From an external perspective, the White House sounds like a child’s paradise. According to Business Insider , the presidential residence has its own game room, chocolate shop, bowling alley, and movie theater, a far cry from the lonely toy box and lonely video game console that we fight against with our brothers in our respective childhood houses. But for many children of first families, life at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue was not an endless ticket to an amusement park.
In fact, Teddy Roosevelt famously said (via Independent ), “One of the worst things in the world is being the son of a president. It is a terrible life that they lead ». Okay, that was long before George HW Bush’s infamous broccoli ban, which probably made him a hero to kids everywhere, but Roosevelt’s sentiment is not difficult to interpret: you can’t escape the center of attention as the son of a president, and that public scrutiny is harsh . That is why there is an “unwritten rule in Washington” (on CNN ) about respecting the “privacy of presidential children,” but that clearly does not always happen.
And of course some of these lucky sons and daughters simply did not feel their relationship with the leader of the free world. From the general awkwardness of adolescence to total rebellion, these scions of power hit life in the Executive Residence hard. With that framework in mind, let’s examine the worst things about being a child in the first family.
John Payne Todd was a problem for a founding father
Being a parent is difficult, even for the genius credited with creating the US government. USA Yes, we are talking about James Madison, the statesman whose idea of a strong federal government with a system of checks and balances earned him the nickname “Father of the Constitution” (by History ). But he also had a stepson named John Payne Todd, a whose middle name was missing some key words, namely “in the a **”.
Todd was the biological son of the fourth president’s wife, Dolley Madison, and to say that he gave his stepfather a bad time is like saying that the colonies misbehaved under King George III. Although Todd was 17 when Madison was elected, he spent his formative years “revealing glimpses of his growing rebellious and rebellious disposition,” according to Payne Todd: Prodigal Son . Madison reportedly tried her best to put Todd back in line, including “appointing him to serve as a representative on a US peace commission for Europe.” The role was to give him a sense of purpose, but Todd did not share his father’s patriotic passion. Instead, he accumulated a debt of $ 8,000 for two years abroad and returned “not fit for life in his own country.”
Until the day of his death, Madison rescued Todd, who according to historian William Seale’s account, included “multiple times for disturbing the peace” while handling a drunk gun. “Of all the children in the White House,” concluded Seale, “Payne Todd is remembered above all as the bad boy.”
The tragic story of John Quincy Adams’ son
John Adams II, son of the sixth President of the United States, John Quincy Adams, was not exactly a “boy” when he had his worst experience in the White House. In fact, he was married (to his first cousin Mary Catherine), serving as “his father’s secretary” and living in the presidential residence with a son of his own when he was deprived of the life of “first child,” according to US Royalty. : all the children of the presidents .
The incident occurred during the White House New Years Eve party in 1828 when a guest, Russell Jarvis, was allegedly “insulted” by Quincy Adams “in the presence of John II”. As was the norm at the time, Russell wanted to challenge Quincy Adams to a duel, but since he was the President, that was not going to happen. Instead, he challenged John II in a letter, which the President’s son ignored. Jarvis later confronted the secretary, apparently reluctant to the conflict, in person for “[yanking] John’s nose and [slapping] his face, all standard and approved provocation to a duel.”
At this point Quincy Adams stepped in, but it was too late. The press learned of the incident and “had a moment” with him, hinting at the cowardice of John II, causing him intense humiliation. His mother claimed that the whole affair “ruined her son’s career,” since he started drinking much soon after. Sadly, John II died six years later, after his failed attempt to manage the family’s “mill.” According to the John Adams Historical Society, his death was attributed to alcoholism.
Alice Roosevelt sounded like she needed a little attention.
After earning herself the nicknames “Princess Alice” and “The Other Washington Monument” (according to the White House Historical Association), Teddy Roosevelt’s tempestuous daughter, Alice Roosevelt, earned her own fame (and infamy) while resided in the White House. She was such a wild girl that her father infamously declared, “I can be President of the United States or I can control Alice. I can not do both things “.
In addition to being banished to the ceiling to smoke cigarettes, Alice was also known for ambushing visitors with “a little snake [that she carried] in her purse called Emily Spinach.” The Washington Post quoted her as saying: “My father was president, I had no other responsibility than to enjoy myself and I was alert to everything I could think of.” The same media reported that Alicia once celebrated Independence Day by blowing up “firecrackers from the rear platform.” [of a train], »and also« [shooting her] revolver on the telegraph poles. In short, it seemed boring.
