I thought about devoting my column today to Donald Trump’s racist bashing of a Latino judge or yesterday’s tragic terrorist attack in Tel Aviv, but today isn’t about that.
Today is about my boy.
My beautiful round son Colby St. Clair Diggler turns 13 today.
In my lifetime, I’ve seen houses rise and fall. I’ve seen the humbling of the Udall clan. I’ve seen the ravages of Travelgate. I’ve seen the greatest wonks of my generation shivering and nude because someone told them “f*ll my h*le” on Twitter.
But nothing compares to seeing my boy become a man.
My son is becoming a man before my eyes, and that’s greater than any demographic shift or redistricting one can observe. Every day he seems to get a little taller. He uses some of his old man’s mannerisms when explaining the winners and losers of Xbox. Although I am legally enjoined by a corrupt family court judge from following my son on Twitter, I could only guess that he’s dispatching the trolls with the same logic and tattling finesse as his old man.
Raising a great child isn’t easy. And I didn’t pop into this world a dedicated father. I had a life informed by the greatest compromisers, thought leaders, and mavericks of our political age.
Here are the fatherhood lessons I’ve learned from a lifetime covering politics:
Don’t Let The Perfect Be The Enemy Of The Good. It’s no secret that Colby is a big time video gamer. He loves Minecrafts, Solid Gears, all of that stuff. It’s also publicly available information that Dig is a politics junkie. On custody days, you imagine that there’s a conflict.
A typical disagreement will go like this: I want us to take the Acela to see the Henry Clay Museum of Outstanding Compromises in Washington, DC, but Colby wants to play a “Duty Calls” match on Xbox. Instead of dragging him by his ear, or passive aggressively blaring the Chuck Hagel confirmation audio over his video game, I seek a compromise. I tell Colby, you can bring your handheld gaming system to the museum, as long as you pay attention to the 1957 Civil Rights Act exhibit.
No, neither of us are perfectly happy with the arrangement, but that’s the spirit of compromise: that neither of us are crying.
Lead With Courage, And Your Son Will Follow. In 2002 President Bush was faced with the biggest decision of his life: whether to invade Iraq with 500,000 ground troops, 1.5 million ground troops, or tactical limited-fallout midrange nuclear missiles. Beset on all sides, Bush had the courage to stand up to his advisors and say “our troops are the best darned heroes in the universe. We’ll win this thing with just 200,000 — and that’s an order.”
Bush led, and all of America followed. I took inspiration from the President in 2009 when, during a rare joint custody outing with ex-Mrs. The Dig, the three of us couldn’t decide where to go for dinner. The bickering reached intolerable levels until I put my foot down and said, “if it’s submarine sandwich you want served with a smile, Blimpie has been America’s choice since 1964.” How did it go? Let’s just say I couldn’t help but notice Ex-Mrs. The Dig scowling just a little less as she bit down into an extra-wet Tuna & Vinegar Blimpie Classic, just $4.99 at participating locations.
Respect The Discourse. Sorry stern dads, but it’s 2016 and “because I said so” won’t cut it anymore. Look, I have all the respect in the world for my dad, Colonel Dig Sr.. But his system of grunts and cryptic phrases like “the sun never sets on disappointment, only pauses” were a product of his time.
When your child asks you why you’re recounting the tale of Whitewater, or forcing them to memorize the names of the last 20 Secretaries of the Interior, don’t just tell them because they have to. Tell them why it’s important to their development into a fine young man or woman. You’ll still force them to do whatever it is you’re telling them they have to do, but they deserve to be heard out. And after all, that’s part of the process.
Learn To Laugh. Ronald Reagan was the first politician to use humor to communicate his ideas and bring both sides together. When his old rival, Democrat Speaker Tip O’Neill, demanded to know why Reagan officials had illegally sent arms to the Contras, the Gipper, without missing a beat, replied, “AIDS is a plague sent from God to cleanse the Earth of sin.” Reagan’s quips kept friend and foe alike rolling in the aisles.
The lesson: keep your sense of humor, no matter how stressful things get. Take family court, for example. It’s easy to lose your cool and give in to the urge to yell and cry when you’re being held in “contempt” for the umpteenth time, just for going on a filibuster to highlight the dark money connections between Judge Ellen Tao and the corrupt Bernie Sanders campaign. But the mature thing to do is, while you’re being handcuffed and dragged away, deliver a Reaganesque zinger like “You’re right, I do subscribe to some ‘fringe’ legal theories: the theory that those fringes on the flag prove this is an unconstitutional admiralty court. Mic. Drop.”
So happy birthday, Colby! Digheads, if you can keep this a secret, I have a special treat for my boy. He’ll be watching Michael Smerconish record his hit show The Michael Smerconish Show live. I know that I’m excited.
Also, stay tuned for a VERY big announcement this week 😉
Carl “The Dig” Diggler has covered national politics for 30 years, and is the author of “Think-ocracy: The Rise Of The Brainy Congressman”. Got a question for the Dig? E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org or Tweet to @carl_diggler. And check out his predictions at SixThirtyEight.com.
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