Thursday, October 14, 2004


The older I get, the more I realize how little our basic patterns of behavior change from childhood. Deep down we all still want the biggest piece of dessert, we want more attention than the next guy, we crave praise, love and acceptance, and when confronted, we will do and say anything to avoid getting in trouble. Need a smooth operator? A shrewd negotiator? A cunning escape artist? Look no further than your average 8-year old. They are all that and a bag of Skittles.

TinyTuna has been a smooth talker since she was old enough to scheme, which was at far too young an age. I distinctly remember one pre-kindergarten conversation that went like this:

TinyTuna: "Mom, I know that if I asked you for ten dollars, you would say 'That's too much money!'"
GreenTuna: "You're right. That IS too much money."
TinyTuna: "I agree." *pause* "So can I just have FIVE?"

Smooth. Not smooth enough for me, but it was a big enough surprise that I got a big laugh out of the whole deal. And then I said no.

When kids sense they are in trouble, they are amazingly adept at the triple-D defense: Delay, Defer, Distract.

GreenTuna: "Did you have a good day at school?"
TinyTuna: "Yep."
GreenTuna: "Do you have any homework tonight?"
TinyTuna: "What?" (Delay)
GreenTuna: "Do you have any homework tonight?"
TinyTuna: "What?" (Delay)
GreenTuna: "Do. You. Have. Any. Homework. Tonight?"
TinyTuna: "Oh, I'm sorry I didn't hear you." *pause* "How was work today?" (Defer)
GreenTuna: "It was fine."
TinyTuna: "What did you do?" (Defer)
GreenTuna: "Lots of things. Did you hear what I said before?"
TinyTuna: "Yes, I heard. I just wondered how your day was."
GreenTuna: "It was fine."
TinyTuna: "Do you know what I need?" (Distract)
GreenTuna: "What?"
TinyTuna: "I need a hug." *hug*
GreenTuna: (who hasn't forgotten the unanswered question)...."Now. Answer my question."
TinyTuna: "Oh. Do I have HOMEWORK?" Well, you see Mom......" (which means "I forgot to bring my homework home" is just around the corner)

It was an admirable attempt. Too bad I could see it coming a mile away.

Survival is instinctual. Manipulation is instinctual. Why do kids behave this way? Why do they constantly push the envelope to get what they want, when they want, and how they want? Because they can. And because more often or not, it works.

Unfortunately, this behavior carries right over into adulthood. During the final presidential debate last night, I wasn't sure if it was Bush vs. Kerry or TinyTuna vs. AnyOtherNormalKid. Defer, Deflect, Deny, Distract, Manipulate -- this behavior was rampant. A prime example (in which I actually guffawed out loud) was when Bush answered the topic of raising minimum wage by talking about children being able to read and count. What did it have to do with raising the minimum wage? Precisely, nothing. I'm surprised he didn't ask for a hug while he was at it. Kerry often employed the same non-answer tactics, responding to the question by first addressing the previous (more palatable) topic, saving only a matter of seconds for the current question he really didn't want to answer in the first place.

Thankfully, the debates are over for the 2004 Presidential season. Next time around, though, I suggest adding a second moderator to each panel. All it would take is one stressed-out, tired, and hungry mother of a young child and she'd get to the heart of the matter in no time flat. Debates could be cut down to a lean 25 minutes. And, as added incentive, if everybody answered all the questions on their plate, we could go out for ice-cream. With sprinkles.

Momsense beats nonsense.


TVJ said...

VOLCANO ROCKS! All those in favor of having Green Tuna moderate a special debate, raise your hands.

*raises hand*

Anonymous said...

****Please alert the appropriate Authorities****
Tuna has been trying to tell the masses that the Debates lack substance and feature blatantly obvious evasions and non-answers!
This cannot be allowed!
Didn't watch the last one; but my favorite part of the four of em was when the V.P.'s were asked to give answers without naming their running mates, and one of 'em couldn't do it--he was so pre-programmed! Not that his opponent, Mumbly Joe, didn't struggle, with, ah, filler, ah words. How do four people get to that level and still be jarring (in varying levels of jarringtude, granted) public speakers?

Sorry about the spilled spaghetti, hope the rainbows made up for it.

regards, brad