you keep coming and sitting on my lap without asking?”
She did not responded verbally, but she gave me a bewildered look as if to say “what kind of question is that? I’m your daughter you big stupid ape, that’s what I am suppose to do.”
“Catie, I’m not a chair in which you can just come and go as you wish, I am a person. We are in a relationship. You can’t used me as an object.”
Now her patience was running short and she was not ready for another one of my seudo-counter-cultural teaching moments. She tried to force her way out by pushing a bit, so hug her even closer.
“Sweatheart, you can’t just treat people like objects whenever you need or want something from them. In our case, I feel you are treating me like a chair, coming and going without even talking with me. You are objectifying me.”
Now here is the part in which the whole room disappear and it she spoke the strongest words I’ve ever heard a 5 year old woman, a teenager, a twenty something, a woman in her 30’s, in her 40’s, 50’s, 60’s, 70’s, 80’s, 90’s, 100’s – with her voice that sounds like coming out of a cartoon character but with the strength of all women in the past, present and those to come – she pulled away from my arms as I kept trying to hold her and said:
“Papí! Stop! You are holding me like I’m an object. You can’t hold me like that. I’m not your object, I’m a person. I’m not playing with you anymore.”
Her response was by no means disrespectful. It was one of the best gifts I’ve received in my whole life.