However, according to biographer Carol Felsenthal (via Politico ), much of Alice’s agitation stemmed from her contentious relationship with her stepmother, Edith, with whom Teddy had five children during his presidency. (Edith reportedly referred to Alice as “a guttersnipe.”) Feeling shaken and ignored, Alice perfectly summed up her White House experience in a journal entry drenched in teenage angst: “Father doesn’t care about me … so much as he does for the other children… I don’t care about anything except having fun in a charming and expensive way.
The Secret Service really packed Margaret Truman’s style
Margaret Truman was a 21-year-old college student when her father, Harry S. Truman, became the 33rd President of the United States on April 12, 1945. You might think that her age would have given her a little more autonomy than others, the younger children of the early families, but according to “the boss’s boss,” as her father lovingly nicknamed her, that was not particularly the case.
According to Inside Edition , Margaret once referred to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. as a “Great White Jail,” referring to the ever-curious eyes of the Secret Service, even at the end of a romantic date. “There wasn’t much to do ‘except shake hands, and that’s no way to compromise,'” he allegedly lamented.
And it wasn’t just romance that was cut short for Margaret. She “made no new friends” while living in the nation’s capital, mainly for fear that friendships might not be genuine, according to The Washington Post , who also reported that her mother, Bess, shared the same reservations. If Margaret doesn’t seem to have had a particularly good time being a child in the first family, it’s because she basically didn’t, or as she put it so succinctly: ‘I wouldn’t call it fun. The only thing that was ever lost about the White House having a car and a driver. ”
Gerald Ford’s son just wanted to be a normal teenager
POTO no. The son of 38, Steve Ford, shared Margaret Truman’s youthful complaints. Also in a formative age when his father, Gerald Ford, took office, Steve experienced the equally jarring revelation that he would be doing nothing without a waiting black-clad bodyguard.
“All of a sudden we all got 10 Secret Service agents and life changed,” reportedly said (via Erenow ). Trust me, at 18, that’s not really the group you’re hoping to date. ” .
He also likened the experience to “living in a museum,” his mother once scolded him for setting foot on “Jefferson’s table,” and was discouraged when White House staff did not allow him to park his “yellow Jeep” where whatever he wanted. “Every time he came home, they moved him back and hid him,” he lamented, adding, “I got frustrated and got off and moved him forward again and they moved him.” back. »
Ford shared a fond memory of his time as a first child, recalling a night when he and his best friend, Kevin Kennedy, “criticized” Led Zeppelin’s Stairway to Heaven “on a turntable on the roof of the White House.”
Sounds like, wait, all of that really glittered was gold that night (Yeah, we had to).
Susan Ford Bales’ streak of rebellion found her love
Gerald Ford rose to the Oval Office after Richard Nixon’s resignation. And while that was a shock to many, it was a culture shock to President Ford’s youngest of four children, Susan Ford Bales. «I felt very besieged by the press. They knew where he was all the time, “he said. The Baltimore Sun. “They talked to my friends, people who weren’t even my friends. They wrote about romances that I wasn’t having… I have scrapbooks full of stories, stories that said I was engaged to [rock star] Rod Stewart I have it all. ‘
While that makes it seem like Bales took the intrusion on her privacy calmly, she revealed to the media that “some of the published stories about her” left her “devastated.” One that was particularly troubling was the claim that nepotism was the only reason she had finished school. “I took it very seriously,” said Bales, adding: “It makes you a very tough person with very thick skin. And it doesn’t make you trust too much anyone, except your family.
In the book The Residence: Inside the Private World of the White House (via Erenow ), Susan reveals that her rebellious adolescence made her the first Ford girl to receive protection from the Secret Service. However, there was a glimmer of hope that Susan was on guard 24 hours a day, 7 days a week; she eventually married a former Secret Service agent who was assigned to her father’s details.
Ronald Reagan’s daughter had bigger problems than her father’s administration.
If you thought Teddy Roosevelt’s daughter sounded like a handful, wait until you hear about Ronald Regan’s daughter, Patti Davis, who made Princess Alice look like a saint in comparison. Gipper’s girl hated both her experience and the daughter of a famous politician, she wrote several books alleging abuse and dysfunction within her family.
