Friday, January 27, 2006

Does anyone else think this is strange?

Krista and I were watching The National on Wednesday night and there was a short piece about Prime Minister-Designate Stephen Harper walking his kids to school (a terrific thing for a Dad to be able to do). And when he said goodbye he shook their hands. I mean, I can understand with the older son, 10, (where maybe a fatherly pat on the shoulder would have seemed more appropriate than a hug and kiss) but shaking hands with your 8 year old daughter?! Now, I recognize that all families vary in these matters, and, admittedly, this was a staged photo-op for the nation's camera's, which makes things a bit artificial... but it still appears as though this is the standard morning goodbye to the children in the Harper household. Better than a polite nod, I guess.


Blogger kimberley said...

It's how they have their fun.

8:44 AM  
Blogger Jessica said...

Yeah, James and I got a good laugh out of that. How odd. Or as our friend Chris would say, "Hmm. Curious."

8:44 AM  
Blogger James said...

He's probably been shaking so many hands the past few months it seemed like the right thing to do.

My dad used to send me off with a finger-wagging "no spitballs at the teachers."

8:56 AM  
Blogger Matthew Francis said...

: ) Totally it's how they have their fun. Maybe the conversation around the breakfast table at Stornoway went something like this:

'Dad, can you just drop us off like a block away or something?"

'Well, there's going to be those stupid cameras there, so we better do this right."

'Dad, there is no freakin' way you're kissing me in public in front of all those cameras and stuff.'

'Do you suppose you could survive a handshake, son?'

'[Sigh] Gawd! I suppose! ...if I *have* to.'

8:59 AM  
Blogger Ken said...

I liked your dialog, Matt.

For some insight on how it must be for kids on Sussex Drive or, in this case, the White House, take a look at Commander in Chief some evening. Very good episode this week portraying the kids and grandma throwing a party while the president and her husband were away for the weekend.

11:51 AM  
Blogger Matthew Francis said...

Ah, Ken, you signed up!

Krista and I like "Commander in Chief," though we missed it this week. Sounds like a good one.

12:11 PM  
Blogger Simply Victoria said...

i think i'd prefer a polite nod to a handshake, if i had to choose...

hahaha. still laughing. that's so obtuse and detached of him.

12:41 PM  
Blogger kimberley said...

Hey Ken! Let us know when the fachside's good to go. Very cool!

1:57 PM  
Blogger Ken said...

Kim, my computer froze during the first set up. Changed passwords and it finally worked. Then had to go for lunch in the middle of putting it together, and now I can't find it!

Now I see I have two user names - the other one is "Dad Fach." Have no idea how that happened. My ears are popping on this Learning curve.

3:01 PM  
Blogger Ken said...

'scuse me. just a test

6:56 PM  
Blogger Matthew Francis said...

Feel free, anytime Ken!

10:41 PM  
Blogger Browler said...

Perhaps his advisers reminded him:

"Stevie, don't be kissing babies or children -- it is too predictable."

2:19 AM  
Blogger MatJenny said...

Well, thus may seem 'heavy' from someone who can rarely seem to be serious, but as someone who is only a teeny tiny bit in the 'public eye' and who has kids, I can only imagine the nightmare of living any kind of family life in the media glare. I actually just pray for them that as mere human beings (as let's not forget they are)their family can survive this trauma (no, I'm not kidding). I felt strangely sad and protective toward the Harper children when I saw them on tv the first time after the election -- I guess because their lives are changed forever. It's similsr to when I would look over at a friend's kids at seminary as he was being ordained. From that moment their father was not theirs only, and that
makes them alone among other kids. Everything they do becomes fodder for judgement and criticism based on who Daddy is. That any kid can stay balanced and normal against that is amazing. So I guess I have to say, if they want to shake hands, it's between them, and let's butt out. I think Ben's father knows him and cares for him a bit better than we do!

Sorry to be such a poopy bum.

4:54 PM  
Blogger Browler said...

Ok, but Harper chose to go into politics, didn't he?

And if he didn't want cameras at the school to capture his farewell to them, then he could have requested that they not be there.

Politicians use their families (especially children) in their image making.

Open season.

6:08 AM  
Blogger Matthew Francis said...

Aha! Just found these two comments!Poopy bums and wet blankets are always welcome over here at good ole CRFQ! Good to get this discussion going...

From everything I can tell, it seems like Harper has some sort of a love-hate relationship with politics in general, and this strange media focus on his family and personal life seems to be a part of that experience. He has, til now, somehow managed to sustain a generally 'normal' Canadian family life.

I, for one, appreciated how the children were not on stage with him and his wife as he made his acceptance speech on election night. He chose not to 'use' his family in this way which seems to be done so often by politicians (especially those trying to finesse their image and appear to be 'your average man.') Harper didn't do that, which further demonstrates that he doesn't really care about that type of image-making politics, which I also find admirable. Neither were they surrounded by hangers-on and political supporters. It was just them - and, from what I've read, Laureen Harper is not your stereotypical 'political wife' either.

Perhaps part of the awkwardness of the handshaking scene at the school is part of Harper's own love-hate relationship with the photo-ops and soundbites that make up party politics today. He clearly finds them somewhat detestable, and no doubt this was part of the reason he both left politics in the mid-90s and returned. Let's face it, Harper returned to seek the leadership because of Stockwell day, who basically was little more than a photo-op (jet ski, anyone?) and no-to-dangerous comprehension of policy issues. But, of course, as in this situation, Harper (like all politicians these days) still uses these and other media situations for political ends. Or perhaps he was just walking the kids to school as per usual and just so happened to be joined along the way by the press corps. (okay perhaps I'm being a little sarcastic).

The question about the children of clergy is another very important one... and certainly one that I think about a fair bit, because Krista grew up for ten years as a deacon's daughter and then a priest's daughter for the last six years. There are definitely important considerations with all the (unfair) expectations placed upon the families of clergy (as you probably know firsthand, Jenny). Then again, I'd have to think (and maybe this is just me) it would be equally quirky if a priest was shaking hands with his eight-year old child when dropping them off for school. Of course, I doubt that would be a national news item complete with TV cameras and a gaggle of reporters...

Thanks for the food for thought.

10:37 AM  

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