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My wife is home. I stand relieved.

Vacation now, you wonder? Pshaw. It’s not like taking care of a child is a job. No, I’m just a shambling lump of barely animate flesh who cohabitates with a tot. Granted, I make the meals – I know Gnat’s preferences in detail, including the daily negotiations to get her to eat her carrots and why it is necessary to have Craisens on hand for the days carrot-talks break down with a frank and open exchange of views. I do all the shopping, which means I am the Craisens procurer, as well as the one who stocks all the other things she wants or should have. I know how much TV she’s had down to the minute, how to install and help with the computer games and the internet; I play the games, do the piano lessons, take her to school, make her do chores and clean her room, refuse to help her with her socks because she can do it and I am not her servant, and so forth. Bandaids? There. Vitamins? Top drawer. Lunch for tomorrow? Already made. We’re out of juice! There are six gallons in the basement.

A job? Of course not. If this was a job, I would wear better clothes and arrange all the Polly Pockets to have a meeting about maximizing third quarter revenue projections. If this was a job, I’d worry that I hadn’t been promoted to Assistant Managing Dad.

If this was a job, I’d be out of here at five, and forget about the weekends.

Which brings us to our favorite gin-soaked-raisin enthusiast.

Q: You'd be different from Laura Bush?

A: Well, you know, I don't know Laura Bush. But she seems to be calm, and she has a sparkle in her eye, which is good. But I don't know that she's ever had a real job — I mean, since she's been grown up. So her experience and her validation comes from important things, but different things. And I'm older, and my validation of what I do and what I believe and my experience is a little bit bigger — because I'm older, and I've had different experiences. And it's not a criticism of her. It's just, you know, what life is about.

Never mind that the only legitimate use for the term “validation” is in a conversation with your waiter about the ticket from the parking ramp. Never mind that Ms. Kerry’s relationship to holding a real job is the same as Donald Trump holding an empty juice glass glaring at the servant who hasn’t refilled it. Leave aside the delicious prospect of future pronouncements from the Reluctant First Lady (“He is a nice man, the ambassador, but he smells like a goat.” “Washington is sometimes as lovely as Paris but the people are not so stylish on the streets, and the men should not walk like they are so American, you know?” “I cure my cramps by smearing goose liver on my shins. I tell you, it works”) The big gaffe was the idea, standard to people of a certain age, that parenting is not a real job.

I heard a fascinating interview on the Medved show this week with a droning professor who lamented the failure of feminism to drive more women out of the house. She’d done a study of high-achieving women whose marriage notices were printed in the New York Times, and found that several years out, almost half had quit their jobs to stay home with the kids. Apparently they hadn’t internalized the New Truths, the Blazing Facts, the Glorious Realization that the highest calling in life is to sit in a veal pen on the 34th floor of a Manhattan skyscraper and type up depositions while Consuela teaches your children how to write their ABCs.

After a certain age, I think it’s fine to ship the tots off for the day. Me, I dread the day Gnat goes to school full time. But at least I had our years before first grade snagged her and pulled her into the machinery. My wife had six months when Gnat was born, and that made a great deal of difference; the time she had with Gnat when she was laid off was a boon, and she knew it. (She only went back to work because she knew I’d be home with Gnat; that was the decision we made a long time ago.) There is nothing – nothing in the workplace that matches the challenges and joys of the first five years. If you can’t make it work, well, then you can’t. But if you can, you should. Dare I say you ought to.

You might find yourself making Play-doh spaghetti one afternoon, and realize, to your astonishment, that you are happy. Why, you might even be validated.

Googling around on the story, I found a WaPo take on Laura Bush’s careers:

. . . Everyone knows that Laura Bush was a librarian and a teacher. Just yesterday she talked about it again for the millionth time in one of those standard first lady events honoring great history teachers. Never mind that she hasn't taught in nearly 30 years and that she quit as soon as her future husband proposed.
. . . Everyone knows that Laura Bush was a librarian and a teacher. Just yesterday she talked about it again for the millionth time in one of those standard first lady events honoring great history teachers. Never mind that she hasn't taught in nearly 30 years and that she quit as soon as her future husband proposed.

