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Relationship With Offspring

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The Obamas, January 3, 2008.  

Obama: Fraught With Guilt, But Otherwise Terrific
Obama's two daughters, Malia and Sasha, were 9 and 6, respectively, when he ran in 2008. Now they are 13 and 10. “I may tell myself that in some larger sense I’m in politics for Malia and Sasha, that the work I do will make the world a better place for them,” he wrote in The Audacity of Hope, but his “recent success does little to assuage the guilt” of missing out on his kids’ lives. Things only got more hectic during the presidential campaign: The girls were lucky if they saw their father more than once a week. They tagged along on the campaign trail in summer 2008, but with school back in session, the Obamas avoided disrupting their kids’ lives. (Fun fact: Sasha once referred to her Secret Service detail as the “secret people.”)

The Obama girls attend the elite Quaker-run Sidwell Friends School, where the Clintons sent their daughter Chelsea and where Malia and Sasha would count Vice-President Joe Biden's grandchildren among their classmates. (The school has since made headlines for its Japanese-inspired Pearl Harbor Day menu and one father's $10 million lawsuit over the school psychologist's affair with his wife.) The girls, who are not allowed to watch TV during the week or go on Facebook, are model Sidwell students, as Obama pointed out to a recalcitrant Congress on the eve of the debt ceiling near-collapse. “You know, Malia and Sasha generally finish their homework a day ahead of time … They don’t wait until the night before." Obama has a nightly sit-down dinner with the family. "There are certain things that are sacrosanct on his schedule," David Axelrod told the Times. "Kids' recitals, soccer games, basketball games, school meetings. These are circled in red on his calendar."

Romney: Five Sons, All Like Their Dad
The Romneys have five sons, all adults with wives and families and careers, and nearly all are actively involved in their father’s campaign. Despite clocking late hours while at Bain, Romney's family life was practically postcard perfect. His eldest son, Tagg, a former marketing officer for the L.A. Dodgers whom Romney has called "very bright and tender," described the family's post-Thanksgiving ritual: "We would all get together and play Christmas carols on the stereo, sing Christmas carols together, and then pull out all the decorations and decorate the tree all together." On the even years, Mitt and Ann still do Christmas with their five sons and a growing brood of grandchildren, now numbering sixteen. But it's not all knit sweaters and family games of touch football. Josh, the middle son whom Romney describes as "good-natured" but also "the most stubborn in the family," acknowledges that his father has something of a temper, a "Romney trait," he says. Tagg, the eldest, described his father's signature buildup as "The Step," borrowing from the TV series Everybody Loves Raymond. "For Raymond and his brother, if their dad took 'The Step' toward them, they knew right away: Whatever they were doing wrong, they had to stop. My dad had 'The Step.' If he stepped towards us and he had that look, we knew Dad was serious." But he was Mr. Disciplinarian only when he had to be, Tagg tells Hugh Hewitt, for example anytime the boys disrespected their mother. Perhaps more telling, at least going by Josh, is the time their father, just home from work, had parked his car and was walking toward the house. Matt, the second oldest — and "unrelenting," Romney says — was hiding in a tree and when his father was below him he jumped down and screamed as loud as he could. "My dad sat there for about three seconds without moving," Josh remembers, "and then just started to chase Matt, and chased him in the house. I remember Matt came running into the house screaming 'HELP!' and going upstairs and locking himself in the bathroom for about three hours." The next youngest son after Josh is Ben, "the most reserved of the five," Romney says, and a recent medical school grad. And last, but certainly not least, Craig, who's a music producer at the McGarryBowen ad agency in New York. "Craig, being the youngest," Romney told Hewitt, "is of course our entertainer."


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