Monday, September 01, 2008

Parenting and Sarah Palin

I planned on writing a post today in defense of Sarah Palin.

Not defending her policy beliefs, many of which I strongly disagree with. But her decision to accept the vice-presidential nomination, even with having a special-needs infant.

I am curious about how her family is dealing with having a child with Trisomy 21, and whether they are pursuing different therapies. Witnessing this experience with someone close to me, she and her husband immediately threw themselves into getting every bit of information as possible, and altering their lives to give their son every possible advantage in dealing with this.

I will admit that my first instinct was "What kind of a parent is she ..." to take attention away from her son and put it on running for office.

But ... c'mon. This isn't a case of turning down a promotion to vice-president of Company and Co. This is vice-president of the United States, what truly might be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

So ... I was prepared to defend her willingness to accept the nomination.

But this, now, with her 17 year old daughter pregnant ... well, for me, that's different.

Part of our instinct, with our children, is to protect them from pain. Some times, that makes us make poor decisions. The parents who encourage their children to "stay in the closet," for fear of the discrimination they'll face, as one example.

But to accept the vice-presidential nomination, knowing that your teenage daughter is pregnant, knowing that the story will come out, and she will be front-and-center, not in her home state of Alaska, but across the entire United States, and so, the world ...

A little after hearing about Palin's announcement about her daughter, we watched the documentary, For the Bible Tells Me So, that profiles families dealing with their children's homosexuality.

One of the families is that of Dick Gephardt. Before launching his 2004 presidential campaign, he talked to her adult, lesbian daughter, Chrissy. He knew that his campaign would cause her and her sexuality to be put in the spotlight. He knew she would be a lightning rod for criticism and hate. He told her that if she didn't want him to run, he wouldn't.

That is what a loving parent, who puts their children before their own ambition, does.

Career and family ... it's always something to weigh. It's often not easy. I struggle with it. At this point, I'm planning on going back to school in the evenings, next January, assuming LW's scans are clear. She will be without me for a few hours each week. I think that's an acceptable price for the return.

But to put your child, your 17 year old child, in a position where they will be in the headlines for a mistake they made (and yes, I think getting pregnant at 17 is a mistake) ... I think it's cruel.

Not the kind of thing a loving parent should do.


goodwolve said...

Good post. The special needs child is another case all together. They didn't hide that from the public. What makes me uncomfortable is two things:

One that the Republican's didn't check her our thoroughly... how well do they really know Ms. Palin? I think they check references better when you apply for food stamps then what they proved they knew for the second highest position in the nation.

The second thing is that by not telling she lied. I believe that not telling is the same as lying by omission and it makes me very uncomfortable. I believe it is none of my REAL business what they are dealing with as a family, but if you are going for a top job to run our country I need you to be honest.

Bill Baar said...

McCain knew. The whole town of Wasilla knew...

Will said...

"Cruel"? Being a little judgmental aren't we?

And, GW, where did you get that she "didn't tell"? Chicago Times says different:

And why should she even have to tell if as you say yourself it's "none of [your] REAL business" anyway?

Kari said...

OH, L.E. I agree, I agree, I agree!! Yes, we parents have to go to school, or work in a field that feeds our soul and do things other than be a parent; but I could never, ever have made the career choices Sarah Palin made. The baby needs a full time parent beating every bush for every method of optimizing possible growth and development in the critical first two years of life (sounds like dad has two full time jobs), and that 17-year-old needs a mom that can put her first, care for her, and help her learn how to be a mother. I really don't mean to judge, but it brings to mind a question of "family values".

uumomma said...

Good post. I don't know where I would land on this one. I'd definitely have that conversation with her, the "this will come out, are you okay with that" question.

Honestly, I just don't know. Just as no one knows what goes on within a marriage, no one knows what really is going on within that family. I mean, is it worse to be the "no abortion" parent whose child gets pregnant and keeps the baby, or the "talk to your kids" parent whose child ends up pregnant regardless of all the offers of contraception, and then that kid has an abortion? Which is really worse?

Is she bad because she isn't going to let her daughter's pregnancy keep her from moving forward with her career right now--with this once-in-a-lifetime offer? If the daughter was 14, I'd probably say yes. But she's nearly an adult. Nearly. And who am I to say?

This is what I love about feminism--I get to support a woman's right to choose, even if its the choice I would never make

Will said...

Kari said, "but I could never, ever have made the career choices Sarah Palin made."

Maybe you could have if you had a husband like Todd! Maybe he's the one out there "beating every bush" for the kids. We don't know.

That's my whole point, we can't go judging her for decisions that they as a family make.

ogre said...


There's no way that that putting a 17 year old on public display is anything but cruel--or selfish. The girl was going to be in the news anyway (AK Gov's underage daughter...), but this? This is a whole different kind of spotlight.

There are things you don't do to your kids.

Palin didn't even know what the fuck the Vice President did earlier this year. The idea that she's qualified... after four years of being the financially irresponsible mayor of a town of less than 9000 people... and 18 months as governor of a very small (population, folks) state--and not even knowing what the VP does (it's a short constitutional list consisting of precisely one item)... is absurd. Beyond absurd.

So we're left with her being a token, an image. She's a woman (wild, inept grab at Hillary supporters anoyed that HRC didnt' win), and very conservative on social issues (bone to religious right voters). So she's chum for the "values voters"--that makes her a target (legitimately) on "values" issues.

