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A decade of difference

This is an entry about politics. But it isn't really about politics. It's about life lessons. Which is what makes it, ultimately, about parenting. 

In the summer of 2004 I had quit law school and was unemployed. I finally got a job with the Kerry campaign trying to unseat President Bush in his attempt at re-election. (Well, it wasn't really the Kerry campaign, it was the national committee. Well, it wasn't really the national committee it was a old-style political action committee that reported to the DNC. This is why people hate politics.) I was living in a battleground state and it was an uphill battle. Our candidate was stuffy-but-distinguished with a questionable history coming back years later. Sound familiar? Though swift boats can hardly be compared to forcing your dog to ride tied to the roof.

This was before the days of having instant voter data on your handheld device. We spent the better part of the summer deciding if a house was Republican or Democrat based on lawn grooming, NRA bumperstickers, and peace flags or HRC stickers versus what kind of car was in the driveway. My job supervising a team consisted of drawing up local neighborhood maps to split the team on a block-by-block basis to canvass. We knocked on doors to raise money, talk issues, register voters. More than a few times I had the door slammed in my face. More than a few times, I walked away with a $1000 check in my pocket. A few times, the door was answered by people in the nude. A few times I ran across women who held no political control in their husband tells me how to vote and keeps the checkbook.

I learned a few anytime somebody starts a sentence with, "now I'm not racist or anything" or "now I'm not homophobic or anything" you can pretty much bet what they're about to say is the most racist or homophobic thing you've ever heard. I also learned that Republicans tend to be into well-groomed lawns while Democrats tend to favor a more natural landscape.

We helped win my county, but obviously incumbents tend to get re-elected. Kerry lost the state and the nation in a close-but-not-quite race. Less down to the wire than Florida in 2000, but close.

Fast forward to 2008 and I'm standing in Grant Park on Election Night while Barack Obama takes the stage to claim victory. It was the most historic moment of my lifetime, certainly. Not only a black man elected President, but the entire nation came together and was celebrating. It was a landslide victory.

Fast forward to 2012 and the economy and a split Congress and high expectations have given way to probably a closer election again. But the view of my guy this time is different. This time my guy is the incumbent with a lead. Who'll probably be re-elected in a close race because the alternative is a stiff and the momentum just isn't there.

What does any of this have to do with parenting? A lot. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. In life, you'll have a chance to be on both sides and you should learn to treat each with equal skepticism.

More importantly, perhaps, is that I learned things in 2004 I had no idea would come back to help me later in life. I was doing it for entirely different reasons than what ended up being the most lasting. It wasn't fun or what I wanted to be doing necessarily. But that's not the point. Like a small plot detail in a novel, you never know what will come back to be important.

Things I remember from my childhood are probably not what my parents thought would be important to me now. I'm sure Cole and Leda will look back and weight our days together much differently than I see them.

Very rarely are there eureka moments in life. Things usually happen much more slowly and over time.