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Sleepless in St. Paul

I have been asked what advice I might have for the Palin family. For the record, no Palin (nor Levi Johnston, for that matter) has written in. But the drama surrounding the family life of John McCain’s running mate, for whatever reason, has riveted the country. Maybe the fact that Sarah Palin is the first female Republican vice-presidential nominee is responsible for all this interest. Or it might be the fact that she is good-looking. Or that she was runner-up in the Miss Alaska contest. Or that she has five children, some of whom are the subject of gossip. Or that her husband is a part Eskimo, snowmobiling, professional fisherman. Or that she is under an ethics investigation. Or that her suitability for the office of vice-president is being questioned because of her limited experience in a state with the population of approximately two Cincinnatis.

Three days after Palin’s addition to the Republican ticket was announced, the McCain campaign revealed that Palin’s 17-year-old daughter, Bristol, is pregnant. To be solidly behind their daughter and reject any notion of shame, the Palins not only announced the young woman’s pregnancy, but they also said (1) she was going to have the baby and (2) she and the father-to-be would be married. I happen to think that 17- and 18-year-old people should not marry. I think the young man should be active in the baby’s life, but marriage should be put off until both parents are more mature. I say this because, often, the people we would choose to marry in high school are not the same ones we would pick in our 20s. When one or both young people feel robbed of their youth, it only contributes to feelings of resentment and, often, early divorce. This young man, particularly, might do well with a few more single years under his belt. I say this because, according to the New York Post, he has written on his MySpace page (since removed):

“I’m a f - - -in’ redneck” who likes to snowboard and ride dirt bikes. “But I live to play hockey. I like to go camping and hang out with the boys, do some fishing, shoot some s- - - and just f - - -in’ chillin’ I guess.”

“Ya f - - - with me I’ll kick [your] ass,” he adds.

He also claims to be “in a relationship,” but states, “I don’t want kids.”

Though he was all smiles when he joined the family tableau following Sarah Palin’s RNC speech, chewing gum the whole time (an activity, like belching, best done in private), his online self-evaluation would suggest that he may not be ready to settle down. 

I find it admirable that Bristol’s parents took a positive, public approach to their future grandchild. They said they were proud of their daughter’s decision to have the baby. No one, of course, has any idea of what went on when young Bristol broke the news to her parents. I’m not sure “proud” would have been the word spoken in that fraught moment. But then again, you never know. From sleuthing around in Alaskan records, it appears that when Sarah and Todd married, they, too, may have already started a family. But as my mother used to say, “The baby wasn’t early, the wedding was late.” 

Another issue much discussed is how a mother would manage the four children still at home. (Track, the son named for a favorite high school activity, is on his way to Iraq.) It just seems like a lot to be a mom to all those kids while being President McCain’s partner, going to funerals abroad, and being on deck to break tie votes in the Senate. The new baby being a special needs infant with Down syndrome might further complicate things. Time just seems to get gobbled up when you’re raising children--or, come to think of it, even when you’re not. I have a girlfriend who e-mailed me just today saying she had to get ready to leave the country, get a manicure and pedicure, have her hair cut, and she was, frankly, too busy to be vice president. I would probably say the same goes for me.

As any married woman knows, she also has to consider Todd Palin's feelings, as the egos of our spouses are delicate things. One could easily surmise that moving into the Naval Observatory right after Dick Cheney, as the non-office-holding spouse, could put a certain strain on a marriage. And don’t forget that whatever fish the "first dude" might be able to catch in the Potomac River or in Rock Creek Park would certainly be inferior to the ones he'd snare on a big boat in Alaska.

Another problem is tied to "Troopergate," the ethics investigation. I am not so concerned about Ms. Palin allegedly trying to have her ex-brother-in-law fired from his state trooper’s job as I am about her thought process. When child and spousal support are required, as the judge in the case has commented, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to try to get the man fired from his job. Those of us who have lived through this (I’m talking about being in the position of Sarah’s sister, not being a state trooper) may want the guy shot from a cannon, but we definitely want him employed.

In any case, I wish the Family Palin all the best, and should they need guidance, I am here for them.

Margo Howard writes “Dear Margo” for Yahoo! News and Creators Syndicate.

By Margo Howard