Family first

8ball2Sometimes I feel like a Magic 8-Ball, making mundane yet still crucial decisions for my family all day long.

“Should we have pasta for dinner?” “Signs point to yes.”

“Can I wait till after dinner to start my homework?” “Outlook not so good.”

“It looks sunny, should I wear shorts today?” “As I see it, yes.”

“Can we bring snack to soccer on Saturday?” “Reply hazy, try again.”

“Can the classroom rats come home with us for Thanksgiving break?” “My sources say no.”

“Pretty please.” “Don’t count on it.”

Quite frankly, other than the rats, I could go either way on most of these day-to-day decisions, which is why I try to not to waste a whole lot of thought on the more mundane matters of motherhood. Sometimes I actually do use a Magic 8-Ball to make decisions and nobody cares.

This past week, I couldn’t help thinking about how different things must be now for Future First Lady Michelle Obama when she makes family decisions. She has described her upcoming role as “Mommy-in-Chief” to emphasize that the girls will be her top priority while living in the White House. It’s not that I don’t think Barack will be involved too, but let’s face it, he’s got a new job and he’ll be traveling a lot and most of the day to day decisions will fall into Michelle’s more-than-capable hands.

Decisions decisions.

She can’t just pick an outfit out of her closet–or dress her kids–without being scrutinized to death. Just days after the election, “The Wall Street Journal” reported that stores across the country were selling out of the Biscotti Inc. dress Malia wore on Election Night, and that Gerson & Gerson Inc., maker of Sasha’s dress, has been calling retailers to let them know it’ll soon be coming out with a new version of the dress (“The Sasha”). What are the girls going to wear? She has to decide–and other people really care.

Everyone and their brother are weighing in on what kind of puppy she should get the girls. Should it be a pure bred or a shelter dog? Should it be hypoallergenic or is there really such a thing? Should it be black or white or black and white, or are we beyond caring about such matters? She has to decide–and other people really care.

She also has to pick a new school for the girls, which she is reported to be researching now. Public or private? It’s a big decision. Amy Carter went to a public school in part to bolster her dad’s everyman image, but she wasn’t allowed to play outside during recess because the playground was too close to the street.

Chelsea Clinton went to Sidwell Friends, a private Quaker-run school, but her parents also took flack for that. Then again Tricia Nixon is also an alum, so it could be considering “reaching across the aisle.” This whole school decision is awfully complicated. She has to decide–and other people really care.

The world already knows that Malia and Sasha set their own alarm clocks and adhere to a strict 8 p.m. bedtime. But what if their schedule changes in Washington? What if they have too much homework at their new school and need to stay up a little later to finish it? Not to mention staying up a little later to get some face-time with daddy. Mom has to decide about that–and other people really care.

And what if the girls need a raise in their $1-a-week allowance. Mom has to decide about that too–and other people really care.

The latest thing I heard–courtesy of “The Rachel Maddow Show“–is that the producers of “Hannah Montana” have asked the Obama’s daughters to come on as visitors or in a guest role “any time they would like.” So all of the sudden it’s not, “Mom can we watch ‘Hannah Montana?'” It’s, “Mom, can we be on ‘Hannah Montana?'”

And not only does Mom have to decide whether to let her daughters appear on their very favorite TV show, she can’t even stonewall them with my favorite Magic 8-Ball phrases like, “Ask again later” or “Cannot predict now,” because the show has agreed to work around their schedule. Oh boy. She has to decide–and other people really care.

I wish I didn’t care so much about this particular Mom’s decisions about her two little girls. I’m conflicted about my desire to watch Sasha and Malia grow up and I’m uncomfortable with the fact that I have such access to the lives of little girls who aren’t related to me.

Should we really care so much about the lives of the First Family? I’m not sure. So I pull out the Magic 8-Ball. My answer: “Concentrate and ask again later.”

Some girls dream of fancy cars, furs and jewels. Others fantasize about being the first president of the United States or running the United Nations. Leslie, however, has always fantasized about one thing: writing a book. She wrote this one with local writers Cheryl Crabtree, Zak Klobucher (“Mr. Leslie”), Nancy Ransohoff and Starshine Roshell. Come meet the authors and check out their new book, “Hometown Santa Barbara,” on Thursday, November 20 at 7 p.m. at Chaucer’s Books, 3321 State Street.

Originally published in the Santa Barbara Daily Sound on November 14, 2008.

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