Tales such as The Handmaid’s Tale construct a world, scarily close to our own, robbing citizens of individual freedoms and basic human rights. And, scarily, the parallels between this world and my own are easily drawn.
Imagine being unable to run mere errands unencumbered. Stepping out alone, simply to purchase a carton of milk goes beyond all good conscience. Imagine a world without privacy, where nothing is sacred. At any given moment, probably mid-shampoo, the bathroom door could be thrust open, exposing you to the world in all your vulnerability. Imagine a literal rude awakening. Being ripped out of a sleep-induced state, you are forced to rise to your feet simply to address the needs of another. I find myself encountering these experiences, daily.
I do it! I do it! These are the words that ring like a siren, warning me to a halt, willing me to swiftly disengage lest I be subject to a tirade of tantrums. Having faltered before, I know the endurance needed to withstand said tantrums that last through school drop off, kicking and screaming into the car, out of the car, past the parked freeway of school traffic and down the hill. Under most circumstances, I am prohibited from assisting my pre-schooler in the following ways: supporting any part of the dressing process without strict authorisation, carrying his bag to or from the car, flicking on a light switch, turning off a tap, getting the mail, taking out the rubbish. (I have recently been granted vacuuming privileges, though this is only a probationary licence and may easily be taken away should ‘the mood’ strike).
These are the drawbacks of a seriously independent, seemingly self-sufficient pre-schooler. Or, so I thought. But then I understood. Words matter. In particular, my very own little despot’s words. I do it! I do it! If the timing of basic everyday activities – clothing oneself, putting on shoes, collecting mail, taking out rubbish and so-on – do not coincide with his master’s own timetable, I simply need utter these three strong, empowering, determined little words, repeating them in an echo. I do it! I do it! Coupled with the slow-motion action of moving in on whatever personal effects are being called into question (be it a door knob or otherwise), these words are all I need to gain the attention of my overlord. Because the thought of having someone else take control is too much to bear.