Four years ago, Barack Obama was running for president and my six month old son was one of his youngest supporters. Not out of volition of course but because his mother is a die-hard Democrat and bought him a tiny Obama t-shirt that we’d dress him in. As a political independent, I might have normally been against having my infant advertise one politician over another but I kind of liked Obama myself. More than anything, I was against the Republicans retaining office largely out of my disgust for Dubya and any chance another Republican could follow him in office.
Four years later, B’s mama still loves Obama (a chant around our house: Mama loves Obama) and his ubiquity on TV has made him a presence–albeit feckless–in our household. For instance, we have a play plastic phone that is baby G’s and we hand it to him and pretend it’s Obama asking for advice. After a call or two, I grab the phone and tell him to leave us alone. We can’t help him with the presidency, that’s his job.
If we are a bit brusque with the president, we are downright disdainful of his opponent, Mitt Romney. It’s one of the few privileges of being a parent, the chance to foist your own opinions on your kids. I have no appreciation for Romney and so communicated that to my four-year old. “We don’t like Romney,” I told him. “He wants to steal our money.” (I don’t know why I told him this exactly. While I know Repubs are generally for across the board tax cuts I nevertheless associate Romney with corporate greed so….) For a couple of weeks B followed the party line but then, as is already the case with my attempts to mold him, he twisted it and made his own modifications.
“I like Mitt Romney,” he said last week. No, I thought, this can’t be happening, but then he surprised me when he suggested that Romney can take all of his Nana’s money and give it to us. “Because we don’t have any money, right?” he said. “That’s right,” I said, laughing, and giving him a hug.
I’m not sure the recasting of Romney as a sort of Robin Hood would play with the American people (or with his Nana for that matter) but I appreciated B’s ability to resist my heavy-handed efforts to steer him and then maneuver it all in his favor (in his mind, the money would all go towards buying him a new toys). I think he’d make a great politician.
Whenever politicians kiss babies, it’s looked upon disdainfully, and I have to confess to open cynicism when it comes to this. However, this weekend I was watching a news segment on Obama’s visit to a bar for St. Patrick’s Day to drink a Guinness when the camera cut to the President holding a baby as a crowd looked on. Suddenly it hit me, maybe kissing babies isn’t just a political ploy but a real perk of the job. I love to kiss on mine and probably do it hundreds of times a day. I’ve never tried someone else’s, but let’s say you’re running for political office and someone hands you a baby to smooch, well why the hell not? There’s nothing like the softness of a baby’s skin, it is untainted and not hardened yet by life. In other words, exactly the opposite of the political process. Maybe if you’re Obama and handed a baby the touch of its skin is a little shelter from the storm. Or maybe it’s just a ploy to garner votes, but this one time I’m going to give the President the benefit of the doubt.
Whenever I see Obama on TV, as I did briefly last night, I’m struck by how much gray has crept into his hair. When he was first elected I don’t think he had any, but three years of stress has changed that. I became a father roughly around the same time, and have undergone a similar, if not more drastic, transformation. My hair’s gone all gray on the sides and I’ve got a skunk streak in my beard. I could attribute this to age or even bad genetics but I feel like three years of staying home with my kid has done this to me.
Then there’s Dubya. With the 9/11 anniversary, I’ve seen lots of footage of him with the bullhorn standing by the felled twin towers. He looked so young back then, but by 2008, he almost resembled a different person he’d aged so much. Two contested wars might do that to you, or two boys. With the birth of G almost four months ago, I’m just into my second tour of duty. How old will I look in three more years?