The first kids: Kids first

Staff Writer
Columbus Parent

The media, normally an unruly bunch, have somehow managed to restrain themselves in regard to presidential children. They have treated the kids as more or less off-limits. It's the only decent thing to do. The same etiquette no doubt will apply to Sasha and Malia, the young daughters of Barack Obama. That's good for them and us.

The nation's parents have been handed a gift in the form of the Obama daughters. Much like his predecessors, the new president will demand that the media respect the privacy of the girls, ages 10 and 7.

This means we'll only know the best sides of them. And that means they will make good role models for other children. In fact, parents who are on the ball have probably already used the Obama girls as object lessons. I certainly would be doing it if my kids were still young.

Do you want your children to learn about deferred gratification? Point out that the Obama girls were promised a puppy, but only after the presidential election was over. That must have seemed like an eternity to them.

But even presidential daughters have to wait for their wishes to come true. What about adapting to change? In a tough economy, a lot of families find themselves moving because work circumstances change. The thought of leaving friends and familiar surroundings might seem scary, but kids need look no farther than the Obama family for proof that moving, while it has its bitter side, can also be a sweet adventure. Behaving in public?

For kids, the Obama girls seem about as poised and polite as you can expect of someone their ages. I'll bet more than a few parents have said to their kids, "Now, see how well those girls present themselves in public? That's what I want you to do." Even the matter of making your own bed has been addressed.

Reports are that the White House staff has been told that it will be Sasha's and Malia's responsibility. Don't let that example slip by you, parents. The problem with most child celebrities is that they have to court publicity as a career move. This makes them unreliable. No sooner do you hold Miley Cyrus up as a paragon of virtue than she turns up in a provocative magazine pose.

I think it's safe to say you will never see the presidential daughters doing something like that. At best, the Obama girls will live in the White House for 8 years. That means they will be young women when their occupancy ends.

Whatever else happens in that time, I think we can all agree that it would be wonderful for them to emerge as confident, sophisticated citizens. It would also be wonderful for the rest of the nation's 18- and 15-year-olds. Kids that age also need all the truly worthy celebrity role models they can find.

Joe Blundo's column, So to Speak, appears in the Life section of The Columbus Dispatch. It's a mix of humor, human interest and information. A collection of his columns has been published in the book Dancing Dads, Defective Peeps and Buckeye Misadventures. He lives in Worthington with his wife and two children.