Friday, August 15, 2008

Children almost make me love parents

My little bitty skinny kid started kindergarten this week. The milestone was passed without incident.

She seems to be emerging as a well-adjusted child. In her first five years of life, she has enjoyed lots of consistent love, with the necessary discipline, from both parents, and her parents don't torture one another too much in the process.

Perhaps the biggest success achieved by my wife and myself is we have consistently honored our mutual pledge to never undercut anything the other tells the girl. The answer she gets from the first parent she asks is the final answer. I'd say that's the most important rule of parenting in those fortunate instances where both parents are there together to do the work.

I also must praise my wife in insisting that the public school district comes first in the choice of a house. Leyla's school appears to be exceptionally well administered. The school administrators planned a series of transitional events before the first day of class (including an important session on bus safety) that pretty much accounts for why this big first week was no big deal.

Children are such special beings that they make me want to give the benefit of the doubt to their parents. I make my living as a journalist in the killing fields of power politics, where one's faith in the goodness of people is often tested. In that kill-or-be-killed environment, it's strange to be reminded that many of your enemies are Daddy or Mommy to somebody.

When Ed Martin got his job as Gov. Matt Blunt's chief of staff, he tried to create this honeymoon period where even journalists who had been killing him, like myself, received direct personal calls from him, were left with his cell phone number and offered immediate access any time we needed to speak to him.

I continued to kill him in print, until the day he resigned. Nothing personal. Martin stands for what I most strongly oppose in Missouri politics: he wants to criminalize abortion, eliminate sexual education, privatize public schools, and destroy the Missouri Non-Partisan Court Plan, which has established in this state a model court system.

But he ran the governor's office, and I had his cell phone number, so I took him up on his offer. I called him one day for a quote about something. As he was talking to me, I could tell he was in the middle of picking up a child from school. For a moment there, whether I wanted to or not, I softened on Martin. I identified with the enemy, for one brief moment. Federalist Republican or progressive Democrat, blood red or sky blue, we are all more or less the same person in those five seconds when we are telling the child in the back seat to be quiet for a minute, Daddy is on the phone.

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