Presidential Kids Have A Huge Burden
I feel for the President's kids...
One thing I've noticed, comparing the Canadian political scene with the American one: I feel sorrier for the kids of United States presidents than I do for the kids of our prime ministers.
Currently, there's a bit of a flap going on because Malia, President Obama's oldest daughter, chose to go to Lollapalooza instead of attending the Democratic National Convention.
The child is 18. She's a new high school grad. She was able to attend a killer party - of course, some might say that the DNC was a heck of a show, too, but when you're a teenager and wanting to explore the world, Lollapalooza sounds a whole lot better than hanging with a bunch of politicos.
Yes, President Obama was giving a speech in support of Hillary Clinton, the Democratic presidential nominee. President Obama understands, probably better than anyone, the definition of historic nights. He's had quite a few of them over the last eight years. He was exactly where he needed to be, just as his eldest was.
Could you imagine the conversation that Malia would have had with the president when she asked to go?
"Dad, hey - I'm sorry, but I've gotta jam out on the DNC this year."
"What's up, honey? You know Mom and I need to be there."
A slight plea in her voice, or giving her dad the puppy dog eyes - every parent has seen them on their own kids - and then Malia gets to the point. "Dad, it's Lollapalooza. I'm 18 now, and I don't really want to hang with Mr. and Mrs. Clinton, again. My friends and I just want to go, OK?"
A hesitation, then an assent from her dad. "OK, but make sure the Secret Service guys don't go too crazy with the tunes."
Hugs all around, but imagine the pressure that Malia might have felt in not being there. She may be wanting to be a typical teenage kid going to one of the biggest parties ever, but she is far from typical. She is a president's daughter who, in many ways, is paving the way for her sister Sasha, three years her junior.
Sure, the Obamas will ultimately become a footnote in the history books, though their footnote will be brighter than their predecessors simply because of President Obama being the first person of color to become president. Ultimately, though, the Obamas will one day enjoy a lifestyle relatively free of the Washington bustle, although all of the Obamas will still be fodder for the press to consume.
One of Daddy's Girls
It happened to all the Presidents' kids
Jenna and Barbara Bush were almost chewed up and spat out by the press when their dad, the second President Bush, took office. Much was made of their lifestyle, particularly when reports broke that the twins loved to be freewheeling and occasionally try to "lose" their Secret Service escorts and have fun on their own some nights.
Chelsea, too, was followed everywhere she went by the press, and while the sort of scrutiny that presidents' kids is somewhat understandable, it still means that these children of presidents are growing up with incredible focus placed on them - a focus that can lead to incredible pressure.
Before he died, John F. Kennedy Jr. tried very hard to forge his own path. He passed the bar exam, though that was apparently a struggle - he did not pass the first time or even the second time before passing on the third time and being a New York Assistant District Attorney from 1989-1993 - and went on to establish his own magazine, George, which ran from 1995 to 2001. JFK Jr was a man who wanted to forge his own destiny but was relentlessly pursued.
Small wonder - as the son from the storied American Camelot, the Kennedy clan, and given the tragic demise of both his dad and his uncle, there was mounting pressure on John to perhaps pursue the family legacy in politics, something he was rumored to be pursuing. However, was there ever a time when he was able to just fly under the radar and be a kid or a teen? Was there ever a time for any president's kid?
Part of what makes being a kid a memorable part of life is the ability to cut loose and discover something on our own. While it's certain that all of the kids of presidents had an opportunity to discover new things and do lots of exploring, there was always someone looking on, likely just a few feet away. There was no misadventure sneaking out at night and hoping your parents never caught you before you made it safely back to bed, or discovering what it would be like to stay up all night in a farmer's field or on a mountain and just watch the sun come up when it's just you and the world.
Faces of the past
They've got great lives, with incredible opportunities, but...
Life is about far more than duty. Malia Obama seems to have understood that.
She went to Lollapalooza, certainly with Secret Service agents nearby, and was able to have a lot of fun (it seems) with her friends and some great music.
She and her sister are doubtless aware - just as the other presidential children were before them - that they are incredibly lucky to have been able to experience life as they have for the last eight years. They've had opportunities that few others have been able to even think of, but much as Michelle and President Obama have no doubt tried to give their kids a normal life during their time in the White House, it's not a life that most of us would consider "normal."
They would have had to create their own brand of normal. What that looks like from one day to the next is probably up to the structure that Michelle Obama has tried to have for Malia and Sasha and what that looks like with the security detail assigned to them when they go out anywhere. They also have to consider that, for the foreseeable future at least, they are going to have to contend with paparazzi following them.
That's definitely not "normal" and not fair to these presidential children.
They did not choose the trappings and pitfalls that came with the Oval Office, and while we could argue that most presidential children are largely too young to even have a voice in such a decision as a result of their reliance on their parents, it's still not right that these kids are going to have to contend with huge adjustments to their lives for some time to come.