Recently, I stumbled across a piece in the New York Times that talked about the official White House photographer and a powerful picture he captured of President Barack Obama. Perhaps I am the last to know this, but it is the job of photographer Pete Souza to follow the President around snapping shots of his day to day and then to select the best ones to display in the West Wing of the White House. This is a practice that has gone on for decades.
These photographs are changed out periodically, with the exception of one — the one highlighted in the piece in the Times — which has hung on the wall of the West Wing for three years. The picture shows Obama leaning over as a 5-year-old boy touches his hair. The boy, who was there for a photo opportunity as his father was retiring from a position on the National Security Council, had a question for the President during his visit.
“I want to know if my hair is just like yours,” he said. Obama’s awesome response? “Touch it, dude!”
I realize I live my life on the emotional side, but when I read this story it brought tears to my eyes. I thought about the wheels turning in this little kid’s head, how his question about the President’s hair hinted at the way children interpret the world around them. You can imagine that he was connecting the dots of the similarities between himself and the President and what that meant for his own future, for the careers he might hold.
If he is not so different from the President of the United States, perhaps that means that he, too, could one day be President.
As the mother of a 5-year-old, I am fascinated by the way they use ordinary moments and observations to shape who they are and of what they are capable. This is great because they are often empowered by the mundane. It is scary because they are just as easily swayed by small moments.
For instance, allowing my daughter to catch me pinching my sides with disgust in the mirror may one day harm her own relationship with her body.
Stories like this one remind me to parent with awareness. It’s easy to forget I am being watched at all times, that even the small things I do have an affect on the person they will grow to be.