Every day is the same: I have to listen to two people bicker and argue about every possible issue I can imagine. If one says day, the other says night. If one says full, the other says empty. The occasions on which they actually agree on something are sparse and fleeting. I try to view all of these exchanges through an objective lens, keeping in mind that neither of them possesses the emotional intelligence of a normal adult, that they’re both just trying to get their points across the best way they know how. I try to remain positive and believe that they are both doing what they think is the right thing, that everything will work out in the end.

But then I go home to my kids and remember that one of these two people will be running our country in a few months.

Anyone who’s been following the coverage of the race for the next president of the United States—parents in particular—can’t help but feel like the two primary contenders are a couple of bullies on the playground, each trying to get his or her way. The problem is that the harder they push, the longer they fight, the more alienated and uncomfortable the observers become. I, for one, keep looking over my shoulder, waiting for the adults to show up and drag these two off by their ears. But as November 8th draws closer, that scenario is looking less and less likely. So I’m left shaking my head, thinking to myself Man, if these were my kids, I’d teach them a lesson or two.

If you don’t have something nice to say… When did adults begin focusing less on what they accomplished as individuals and more about what other people failed to accomplish? Wife and I have already started having discussions with Bubby about the perils of gossip and rumors. One of the first lessons most children learn is not to speak badly of others. And it’s a lesson I hope my boys will remember when they become adults.

Keep your hands, feet, and all other objects to yourself. A number of allegations have surfaced throughout the campaign regarding inappropriate touching, rubbing elbows, greasing palms, etc. Now, I realize kindergarten was a long time ago for most politicians, but how can you possibly forget this, one of the most basic of all childhood tenets? On more than one occasion, one or both of my boys has gotten into trouble at daycare for pushing, hitting, or biting. Then they got in trouble again when they got home. I have full confidence that one day in the not-so-distant future they will stop doing these things and we won’t have to keep discussing them . I wish I could say the same for our elected officials.

I don’t care what he did, we’re talking about you. “But let me tell you what Liam did!” “Well, Bubby, I’m not Liam’s dad. You need to worry about you.” Raise your hand if you would love to jump on the debate stage and bludgeon the candidates with this gem. Yeah, me too. We’ve all made mistakes. The approach I take—and the one I hope to instill in my children—is to own up to said mistakes, learn from them, and not repeat them. Too often, however, our children—and our presidential candidates—try to hide their own foibles and magnify those of others, I guess in hopes that no one is paying attention to the issue at hand. It’s not a tactic that usually works too well with most parents. Or with informed voters.

There are other people in this sandbox. Kids have a tendency to be a little nearsighted when it comes to understanding how their actions affect the world around them. They want to hoard all the toys, throw sand just because it’s fun, and knock down other people’s castles because they’re in the way. They don’t consider that no one else will have anything to play with, a little girl will run away with sand in her eyes, and someone worked really hard on building that castle. The expectation—or at least the hope—is that kids will grow into adults who have a fairly solid grasp on this concept. You wouldn’t know it, though, by looking at Congress. Both sides are working diligently on what they believe is the perfect blueprint for the castle. But they are working from two vastly different blueprints and have drawn a line in the sand that cannot, will not, be crossed. “Fine,” they say, “if you don’t like my plan we’ll just sit here and not finish anything. Neener neener!” Come on, guys. My kids are more mature than that.

Honesty is the best policy. You know what happens when Wife and I catch our sons in a lie? They get punished. They go to bed early or lose their tablet privileges for the night. Every time. No exceptions. You know what happens when voters catch their representatives in lies? Nothing. They backpedal and sidestep and cover up until the real story is so convoluted that no one really knows what actually happened. But they all do it, so that’s somehow supposed to make it OK. In our house we expect nothing less than truthfulness every day, no matter how small the fib may be. The truth in our eyes will always—always—lead to less severe punishment than a lie.

With just a couple days to go, many of us are feeling that odd combination of anxiety and hope and relief. How much is really going to change when the next president steps into the Oval Office? Things can’t keep getting worse, can they? Finally, we can go another four years without a political commercial every six seconds. Until that next election cycle begins to spin out of control, all we can do is keep our heads down and focus on teaching these lessons to our kids. Hopefully when they are old enough to run for office, they will remember our words. And as long as I’m still breathing, if one of my sons finds himself in the middle of a nasty campaign, you can be damn sure that I’ll be the one fact-checking him and making sure he’s not guilty of duping the American public. Now if we only had a panel of parents keeping the candidates in check…

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