My 7-year-old daughter thinks my husband and I are mean to President Bush. Whenever we put down his policies, Rosie questions our views. She first did so last year, before the Iraq invasion.
"Why don't you and Daddy like George W. Bush?" she asked out of the blue. I explained that although Saddam Hussein was a bad man, we didn't agree with the president's reasons for war. I also told Rosie that I felt President Bush favored rich Americans over poor ones. The discussion seemed to satisfy her but as we mixed cake batter together a month later, she asked if we were rich.
"Well, we have everything we need and most things we want. Compared to most people in the world, we're very rich," I told her. Rosie's follow-up question surprised me.
"Does that mean George W. Bush cares about me?" The anxiousness in her voice made it clear that she had been digesting our previous conversation.
"Of course he cares about you, sweetie! How couldn't he? You're loving and lovable and kind." I cut the president a lot of slack. "I may not agree with him on everything, but he's doing what he feels is right."
That was the answer Rosie needed. It made her feel loved and safe. For her, it's a given that all presidents are brave and noble, like Washington and Lincoln, who she's learned about in school. The poster of a smiling George W. Bush in her classroom confirms that he's nice, too. I guess Rosie thinks of him as a familiar friend, much as she thought of Barney the dinosaur when she was younger.
I now try to strike a balance between disdain for the President's policies and respect for the office. But sometimes my reactions to news reports and speeches betray me. Rosie struggles to understand my displeasure.
"Why don't you like the president again?" she asked at breakfast after wondering aloud what made the past Tuesday so "super." My husband and I exchanged looks. Although she knows that we have friends in same-sex relationships, it's hard to explain gay marriage and constitutional amendments to a 7-year-old. And that would be just one item on a very long list.
"Sweetie, just because George Bush is a nice man, it doesn't mean he's a good president. He's doing lots of things Daddy and I don't agree with, and our responsibility is to vote for someone who reflects our views. Someday you'll understand."
I really can't explain it any other way. Rosie wants her president to be a friendly, benevolent protector. I'm sure George W. Bush is friendly, but a "benevolent protector?" I don't agree with his war, tax cuts, judicial appointments, environmental policies and positions on reproductive freedom, sex education and gay marriage. I fear he's jeopardizing my daughters' futures.
Rosie can't be burdened with my fears. I'll try to keep personal attacks out of my comments about the president when she's around. But I'm Rosie's real protector, and I take the president's policies and positions very personally.