This column first appeared in a newspaper in 2008.
All I can say to George Bush is: I feel your pain.
I understand what you’re going through. I realize how hard your job is and how what a tough task you have been up against all these years. You, Mr. Bush, have an impossible task. You, Mr. Bush, are the father of TWO daughters. Twins, even.
As the father of one daughter, I can’t imagine what you must have gone through. As the father of one daughter, I can’t imagine how you managed to negotiate any sort of peace between your daughters and your wife.
I know, Mr. Bush, that many people have criticized your attempts to broker a last-minute Israeli-Palestinian peace treaty. I know they have said your efforts are naive and unrealistic, but those people don’t know what I know. You, Mr. Bush, in the past, have managed to bring peace between TWO daughters and your wife. I know that after creating peace between TWO daughters and a wife that creating peace between Israel and Palestine will be a day at the beach.
I’m a veteran husband, and I am slowly becoming a veteran father of a daughter. Although real veteran fathers of daughters will tell you that you can’t really call yourself a veteran father of a daughter until you have managed to survive the teenage years.
Remember those scenes in your classic World War II movies when the raw replacement troops would run into a long line of war-weary, battle-scarred soldiers returning from the front lines? Remember the looks in the eyes of the grizzled veterans as they looked at their young replacements? It was a look of both pity and contempt.
That’s the sort of look veteran fathers of daughters who managed to survive the teenage years usually give fathers of daughters who have yet to encounter the teenage years.
“You thought 10 was rough? Ha. You pansy. Wait until she turns 16,” is what the look says.
I understand that attitude. My daughter, Emma, just turned 10, and I know that in the veteran-father-of-a-daughter timeline I’m still a raw replacement. In the veteran-father-of-a-daughter timeline, I’m still in boot camp.
But still … boot camp can be tough.
I have mentioned this before: My wife and Emma adore each other, but there are times when they can’t stand each other. It’s a paradox wrapped up in a riddle and double-bagged in a conundrum, is what it is.
What will happen is my wife and Emma will develop a slight disagreement on — oh, I don’t know — clothes. My wife will be of the opinion that a certain outfit that Emma has selected to wear is not school-appropriate. This, of course, despite the fact that my wife knows that, for Emma, picking out a school outfit is not something to be taken lightly. A lot goes into an Emma-picked school outfit. Emma must take into account — among other things — the weather, the school-related activities slated for that day, the stock market and her hair. So by the time a school outfit has been deemed Emma-worthy, a lot of outfits have been eliminated.
When Emma hears my wife criticize her outfit, she tends to take the opposite position in the outfit discussion. Like most discussions between my wife and Emma, the school-outfit discussion will start out innocently enough. My wife will state her opinion on the outfit, and Emma will listen and calmly state her opinion on the outfit. Then things start to go downhill.
Wife: I don’t care what you think. I’m your mother.
Emma: But that’s not fair.
Wife: I don’t care.
From Emma’s perspective, being told that her mother does not care whether or not Emma is being treated fairly is incomprehensible. As far as Emma is concerned, the whole point of any disagreement with her mother is whether or not she is being treated fairly. So Emma will continue the discussion even after my wife pronounces it over. This is always a mistake.
Wife: Emma, I said no and that’s it.
Emma: But Mommmmmm.
Wife: Emma, I don’t want to hear another word.
Emma: But …
See, this is when I get called in to broker a peace deal. Or this is when I would get called in to broker a peace deal if I wasn’t hanging out with George Bush trying to figure out how to solve the problems in the Middle East.
Granted, solving the problems in the Middle East may not be any easier than brokering a peace deal between my wife and Emma.
But it’s safer.