According to People Davis wrote “two fictional versions of his childhood” before fully airing the Reagans’ dirty laundry with his autobiography, The Way I See It . Described by the media as “the work of an angry daughter with scores yet to be resolved,” the tome addressed everything from her mother’s alleged physical and psychological abuse to the use of drugs by various family members, the neglect of her father when she approached him for help. Oof Not exactly a “shiny city on a hill”, huh?
Things got so bad and so public between Davis and his family that his brothers stopped talking for years, and his relationship with his parents was understandably difficult. Reagan finally wrote him a letter in the early 1990s, pleading with him to reconcile with the family, which eventually happened later.
Chelsea Clinton’s bullying by the media taught her a valuable lesson
There is probably no more famous first daughter in United States history than Chelsea Clinton. His father, Bill Clinton, was already the governor of Arkansas when he was born, and he moved to the White House when he was just 12 years old, and he took care of things that no child should have to experience. If getting media attention to her parents’ infamous marriage problems wasn’t enough, right-wing media figures like Rush Limbaugh constantly teased her looks and late-night talk shows and Saturday Night Live made her the target. of the Chicago Tribune jokes)
But she rose above and took the high path by choosing not to participate in the same way. “For me, perhaps because I’ve had as much vitriol as I can literally remember people saying horrible things to me even as a child, I’ve never found it personally productive to participate in that way,” she said The Guardian in 2018. “To retaliate with rude language or insult someone personally, I just don’t think it’s built that way.”
In an interview with The Big Problem Chelsea said that “something clearly had not gone right” in her detractors’ lives to intimidate a child, but taught her a valuable lesson: “That helped me understand from the beginning of my life that when we’re being verbally abused by other people, it’s not about who we are, it’s about the bullies. ”
Barbara and Jenna Bush: The Party People
The daughters of 43rd President George W. Bush, the twins Barbara and Jenna Bush were as controversial as their father during the family’s stay in the White House. In his book I n The President’s Secret Service: Behind the Scenes with Agents in the Line of Fire and Presidents They Protect , Author Ronald Kessler detailed the girls’ notorious ways to party.
Although they encouraged Malia and Sasha Obama to enjoy life in the White House because it was a “magical place, it was not such a fantastic experience for the staff when the Bush twins lived there.” [Jenna] Sometimes she deliberately tried to lose her protection passing the red lights or getting into his car without telling the agents where he was going, “wrote Kessler. The twins allegedly caused many impromptu trips, which were caused by massive inconveniences to their security details. At one point when the girls randomly demanded “fly to New York,” an agent said to Keller, “These boys were ready to work shit for the night, and suddenly they leave with their clothes on.”
Within months of her father’s first term, the two then-19-year-olds were also cited for drinking minors in separate incidents in their home state of Texas (via ABC News ). In April 2001, Jenna did not she opposed a charge of alcohol possession when she was a minor after being arrested at an Austin nightclub. Just two months later, the two were charged with a misdemeanor offense of purchasing alcohol with the identification of a friend at an Austin restaurant.
Malia and Sasha Obama made sleepovers a problem
Malia and Sasha Obama were 10 and 7 years old, respectively, when their father, Barack Obama, became the 45th President of the United States. According to The Baltimore Sun , Sasha was “the youngest White House resident since John F. Kennedy Jr.” in 1961. Due to their age, the girls kept a fairly low profile during their time at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, but sleepovers with her friends were a problem.
“Imagine Malia and Sasha coming to your house to sleep,” said their mother, Michelle Obama. CBS News . “This is the call: it’s like, ‘Hello. OK, we will need your Social Security number, we will need your date of birth. There will be men who will sweep your house, if you have weapons and drugs, just tell them yes because they will find them anyway. Don’t lie, they won’t take them, they just need to know where they are «.
Once Malia enrolled in college, the tabloids followed her in every move. Whether it was kissing her boyfriend in a back door and smoking cigarettes, Malia couldn’t be a normal person in peace. But in a plot twist that no one saw coming, the first first daughter probably wasn’t supported by another first daughter, Ivanka Trump. “Malia Obama should be allowed the same privacy as her school-age peers,” he said. She tweeted and added: “She is a young adult and a private citizen, and must be off limits.”