THE BLOG

What The White House Could Learn From A Bronx Soda Fountain Owner

08/22/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Note to White House budget chief Peter Orszag: You are completely, dangerously deluded.

Not about the economy! (Or maybe you are, I can't say.) But you are definitely deluded about your job as a parent. And so are a bunch of your buddies.

A recent article in The New York Times, "'Family Friendly' White House Proves Less So for Many Aides," featured honcho after handwringing honcho bemoaning how hard it is to balance the demands of running the country with being a good mom or dad.

Orszag, a guy who is, one hopes, trying to figure out how to stop the country from sloughing off another half million jobs this month, says, "There are moments when the concept that I can sort of keep everything functioning well and the kids happy and the job working well - it all comes crashing down."

He has, he confides, missed some of his two childrens' doctors appointments and school trips.

I sure hope so! I'd feel pretty bad if he chose the petting zoo over talks with GM.

Yes, Pete, I know: Your kids only have one childhood, they're only young for the blink of a blah, blah, blah. But since when did we decide that parents have to be there for EVERY school outing? Every soccer game? Every soccer practice? This is the new, wacky trend of child rearing by personal assistant - the idea that kids should do nothing by themselves, that we parents must be present to organize, cheer, cherish -- and if at all possible videotape -- every kiddie event as if it were a coronation. This is twinned with the idea that when we are not present, it is unbearably disappointing for the kid and takes a crowbar to the parent/child bond.

As if kids have no resilience at all. As if they shouldn't ever learn any! As if it's good for them to believe the world revolves around them.

"My father went to work at 6 o'clock in the morning and came home for the dinner and then went back to work till 11 o'clock at night," says my friend Sue Geramian. He wasn't trying to pull the country out of the greatest economic collapse since 1929. "He owned a soda fountain in the Bronx."

Why did she think he left her every night?

"I felt that he was working hard because he was taking care of his family."

Which he was. Was this a huge mistake that would come back to haunt them both?

Hardly! Sue loved her daddy and knew she was loved in return. No 24/7 presence was required.

Another high-placed aide in the Times piece, Vice President Biden's communications director, Jay Carney, chose to go on his 4-year-old daughter's school trip even though his boss was about to appear on "Meet the Press."

Clearly, he couldn't decide who needed him more.

Clearly, he hasn't watched his employer on TV much lately.

In a world where half the Disney movies feature a (bad) dad realizing he hasn't spent enough quality time with his kids - or a workaholic mom-qua-Cruela deVil - it's hard to remember that you can be a loving, beloved parent and still miss a few Kodak moments.

What's more, your kids can turn out all right, too. If you don't believe me, ye White House aides, take a look at that guy with the absentee dad and the mom who sent him off to live with his grandparents for a chunk of time.

You know -- that arguably well-adjusted, self-actualizing, family-oriented fellow.

Your boss.


Skenazy is founder of freerangekids.com and author of, "Free-Range Kids: Giving Our Children the Freedom We Had Without Going Nuts with Worry." (Wiley.)

YOU MAY LIKE