The speech is here. Don’t miss the part where she saved a student who’d been knocked off the merry-go-round, and pulled her to safety under withering spitball fire. Millionth time? Frankly, I had no idea. The article goes on:

Laura Bush will always be, in the public imagination, The Librarian. Even for Democrats, who like to fantasize that behind her smile lurks a curious, even progressive ally, their spy in the White House, reading with her Itty Bitty book light in bed late into the night.

Uh – wha? Do they actually fantasize that she stays up late reading subversive literature?

“What’re you reading, Laur.”

“Oh, the Vagina Monologues.”

“Don’t bother. We’re gonna win Vagina and West Vagina this year ZZZZZZ.”

Perhaps they think that the very act of reading is somehow a blow for progressive ideals in this White House. I know the cliché: the only book Bush has read is “The ‘Left Behind’ Series for Dummies,” and he likes to act out the exciting parts by holding a towel around his neck like a cape and pretending he’s Super Jesus. Uh-huh. Perhaps it all comes from the expectation that librarian = progressive, and of course progressive = an utterly open mind dedicated only to truth, no matter whose tender flesh is abraded by its scouring power.

Well. I got an email at the paper the other day:

Hmm. I opened it. Seems a local (Minnesota) printing company refused to print something critical of the Bush administration, and librarians across the land – non-partisan, dedicated only to the transmission of truth – rallied to defend the author against the mean renegers. And what point was this brave & incisive journal trying to get across?

The owners of BrioPrint of Minnesota took issue with a satirical cartoon showing Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld in Nazi uniforms, a comic strip depicting the Bush administration as racists on a southern plantation using Colin Powell in slave's clothing as a mouthpiece to deceive the UN into supporting Bush's invasion of Iraq, and a parody of Mel Gibson's ideas for new movies that reinforce negative stereotypes like those of the Jews in his "Passion of the Christ".

Uh huh. There may be much less to this than meets the eye, if you trust this post from the Librarian and Information Science News website. (I plan to make a few calls on this, just for grins.) Read that link before you proceed.

So apparently the nation’s librarians did not rise up as one howling voice to demand that Colin Powell be shown in slave garments. But the press release I got had this section, which isn't in the press release cited above:

One of the thousands of librarians who took up arms on the magazine's behalf is Susan Rohrbough, Head of the Information Center for Ohio University Libraries. "It annoys me that again and again we must keep defending our rights" said Rohrbough. "I don't know whether some people really want a repressed society or are just ignorant of the consequences of silencing opposing voices. Do they think that they honestly have a right to silence opposing viewpoints? This is the USA, not a third world country for crying out loud".

There you go. Refusing to print pictures of Administration figures dressed as Nazis is “silencing opposing voices,” and results in a “repressed society.” I assume this works both ways, and Ms Rohrbough would pitch a fit if a “satirical cartoon” about the Kerry Edwards ticket turns out to show both as fang-toothed abortionists in bloody smocks pulling children out of wombs and tossing them to Jewish pastry-makers for doughnut fillings. Hey, it’s a valid viewpoint.

Read Klemperer’s Nazi-year diaries at lunch today. He loved cats. Had two. He subscribed to a magazine for cat fanciers. In 1934 it started to push the superiority of the “Aryan Cat” over all other breeds.

Think of that.

Racial identity extended down to the housepet level – in 1934. That’s why the Nazis remain the gold standard for this sort of perversity. You can imagine a sensible librarian in 1934 – say, oh, Laura Bush in a previous life – coming across the issue about the perils of Jewish Felines. If she considered the world she left to her children a more important obligation than her career, she’d quietly slip the issue in the trash bin.

It all depends on the meaning of the word “job,” I suppose.

Whoa: have I written myself into a corner, or what? I have no idea how to tie this all together, except LOOK! CUTE JAPANESE EGGS!