What Would Jackie Do? An Inspired Guide to Distinctive Living
By Shelly Branch, Sue Callaway
If you've chosen to have children, you're probably hip to Jackie's number-one goal when it came to raising Caroline and John Jr.: She wanted them to be little APs-Admirable People. And from a young age, they were-despite a tragedy bigger than any youngster should have to bear and the world's endless scrutiny. The classic images of Jackie and her young offspring capture their commendable spirit. There was John Jr. crawling under his father's desk in the Oval Office, and Caroline, grinning ear to car, astride her pony Macaroni. And, decades later, Jackie standing proudly at the Kennedy Library opening, with her heartthrob son and reserved daughter by her side-proof positive of her fait accompli.
Jackie was less than lucky when it came to bearing children; she lost three babies in eight years. But as a child rearer, she was nothing less than formidable. Not to mention nontraditional: She brought a pregnant bunny to the White House so that Caroline and John Jr. could witness, rather than just read about, the birthing process. Still, she was as human as the next mother, and was alternately doting, strict, inspirational, playful, educational, demanding, and emotional. Above all, she had ironclad ideas about how to raise kids who didn't raise hell.
What are the rules of social engagement? For children, figuring them out is a daily adventure. And so it's essential to give kids clear guidance about how to conduct themselves-with or without you. Jackie and the nannies she employed over the years always made etiquette a top priority. She knew, like it or not, that a child's manners are a direct reflection on the parents-not on the kid.
By the time her children were school-aged, they had already adopted some of their mom's Emily Post-like manners. According to Jackie's half brother, Jamie Auchincloss, if there was one piece of cake left, Caroline and John Jr. would never take it. If offered it, they would say, "No, thanks. You have it."
Anti-Brat Strategy No. 1:
Nail the Basics Early
Even two-year-olds can find themselves in meet-and-greet situations, so instilling some early hosting skills is in order. Let them have some fun with it: They can pretend to be ambassadors from their favorite foreign land-a Japanese dignitary who bows or an Eskimo who rubs noses with guests. When her classmates arrived at the White House each morning (Jackie had set up a nursery school on the third floor), four-year-old Caroline greeted them at the door. When they left in the afternoons, she waved the students off.
The same goes for "please" and "thank you": The repetition of those precious pearls can't start soon enough. Caroline and John Jr. went to the White House kitchen to express gratitude to chef Rene Verdon for his cooking (with a little encouragement from Mom). The kitchen staff thought their mercis were charming-and the children earned the all-important moniker of well behaved.
Anti-Brat Strategy No. 2:
Help Your Child Deconstruct Adults
Your Hasidic boss's yarmulka or his wife's wig are the last things you want your child to comment on when the couple shows up for dinner. So prepare your little ones in advance by educating them a bit-and make it fun. Jackie prepped Caroline and John Jr. before greeting visiting dignitaries by throwing in a few colorful details. Before meeting a head of state, says Baldrige, she would take them aside in the family quarters and explain the drill with storybook precision: "This lady is a queen. She's very beautiful and has many jewels and has two children just your ages. And I know you'll make a good impression on her so she can tell her children what good children you are." They were immediately interested-and eager to please for all the right reasons.
Just be judicious with your explanations: You don't want "Mommy's boss pays her the money for the toys you love, so please be nice" to come out as "Will you get me the new Bug Blast Adventure Hero Tarantula Attack Spider-Man? Mommy says you pay for all my toys."
Anti-Brat Strategy No. 3:
Expose Them to Folks Who Aren't Like You
Nothing in life is equal, a reality that hits kids hard in a society increasingly measured by material possessions. Let them drool over their wealthy friends Olympic-sized pool-and then have them experience a less-fortunate friend exclaiming over their stuffed-animal collection.
Despite Secret Service escorts and the relentless paparazzi, Jackie made sure to immerse Caroline and John Jr. in the real world. One frequent destination during the White House years was the home of Mary Gallagher, who had two young sons. According to Gallagher, the first time they visited, Caroline walked into the kitchen and asked with surprise, "Where is your cook?" Gallagher's reply: "You're looking at her."
Jacqueline Hirsh, who was the French teacher for the White I louse school, used to take Caroline for an outing every Monday afternoon. At Jackie's request, they did ordinary things, such as take the public bus, go shopping, and watch Hirsh's son's football games. The teacher would playfully insert French phrases while chatting about their adventures, and Caroline would later proudly repeat her newly learned bon mots to her parents. And during a two-week trek to Ravello, Italy, in 1962, Caroline had as playmates children of local trades-men-youngsters from an entirely different world. Despite the language barrier, "they communicated perfectly," noted Time.
The benefits of exposure to other lifestyles apparently rubbed off on John Jr., too. At Brown in the early 1980s, he organized so-called "punk-funk" parties -shindigs that brought together different music fans, and races, who grooved to both white and black music. This was newly hip at the time; M IA7 had only just started airing Michael Jackson videos-the first black artist to find stardom on the network.
Anti-Brat Strategy No. 4:
Release Your Inner Hipness
You get to be the disciplinarian most days of the year, so why not surprise your brood-and make them appreciate yet another facet of you-by showing them your cool side once in a while? There's nothing wrong with blaring their iPod tunes in the car, or wearing Manolos to the school play. In 1970, Jackie donned a sassy outfit -jeans and mink - to accompany John Jr. ice-skating at Rockefeller Center. As an adolescent, Caroline and her mother often seemed thick as thieves, earning on like schoolgirls and chattering in French to throw off those around them.