JWR Jeff JacobyBen WattenbergTony Snow
Mona CharenDr. Laura
Linda Chavez

Paul Greenberg Larry ElderJonathan S. Tobin
Thomas SowellMUGGERWalter Williams
Don FederCal Thomas
Political Cartoons
Left, Right & Center

Click on banner ad to support JWR

Jewish World Review /Jan. 21, 1999 / 4 Shevat, 5759

Tony Snow

Tony Snow What my 3-year-old taught me

(JWR) --- (http://www.jewishworldreview.com) OUR SON ROBBIE, 39 months old and counting, has begun taking notice of the world and asking questions about it.

He chatters non-stop. Almost all his statements consist of small declarations followed by the single word "right?"

On the morning that preceded White House legal counsel Charles Ruff's presentation at the president's impeachment trial -- also the day of the State of the Union address -- Robbie toddled into my bedroom. I was bent over the sink, shaving and mulling the day's prospective events, when he decided to interrogate.

"That's soap on your face, right?"

"It's shaving cream. That's a kind of soap."

"It's for your face, right?"

"Yeah. It helps me cut all the little hairs on my face without cutting my face."

He stopped for a moment and gazed critically at me. "You have dark hair, right? It's black, right?"

"Well, honey, it's dark brown."

"I'm going to get black hair, right?" "Your hair will get darker, just as Mommy's and Daddy's did."

"When I get older, I'll get big, right?"


"And when Kendall gets older, she'll be big, right?"

"Yes, honey."

"And when Kristi gets older, she'll be big, right?"

"Kristi will get bigger, too."

"And then you won't have any babies!"


With that, he quit the room to play Robin Hood in the hall. I stayed in place, dumbfounded. In the space of a few short questions, my towheaded boy had moved from the properties of gelatinous foaming face goo to the innermost fears of every parent -- growing old, watching our hair color change and girding for our children's own movement into adulthood.

Not even Kenneth Starr swoops in for the kill that quickly. So while Robbie cavorted in the hall, making imaginary sword sounds ("Kshhht! Kshhht! Take that!"), I stared at my slack-jawed self -- or what portions I could see through the streaks of foam.

My life is full these days. I love my wife more than I can say, and my children have blessed my life in ways I cannot completely comprehend.

I also have a full plate at work. Bill Clinton is performing the Mother of All Political Bungee-Jumping Routines. Foreign economies have crept to the brink of collapse. Terrorists continue plotting to disrupt our lives.

Religious and ethnic feuds are erupting again into warfare. The once-revered international Olympic movement stands exposed as susceptible to low-cost bribery. This welter of sin and confusion has given the journalism business a big jolt. It also has forced many of us to think afresh about the relationships between law, politics, morality and civility.

Yet, at the same time these dramas have been exploding across the screens of our lives, another phenomenon has been taking place. My children have been growing older, taller, smarter -- and, minute by minute, closer to becoming the sovereigns of their own lives.

Despite the maelstrom of global change, the things that shape us most surely and profoundly transpire within the walls of our own homes -- and most of the time, we aren't even aware of them. Life's greatest joys creep up on us slowly; they take us by surprise. By the same token, the most disabling tragedies begin with the barely perceptible erosion of precious things -- trust, companionship, love.

Here's a common example: When I work late, my wife toils without respite, managing a household and tending to our children's needs. The kids come to think of their dad more as a genial visitor than a father and husband.

Perhaps worst of all, the children begin to take absences for granted.

Nothing cuts like the question: "Daddy, are you coming home late again?"

Equally poignant is the predicament of the president and his Republican tormentors, many of whom have become more enamored with their status as bit players in history than with their responsibilities as humans upon whom family members and friends depend.

Adult life pitches us into a blur of rapidly passing crises and preoccupations, and the chief challenge for any of us is to contend with quotidian urgencies without sacrificing our priorities.

Occasionally, people lose their way and regain their perspective only after suffering a shattering reversal or loss. But sometimes, we get lucky --- thanks to 3-year-olds who know how to ask a few obvious questions and thus guide us toward redemption.



01/17/99:Don't be fooled, folks
01/14/99: Must a pol be ‘baaaad’ in order to get elected?
01/12/99: Jumpin’ Jack (Kemp)
01/08/99 : Hot air in the Windy City

©1999, Creators Syndicate