My two boys, 3 and 2, are just getting to the age where they will directly test their wills against mine.
The boys will want something -- say, to soak "just one more minute!" in the bubble bath -- and my wife or I will insist that, no, they can't have it.
You know what comes next: a loud and unruly protest rally. Chants and raised fists. Outrage from all sides. The inevitable divisions and recriminations within the movement. And finally, a plastic frog thrown hard at someone's brother.
Grabbing the culprit and lifting him out of the bath, I feel like "the Man." Part of me wants to join them. A vision flashes before my eyes of myself suddenly plunging into the bath next to them, throwing bubbles in the air, calling for more plastic bath toys. "No justice, no peace!" we'd all scream at their mother as she came running in to see what was going on.
But I resist. I mean, I really want them to get in their pajamas.
Sometimes, as I lift them out of the bath, or deny the refill of apple juice, or separate them without asking for a report of who started it, I see a look in their eyes that seems familiar. I remember being a child myself, and having no say as to the final outcome of a confrontation.
When Mom or Dad laid down the law, when it was time for me and my sister to go to our rooms or get in the car to go to school, there was no arguing. Or rather, there was arguing, but it was a foregone conclusion who would win the argument.
Even in the best of worlds, even if it were possible for the parents to be right and reasonable, under all circumstances, it hurts to be the kid. It makes you feel helpless. You recognize the limitations of your own power to change outcomes. It makes you mad, righteously mad. Door-slammingly mad.
That is exactly what many of us felt on Tuesday night, watching the Hillary Clinton victory speech in New Hampshire. And I'm not alone. It felt as if our parents were winning once again.
And it makes us particularly angry because we've had a lot of that over the past eight years. There was the decision by the Supreme Court (parental figures if there ever were such, in strange "grown up" black gowns, talking to each other in sophisticated language about unfamiliar issues) to hand over the Presidency to George W. Bush, despite clear indications that Gore had... I don't know, just possibly received more votes from the good citizens of Florida than anyone else on the ballot.
Then there were the "adults" who, back in 2003, told us that questioning the drumbeat for war and the existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq was childish. In fact, Dick Cheney's main persona, from the beginning of the administration to the present, is that of the wiser, more responsible parental figure who tells it like it is to the rest of us squirts. And one of the most notorious "grown ups" in the lead up to the Iraq disaster, Bill Kristol, now has a column in the New York Times, along with that other cheerfully enabling grown up, Tom Friedman.
We're still listening to their lectures, suffering from their hand-slappings, sitting for their pep talks.
In New Hampshire, there was a moment when the younger generation seemed to announce itself. Reporters on the ground talked of Obama rallys which were confident, positive, forward-looking -- celebrations of our new unity as an extended family of Americans. It seemed as if, maybe this time, we would speak for ourselves.
But the grown-ups, the over 40 voters, leaned to Hillary. The over-60 voters stampeded to her. And it was enough to send us to our rooms all over again.
I still feel angry. It reminds me of how my boys must feel sometimes.
So what can we learn from our experiences as children and parents to ease the pain?
No, I will not acknowledge that the grown ups are usually right, and that Hillary Clinton, despite my resistence, is best for the family. No, I will not come out of my room and say "I'm sorry." Is there any other lesson to draw from parenting?
There is one: This too will pass. Kids grow up. As you enter your teenage years the conversation with your parents starts to involve more give and take. You may even convince them on occasion to take your side. And then suddenly, shockingly, you find yourself responsible for your own destiny.
I hope that this is the year for Obama. I resent the results in New Hampshire. I am nervous about the prospect of the so-called "Greatest" generation and their children, the Boomer generation, rolling the rest of us kids once again on February 5, "Super Duper Tuesday."
But at least I know that if not now, then soon. We're growing up, Mom and Dad -- Hillary and Dick -- and we're going to finally get the franchise.
I pledge right now to listen to the political views of my adult kids when I'm 60 and holding on to the status quo.