I have hesitated to write this tale as, on the surface, it contains two subjects that people in polite society never discuss in public—politics and religion. However, since it’s Father’s Day and the heart of the story has little to do with taboo subject matter, here goes.
Before I begin, you need some background to set the story up.
I know every parent says this but our daughter, Donna, was a child prodigy from basically out of the womb. I mean, this child survived a difficult birth and still managed to score a 9 out of 10 on the APGAR. (But of course, she is her mother’s daughter.) Up until first grade, she attended a private Christian school. The quality of the education she received was topnotch. She had beautiful cursive penmanship before she could print block letters. She could also read and do simple math by the age of four. Although we did not attend the church affiliated with the school (we were active in another denomination) their overall philosophy was mostly aligned with our belief system. Notice I said “mostly.”
More Background: It was October 1996 and Donna was five years old. I was back in college, working on my degree as I did not finish right out of high school. I attended a small college with a student body of around 3,000. I would sometimes bring Donna to school with me. She enjoyed attending classes as much as she did hanging out with my friends and participating in our functions. Even though I was a “non-traditional” student, I got involved in campus activities, one of which was being an active campaigner for Bill Clinton’s reelection when he ran against Bob Dole. Given his political and legal issues with the Monica Lewinsky scandal, that election was headline news for a variety of reasons that had little to do with being president.
Now the story:
One day I was picking Donna up from school and they were outside marching around the playground. Her classmates were in a row and she was last in line, jumping up and down and waving her arms. When I went to the gate to get her, she came running to me, face flushed, out of breath. We walked to the car, got in and I asked her the same question I did every day, “How was your day today?” And this is how the conversation went…
Donna: “Mom, is Bill Clinton a sinner?”
Me, completely taken aback by the abrupt turn of our everyday conversation matter: “Why do you ask?”
Donna: “Well, all the kids were marching around the playground yelling ‘Bob Dole’ ‘Bob Dole’ but I didn’t think that was fair so I was yelling ‘Bill Clinton’ ‘Bill Clinton’.
Me: Why do you think Bill Clinton is a sinner?
Donna: “Well, Mr. So and So said that Bill Clinton is a sinner.”
Me, now aware that the principal/preacher had initiated the idea: “Well, Donna, aren’t we all?”
(For goodness sakes, she learned the alphabet through Bible verse memorization with the letter “A” being Romans 3:23-All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.)
Donna: “That’s true.”
Me, now on a roll: “You know, there’s only one perfect man to have ever walked this earth.”
Me: “Do you know who that was?”
Me, incredulous that I had walked myself into this very trap: “Jesus?!!”
Donna: “Yeah, Him too!”
And there you have it, a five-year old’s combined views of politics and religion—no one could live up to her dad! Not even Bill Clinton or Jesus!
We had a lot of good talks, from the “perfect dad” to the “I put a rock in my ear today” (and finding out about three months later after an appointment with an ENT that narrowly avoided major surgery that she had, indeed, stuck a rock in her ear) and I am glad that I took to time to ask and listen although obviously, I sometimes failed to act.
And, as typical with any kid, that view of her dad changed as she aged but for one shining moment that is destined to live on as I keep telling this story, Donna believed she had a perfect dad.
Years later, although Bill still may not be “perfect”, he’s certainly been perfect for us—a loving husband and father, a good provider and role model. He’s lucky to have us but we’re even luckier to have him! Happy Father’s Day!