Somewhere in a box in my home, maybe the attic, maybe the basement, maybe the closet…somewhere there is a protest sign with lettering created by a six year old. I know it’s here. It really should be framed and hanging on the wall in The Scullery. It was created in the year 2004 as the presidential campaigns ramped up. After passing through the downtown on this particular day, my daughter was filled with questions. “Why were all those people standing there with signs?” “What do the signs say?” “Why don’t they want him to be President?” In a concerted effort to avoid overly influencing political beliefs (yes, even at 6 years old. Everyone needs to draw conclusions for themselves), the conversation turned to the rights we have as Americans.
My daughter and son (who was then 7 years old) discussed the rights we have as Americans to protest things we don’t believe in. “Freedom of Speech,” I named it for them. It is a right I don’t ever want them to lose sight of. The discussion took place in our kitchen (at that time known as the Sunset Restaurant, although our view over the bay was actually to the east) as we hauled in the groceries for the meal my son had selected to prepare. Midwestern Corn Chowder (click for the recipe…it’s amazing)
My daughter turned her nose up at the sight of onions and red peppers and flounced down the stairs to her “art studio.” Little did we know.
The meal commenced and my son and I exclaimed at the flavors melding together, the taste of tarragon and the incredibly sweet fresh corn cut from the cobs. My daughter brought out her “artwork” and raised it high above her head. She proceeded to march defiantly around the table. Her “artwork” was a protest sign, and her march was accompanied with a chant. I can still hear her confident little voice belting out the words from her sign: “I Do Not Like That Corn Stuff!”
“Okay, very nice expression. Very nice implementation of your right to free speech,” I told her. “Now this is what happens next.” My daughter hopped up on her chair and set her protest sign on the table, inquisitive as always. “Now we negotiate,” I told her, very matter-of-factly. She looked quizically to her brother who shrugged his shoulders and scooped up more chowder. He would be of no help to her.
I folded my napkin and placed it on the table. “Here’s how it works. I am the one in charge here, right? And you are the one who doesn’t like the rules. So we sit and have a discussion. Our goal is to figure out how to come to an agreement. You know, an end result that both of us can work with.” My daughter’s eyes narrowed. This was not something she understood quite yet. Clearly.
“So,” I continued on, “I would like you to eat that whole bowl of chowder.” This elicited a resounding “NO” from the protester. “Okay, well, we’re negotiating. So how many bites would you be willing to take? We’ll use that as our starting point.”
“You will take seventy bites?” I gave her a chance to change her mind. She did not. “Okay, seventy it is. We’ll keep track as you go.”
Needless to say, she wanted to retract her offer after just five miniscule bites.
I am happy to report that she is now a senior in college with extraordinary negotiating skills, as well as having a strong sense of what her rights are with regards to freedom of speech. I will say, however, that when I called her this afternoon to let her know I was making Midwestern Corn Chowder for dinner in The Scullery tonight, her response was not much different than when she was six. “Disgusting,” she sneered, thrilled to be baking in her own kitchen four hours away. *Sigh* Well, she’s not much of a spokesperson for the recipe, but I promise you the rest of us find the chowder to be rather amazing.