Putting the Attitude in Platitude

June 18, 2018

Today, my daughter gave me one of the best Father’s Day gifts: good blog material.

We were driving to Alice’s ballet recital, which almost always happens to fall on Father’s Day. It also always coincides with a certain college’s graduation, and since my wife is a professor at this college, she is always in for a hectic day.

After changing out of her regalia, getting Alice’s hair pulled back, and getting dressed for the recital, Sara told her parents, her kids, and her husband about this year’s graduation. It was cooler than last year, tortillas were thrown, and the speaker was unspectacular but solid. The question was asked about how this speech compared to speeches from previous graduations. Sara recounted a miserable tale of a broiling day, overly intense yelling, and an exhaustive list of platitudes.

Alice piped up from the back. “What’s that?” she asked.

After the adults did their best to define platitudes, I offered up an example:

“Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, we’ll land among the stars.”

“But if you land on a star you’ll burn up,” Alice observed, unimpressed by the words of Norman Vincent Peale. That got a few laughs, which encouraged her. “And the moon is closer to Earth than the stars anyway,” she continued, “so you’ll just be in outer space and get sucked up by a black hole and die.”

Pretty morbid for someone about to put on pink slippers and a poofy blue skirt. She asked for more examples, so we continued this new dance.

“If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.”

“But what if you put your last quarter in the gumball machine?” she shot back immediately. She was feeling it at this point, and sensed that she was owning the room (or minivan), so she begged for more.

Her responses weren’t all hits. In fact, there were probably more misses. There were also some complete failures that left us confused or wondering if she should see a therapist. However, I was impressed that she didn’t give up when the laughter diminished. I certainly would have.

“An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind,” Sara offered as we pulled into the theater parking.

“Yeah, if you’re from a family full of Cyclopses!” she responded without hesitation. Sometimes she is so weird. It makes me love her even more.

But my favorite response wasn’t exactly a fact check or a counter cliche.

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step,” I said, letting the ancient Chinese wisdom linger in the conditioned air.

Her response was quiet, but authoritative, perhaps even a bit accusatory. “You stole that from Panda Express,” she said.








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