Saturday, August 18, 2012

The Secret to Raising a Politician

This morning, while I watched my 5-year-old and 3-year-old sons play together, I realized that they have all the makings of future politicians. They are constantly arguing, they call each other names, they change the rules in the middle of playing for their own advantage, they try to get away with stuff they know they’re not supposed to, they refuse to participate when things aren’t going their way, they scream and shout to be heard over each other, they crave being the center of attention, and whenever they’re done with something, it’s a much bigger mess than when they started. Of course, most kids in that age range do the exact same things, so perhaps it’s not so much that my kids are future politicians, as it is that politicians are simply kids who have never grown up.

Interestingly, politician is one of the very few careers in which you can act like a 3-year-old and actually get away with it. Think about your own job for a moment. How long would you remain employed if you openly belittled your coworkers, or covered up your mistakes, or simply stopped working because you didn’t like a particular project?  I know that if I did any of those things at work I’d be kicked out of my office faster than a chimp could open a banana.

And yet we accept this behavior from our politicians. Does no one else see the irony in the fact that we spend a tremendous amount of effort trying to teach our kids NOT to do the exact same things that we have come to expect from the people who run our country? Makes you wonder if the parents of politicians just didn’t even bother teaching good behavior. Perhaps politicians are simply the products of lazy parenting. Or maybe, just maybe, it wasn’t so much lazy as intentional.

I can picture it now—little Johnny rips a toy out of his sister’s hand, wings it across the room shattering it into a thousand hopeless shards, then points at his forlorn sis and shouts as loud as he can, “She did it!” The mom is about to discipline the holy terror when the dad stops her and says, “No, no. Let him be. Maybe one day he’ll be a senator!” Sure enough, 40 years later little Johnny’s taking political contributions from special interest groups and sponsoring a bill to open up a nuclear power plant next to a preschool.

As for my kids, my wife and I are at least attempting to teach them good manners, so if they wind up pursuing a career in politics it’s not our fault. I’ll blame it on their teachers.