I am blessed not just with two fine boys of my own, but with three step-children. My sons are almost grown, one is in his final year of college, in London, the other about to embark upon a BA in Professional Musicianship.
The American kids are younger, 5th, 7th and 9th Grades respectively. My wife was nothing if not regular in her previous life.
It is the youngest who has been on my mind recently.
Natalie is ten years old. She has been in double figures only since the end of January. I love all the kids, and I love them equally but I would be lying to you and to myself if I didn't admit that Nat has a little corner of my heart that is just hers.
When I landed, uninvited and unwelcome in her life, she was just eighteen months old. Barely two when I moved here permanently. I changed her diapers, cooked her meals, and when the time was right I took her to school. In the intervening years we had a lot of fun together. I was at home with her and she is the one who can't ever remember her Dad living at home.
Ask her and she will tell you that her parents are Mom, Dad and Steve.
We did stuff together, the way Dads and kids do. We would take the other two to school then go shopping. First stop was always Walmart (I know, don't give me a hard time). We would go count the dead fish, then call Mom at work to tell her today's number. All the regular stores we visited had colors, rather than names. Home Depot was the "Orange Store", for example.
Of late she has developed a smarter mouth than I would like. She is funny with it but, old curmudgeon that I am, I do sometimes wonder quite where they get it from.
"Mom, Mom, I just tricked Steve TWICE!" she yelled, "He's gonna need aloe vera for that burn!"
Two weeks ago, when my little girl was at her Dad's for the weekend, she called home. She was distressed, in tears and very unhappy.
"Mom, I think my "girl stuff" has started".
I don't think I ever saw my wife move into action quite so fast before. "Nat we are on our way" she said, as she put down the phone. Between the moment the phone hit the cradle, and before the little beep that indicates that it is charging, Jodie had a bag packed with various sanitary items, and she was in the car waiting for me.
I know a thing or two about those products because I am a modern man, and I do the shopping. "Kotex, Kotex, Kotex ...", I have mused while staring at an aisle full of boxes covered with pink depictions of ethereal women looking very happy. Ultrathin, Thin, Medium, Heavy, Hoover Dam Breaking ... some with wings?? others in pretty colors. I swear I even saw a box of glittery pads and thought they must itch like hell.
Whatever, I just shop and I never thought I would be shopping for such a young girl. We know it is not unusual, but it is young and Jodie was hoping she would at least be through Elementary School before this momentous part of her development happened. One cannot deny the appearance of boobs, where no boobs had been but a few months earlier, yet still we hoped she might not have to deal with this just yet.
Natalie is a practical girl. We arrived at her Dad's house and all was soon well. Dealt with in a caring and supportive manner that Jodie is so very good at, Nat's equilibrium was restored and she managed the rest of the weekend with the help of her older sister, and no further drama.
But it got me thinking. She is now at the stage where the Republicans hate her for her gender. Yesterday she was just a kid, and while they may indeed have hated her for every reduced-price school meal she ate, at least they were not at war with her. From here on in, and on an increasingly frequent basis as the years roll by, people in power, folk who know better but do not care, will try to impose their choices on my daughter.
Starting with her sex education, on through her lifestyle choices, contraception and ultimately, if the contraception fails, they will interfere in her decisions one way or another. If she prefers girls to boys they will vent their spleen about that. Should she have sex before marriage (I think she probably should), they will cast their judgement on her. Even if her choices meet entirely with their approval, they will try to ensure that her opportunities are reduced, and that she will ultimately be paid less than her brother. He's a great kid who will have his own problems to solve, but the GOP will not stand in his way providing that he never needs a bit of a helping hand.
I have to say that it is hard for a Dad to accept that the youngest daughter will actually do any of the above. She is ten, but she will be fourteen, sixteen, eighteen and I guess I'll have to get used to it.
To mitigate the hardship on my fragile ego, I have already grounded her until she is thirty, but even then it is something I don't like to dwell on.
What I will dwell on, and be unapologetically harsh in my condemnation of, is the sheer effrontery and nerve of those people who would disadvantage my children, and all the other children affected in this way. I'll not be too happy either with ignorant people who insist, time and time again, on electing those to high office who are demonstrably ill-suited for the role.
I have only this to say to the bigots, their supporters and their paymasters ...
Get your heads out of your complacent asses, and take a long, hard look at the fuckwits you are sending to Congress, and to State Houses across this land. They are besmirching the good name and reputation of this country. They are making America a laughing stock, weakening our security, damaging the economy, and are about to hurt my daughter. I will fight you, torment you and expose your hatred.
Shit got real when you started that!