Last weekend my 2-year-old daughter Audrey was talking to her Uncle Eric and Grandma G.G. over Skype. It’s a good way for the three of them to see each other face to face without traveling the necessary thousand miles. It’s also a good way for Audrey to show off her vast assortment of stuffed animals. She started with Tigger, showing him off happily for the camera. After Tigger came Puppy. Then came Momma and Baby Fox, Puppy, Lion, and so on. It was about that time that I handed Audrey her stuffed Elvis doll to show off. Her response? “No,” backing away in dislike.
It was a disappointing moment for me for two reasons. One is that my wife and I bought that Elvis doll for her in Las Vegas shortly after she was born. We’re not big Elvis fans by any means, but the Elvis stage show was in our hotel, it was a pretty cool toy—complete with jumpsuit and cape!—and hey, why not, right? We thought it would be a fun counterpart to the myriad of stuffed animals and baby dolls she had already amassed. The second reason why her rejection was saddening had everything to do with my grandmother. Toots, as we called her, was a huge fan of The King’s. And I’d hate to think that she is looking down on her great granddaughter disapprovingly for fearing her favorite hip-swinging idol.
I suddenly saw this as an opportunity to forge a bond between their generations. What had been broken now needed to be fixed.
In order to fix it, however, I had to figure out why Audrey hated Elvis so much. One possibility is that I perform my Elvis impersonation—“Thank ya. Thank ya very much,” and “Hunka hunka burnin’ love, baby.”—in a suitably deep voice. Deep voices sometimes have the unintended effect of terrifying her. Another is that he clearly doesn’t fit in with the animals and babies she has as toys. It’s a man with a cape, and looks nothing like the rest of her “friends”. A third possibility is that she has no connection to Elvis. Who is he to her after all? She’s never heard his music, seen his movies, or even seen a picture. Why should she care?
Regardless of the reason, Audrey rejecting this awesome Elvis doll and my grandmother shaking her finger at me for raising an Elvis-fearing daughter has inspired me to take action. So I made a vow: I was going to do my damnedest to make her like her Elvis doll.
And so begins the Love Me Tender Challenge.