Once upon a time, my teenage daughter wanted to spend spring break with her high school friends on an exotic Caribbean island, so exotic I can’t remember where it was although it sounded pretty suspicious because supermodels were often pictured there, frolicking topless on yachts five times larger than our house.
“Can I go, Dad? Can I?” It’s amazing how sweet teenage girls can be to their fathers when they want something — or maybe only my four daughters behaved like that.
They showered me with sweetness for days, waiting for just the right moment to make their pitch. By then, I’d been sufficiently softened up and willfully agreed to adventures and acquisitions that would normally cause me to break down in tears or leave my family behind for the monastic life.
With those skills, my daughters could have sold whole life insurance or time shares in Florida wetlands. Maybe it was just the suspicious father in me, but after a while I began to see through their shenanigans.
So my response to “Can I, Dad?” inevitably became “we’ll see.” I couldn’t say no outright to such persistent appeals and I KNEW I couldn’t say yes. With daughters, you generally have to read the fine print of any proposal they bring to you, or you’ll live to regret it, which is why “we’ll see” was such a versatile all-purpose response. It even worked with my wife when she told me we got an invitation for a destination wedding at Kealakekua Bay in Hawaii, where we could swim with the dolphins. “We’ll see,” I snorted, and by the time we saw, the deadline to RSVP had passed.
Saying “we’ll see” became my standard operating procedure, which I learned from the master — my mother. As a kid, I would always go to her because my father’s response was flat out “no” regardless of what I asked.
“Can I have the car tonight?” “No.”
“Can I have the car tomorrow night?” “No.”
“Can I have it if there’s a volcanic eruption, and we have to get out of town fast?” “No.”
When he saw me coming, he’d say, “Don’t bother to ask. The answer is no.”
On the other hand, my mother could never say no. So I’d ask:
1. Can I go Washington with my friends?
2. Can I get my driver’s permit at 15?
3. Can I go shooting with my buddy who got a new ’22 rifle?
Her routine response was “we’ll see,” which translated meant, “I really want to say no but I can’t, so I’ll stall until your father gets home and he can say no.”
I never knew what we were waiting to see. If the stock market collapsed? If my father got a bonus? If I cleaned my room and didn’t throw my underwear under the bed?
Before giving in, most parents try to extort concessions from their kids. Do you want to go to Florida for spring break? Then, you better get into the National Honors Society. Do you want to get your driver’s license? Then, you better cut the lawn, shovel the snow off the driveway and clean the garage. There’s always a payment to be exacted.
I was recently surprised to learn that “we’ll see” has become a national policy of the Trump administration. A recent story by Associated Press reporters Catherine Lucey and Ken Thomas said, “When in doubt, President Trump has a ready-made response to any questions: ‘We’ll see.’”
Had my mother been reincarnated as Donald Trump? Or maybe Donald Trump is channeling my mother?
The story continued, “On Wednesday, Trump delivered his go-to line repeatedly. Asked if he would tie debt ceiling legislation to Harvey relief: ‘We’ll see.’ On his plans for an increasingly aggressive North Korea: ‘We’ll see.’ And on efforts to work with the Chinese president: ‘We’ll see how that works out.’”
The reporters asked analysts what it meant. Is he stalling? Is he creating suspense? Is he causing anxiety? Is he employing a negotiating tactic? Whatever it is, the rest of us will see … eventually.
I’m amazed to think that with her skills, my mother could have been the first woman president of the United States. All she’d have to do is respond “we’ll see” to reporters, her staff … and her kids.