The 10-year-old's cousin wants to know: "Are you proud to be American?"
The question - or perhaps the pressure to participate in a group display of national pride at the behest of mermaids - trips my daughter's contrarian streak. "No," she says.
But she can't really say why.
"Pollution," is all she can come up with.
Her grandmother is concerned. She shouldn't say things like that, she tells me. It's not just that she thinks her granddaughter should be proud of her country - it's that the country she should be proud of has become so intolerant of anyone who refuses to wear their patriotism on their sleeve. Or their lapels.
She's worried her granddaughter could get into trouble.
I try to reassure her that her granddaughter has a pretty good understanding of what makes this country worthy of her pride. She does dramatic readings of the Declaration of Independence, knows the four clauses of the First Amendment, watched all seven episodes of the John Adams story and quotes Benjamin Franklin.
And there's still no law requiring you to work up any minimum level of enthusiasm for theme park patriotism.
"Fallon," I say," tell Grandma what it is about our country that makes you feel proud."
"Freedom," she says. I was hoping for something more concrete, like "rule of law" possibly, but freedom is not a bad start.
This is a girl weaned on American civics,
Hannah Montana reruns public television, the New York Times and a bookshelf crowded with eyeshadow palettes from Claire's founding fathers.
She can do better, I think.
"What else?" I prompt.
"Fast food," she says.
Now who's proud?