The father sat in the front seat, nearing the end game of a very long day. Beside him was his wife, and two children sat in the back. The children were dangerously close to one another given the amount of exhausted energy they were releasing into the air. But the father was an experienced player of the game, he was anticipating the moves like a Russian master at the chess board. With steepled fingers and tousled hair he waited the inevitable action from his challenger.
She had been inching her pieces forward for most of the drive, taunting his lines. Struggling for a more threatening position. But now in a flurry of activity she launched out with her doll baby queen and started pummeling her older sister over the head violently. There were shouts of anguish, a failed defensive move, and some cries for help.
The experienced father had expected this kind of amateur maneuver for a while, so he quickly moved to retaliate. His hand darted back in a clear diagonal line to point like a bishop at the young challenger. He controlled the game, and he was content to quell this uprising quickly and resolve the match in a stalemate until they arrived at home.
But this is where he made his fatal mistake. Instead of going for a more offensive and commanding move, he rather, in the arrogance of his perceived experience and control, underestimated his opponent’s plan and acted to cut it short with a quick defense. “Why are you hitting your sister?” he asked. His plan was based on the fact that there would be no justifiable answer. He would close her in with logic, defeat all of her front line pieces and the game would be set.
But without even a half second of computation, his opponent responded. She tilted her head, up two degrees and then one to the right, and said, “Because it is my birthday.”
Beads of sweat instantly appeared on the forehead of the father. He had never before encountered this gambit. He stared in fear into the deep blue eyes of the little girl. What were his options? He considered them. The clock ticked.
There were two possible moves. The first was to counter the claim that it was her birthday with the fact that her birthday wasn’t for several more months. This would halt the attack, but would communicate to the child the hard to reverse idea that one is allowed to beat people with dolls on their birthday. This move was a clear failure of parenting and would cost him the game. The second option would be to now revert to the command position and call for the child to stop hitting her sister regardless of what day it is. This however is where the trap was laid, because this response would halt the aggressive advance, but would imply that it was in fact the little girl’s birthday.
In desperation the father hung his head realizing he had been bested. He conceded his king and extended his hand into the backseat. As they shook and parted ways he congratulated her for a well played match, asked her politely and clearly to no longer hit her sister over the head with her doll baby, and asked her what flavor of ice cream she would like with her cake.
He had been beaten. Perhaps on a different day human wisdom and experience could have prevailed, but the battle against the quick witted technology of youth will always be hard fought. I fear a day is coming when even the oldest and wisest of us will not be able to stand against it.