She is, usually, smart.
At nine years old, the general shape of her personality is set. She enjoys dancing, pop music, great stories (but not always books), and professes a keen sensitivity which causes her to burst into tears if she finds something unbearably sad or beautiful. I once listened to her monologue about the use of Arabic language and the pride one takes in a native tongue; it takes unusual foresight and intelligence for an Arab child raised in Jordan to resist lingering colonialism so deftly.
We often read books and discuss things together. I’m happy I’m a confidante and always happy to spend time with her. I like to think I helped raise her, and that she has been raised well.
Then there was today.
My sister told me that, at nine, she knew who George Bush and Condoleeza Rice were. “But that,” she said, “could have been due to the Iraq War.”
I suggested we test this, and produced a photograph of Barack Obama to show my nine year old cousin. “Who is this?”
“Obama,” said my cousin. “Duh.”
“And who is Obama?”
This put her at something of a loss. My sister decided to throw a hint: “What’s the most powerful country in the world?”
Ah, grins my cousin. “England!”
“No. The world.”
Disappointed, I decided to produce the picture of another world figure. I chose Elizabeth II: Queen of the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, and Head of the Commonwealth, probably more famous than the crown she wears.
“And who is this?”
“That,” she said, proudly, “is Miss Obama.”
I suppose I should be grateful she’s not a racist, and maybe even happy there’s some logic at play here. But who am I kidding?
I have failed this child.