not suitable for children?

About 8 years ago, a classmate of my nephew’s told him that John Kerry–who my nephew may have expressed a preference for over President Bush–was a “baby killer,” and that he shouldn’t like him. My nephew and the classmate? They were 8 years old.

Our daughter is nearly 8 now. I just received an Obama-Biden bumper sticker in the mail, and because of what happened to my nephew, because of the fact that many students and parents know who I am at the school thanks to my involvement with the PTA, I will not put that sticker on my car. (Instead, I have a silver button that I’ve put on my ubiquitous handbag. You have to get kind of close to read it: “Greater Together. Obama 2012.” So close that if one had a negative thought about it, I’d be able see it on one’s face.)

Our children know who the President is. I’ve taken them to his local campaign offices in 2008 and this year. They’ve listened to him speak, they’ve seen pictures of him meet their three Wisconsin cousins. They think he’s a nice person. The idea that another child might yell at them if they expressed that out loud–it pains me. It pains me as much as it pained me when I was six, when a boy on the playground told me I was going to hell for not going to his church.

Which brings me to this: consider the First Lady’s posting of this picture:

A woman I know responded to the First Lady with this: “This makes me sad. Most valuable lesson in life is to teach children to think for themselves, not for us to force our beliefs.”

I’m not sure what element of the picture evokes sadness or force, but given that I have pictures of my children at campaign offices and that my brother and his wife have posted pictures of their children meeting the President at campaign events, I think it’s safe to conclude that our actions would also make her sad. That she might consider the way we raise our children to be lacking in some capacity.

That pains me a little.

Our children do think for themselves. But we’ve taught them always to think of others first. The “others” they think of? Mom and Dad. Each other. Their family. Their friends. Seems pretty standard. Teaching your child what you believe, encouraging them to practice what you practice (and preach) politically, religiously, or culturally–I’ll accept that from any parent.

The most important lesson we can give our children? Treat others kindly, by accepting that others might view the world differently and make different choices than you, and by knowing that the power you have lies in your doing, not in your believing.

Beliefs can change. Actions can’t be undone.

wives well loved

Love and Presidents: The Difference Between Michelle and Ann : The New Yorker, by Amy Davidson. It’s fascinating.

Here’s all I can say with certainty: a candidate’s wife has a tough job to do. She’s got to try to be relatable, while talking up her husband, who by definition has the intelligence, ambition, and ego to want to run the free world. How many of us likely voters out there have a partner like that? How many of us likely voters with a partner could do that job?

Both of these women are undoubtedly excellent wives, excellent mothers, and make excellent First Ladies (one of a nation, one of a Commonwealth). They are proud of their husbands, they are thrilled to raise children with their husbands, they want you to love their husbands as much as they love them. And vote.

They are political wives.

The life Mrs. Obama described sounded familiar to me. Growing up and seeing a parent, in pain but working hard, with pride. Marrying a man who wants more for his community, and from a pretty early age, went out and got it. (Did I mention my spouse was a Peace Corps volunteer?) Putting your career on hold so that you could raise the children while your husband pursued a tremendously demanding career. A 40-year-old friend of mine posted on facebook, “When I grow up I want to be Michelle Obama.” Our current First Lady? She connects.

Mrs. Romney and I both have had the good fortune of not needing to work outside the home. Given the cost of college educations for our children and the amount of savings necessary for even a modest retirement, I, however, will need return to work. But for all her talk of success, Mrs. Romney didn’t convey herself as an aspirational role model. Specifically because I don’t know how one  aspires to be well-born and marry well. Massachusetts’ former First Lady? She seems like a very nice lady.

I’ve said that being a corporate wife means I’m lucky, and it means I wait. Perhaps that applies to political wives, too.

These two women are both very lucky–lucky to have strong marriages and enviable love for and from their husbands. But Mrs. Obama didn’t start out lucky. Mrs. Romney did.

I imagine Mrs. Romney can wait a little longer.