Anyone with any political knowledge could have seen that. So Sarah Palin chose to let her daughter's public embarrassment be... world class. There's family values for you. I wonder what the size is of the demographic who are supportive of shotgun weddings for 17 year olds and 18 year olds? I don't even want to ask what the odds are of that marriage lasting.

Clue: the folks who Palin is supposed to be appealing to (not to the HRC voters, that's an illusion) are the folks who used to (used to?) send their pregnant 17 year olds off to live with an "aunt" for several months... so that no one would even know. The idea that parading Bristol's underage, out of wedlock pregnancy as some sort of proof to the religious right of good family values is... risable.

I can't wait to talk to my conservative sister in Anchorage and her even more conservative husband. I'll bet that they've fallen over the edge now and are voting for Obama. They were already sliding that way.

Will said...

Ogre, we meet again. Don't know what cruel means to you, but to me it's when someone deliberately sets out to hurt someone. I cannot believe that Gov. Palin is running for VP in order to deliberately punish her daughter for getting pregnant. That's a little strong. I don't believe that she thinks she is hurting her daughter by running. Better yet, I know that she knows that her daughter is going to be crucified. But I also think that she believes that her family is strong enough to provide the support that Bristol needs to get through.

A couple points. First, for the governor politics is a calling. It's what she's meant to do just as your attending seminary is what you are meant to do. She, like Barry and McC and Ted Kennedy and even the devil GW Bush think that what they have to offer makes the world a better place. My guess is that every one of them works to balance what goes on at home with the sacrifice they have to make to answer the calling. Ministers, Olympic athletes, teachers, and corporate executives have to make the same kinds of decisions--in consultation with their families--every day.

Also, some of the discomfort of the place in which Miss Bristol finds herself is of her own making. She, after all, is the one who is pregnant. Her mother did not put her in that position. Along with that, it's not the end of the freakin world. People who are 17 all over the world get pregnant. I taught a few back in my classroom days and you know what?-- there are worse things that can happen.

How does one balance one's own calling against the potential embarrassment of one's child? How the hell would I know? But I do know that you don't know either. What I do know is that I wouldn't brand someone as cruel and selfish for making personal family decisions that might be different from my own. (Well, damn, on the other hand, maybe I would. I've been guilty of branding Hillary as selfish, tho masochistic, for staying married to an adulterous perjurer for political gain.)

All I say is don't say that she is cruel bc. she and her daughter made decisions you wouldn't have made. (You weren't going to vote foe McC anyway , I can tell.)

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GraceD said...

BRAVO TO YOU! Thank you for presenting this aspect of Governor Palin's lack of judgement and sensitivity.

The idea that a parent (not just a mother, as you demonstrated in the excellent example of Dick Gephardt) would subject an already vulnerable pregnant, unwed teenage daughter to the added burden of 24/7 media scrutiny is, indeed, cruel.

Governor Palin could have declined the offer of the VP spot, continue with her duties in Alaska, then run in 4 years, if she is indeed the rising star of the GOP. Hell, the GOP could groom and mentor her in the interim and in 2012 she could run not for VP but for President. By then, Bristol would be a married woman, maybe the mother of two kids and Trig would continue to be cared for in the best manner possible. Strategically, it also makes for a great narrative, all those personal family hardships and triumphs and more executive experience under Governor Palin's belt.

She could have waited, but didn't. Again, if she's the new star of the GOP, then her time will come. Instead, she's using her kid's head to break through the glass ceiling.

Jack said...

Is it sexism to ask the question? “America First” or “Family First” Which will it be?

Governor Palin may be able to take her baby to work with her and nurse during a meeting as Governor of Alaska - a state with a population of 626,000 people. It is a different story being the VP of the United States. I think a woman with children is certainly capable of being the VP or president of the US, but I do question the judgment and “family first” priority of a new mother with a newborn having special needs.

Her husband, Todd, is employed by BP as an oil field operator and works in Alaska's Northslope oil fields nearly 1300 miles away from the Governor's mansion in Juneau, AK. I hardly think he is the one to stay at home with the kids when they are sick or take the the day off for medical appointments. The Alaska media had this to say:

Mr. Palin goes back to Prudhoe
by Mike Ross
Tuesday, Aug. 21, 2007

ANCHORAGE, Alaska -- A decision by Alaska's first family is raising concerns about a possible conflict of interest involving Gov. Sarah Palin and the oil industry.

The governor's husband, Todd Palin, is back on BP's payroll. Gov. Palin says his return will not influence her decisions involving the oil industry, but one former lawmaker who wrote an ethics guideline for the administration believes it's a bad move at the wrong time.

"You know, we've never hidden the fact that Todd had a job and he's created to work," said the governor. "He wants to keep working..."

Anonymous said...

Hmm. I think that the original post makes an important point, one that I agree with. But what I notice about most of the comments is that they just like the post because it's something else to say they don't like about someone (Palin) whom they wouldn't like anyway.

Look - if you don't like Palin (for reasons political, cultural, ideological, cultural, whatever) then that's fine. But don't take a post about a very specific topic (Palin and her daughter) and use it as a jumping off point for a rant about inexperience, etc. Those seem like totally different issues.