Trump Kids Shine & Dad Gets Credit: USA TODAY Column / by marilyn salenger

                                                                                             (Photo: Carolyn Kaster, AP) 

                                                                                             (Photo: Carolyn Kaster, AP) 

                    ```` Previously Published in USA Today

Ex-wives were missing from the picture though they largely raised the children.

In a week when Donald Trump’s four adult children were the breakout stars of the Republican National Convention, Trump is getting lavish credit for raising great kids. Their poise, presence and acumen suggests that they are as comfortable as their father in the political spotlight.

Trump has worked hard to put them there, as much for his own image as theirs. The team of dad plus Donald Jr., Ivanka, Eric and Tiffany projects a public image of a near perfect seamless blended family. It just happens to be missing a major part of what made that blending — and near-perfection — possible: The children’s mothers.

Donald Trump was not a single dad. But there’s been a conspicuous lack of acknowledgement that the older Trump children were actually raised by their mothers as well. Trump's ex-wives were outside the convention spotlight, presumably to try to sanitize a part of his personal past that’s not so perfect.

Melania, Trump’s third wife and the mother of 10-year-old Barron, was front and center (for better and worse). Marla Maples, Trump’s second wife, watched daughter Tiffany deliver her convention speech hidden backstage. Ivana, Trump’s first wife, is the mother of Don Jr., Ivanka and Eric. She is rarely seen or publicly credited for her role in the children’s lives and kept a low profile during the convention.

A family friend posted a loving picture of Ivana and her newborn grandson on Instagram when Ivanka and husband Jared Kushner had their third baby in March. But the Daily Mail reported that it was quickly taken down.

When Donald and Ivana were married, the former Czechoslovakian model worked alongside her husband helping to build the Trump brand. The couple came of age at a glitzy time in New York City history and loved living the high profile life. At one point Trump called a press conference announcing Ivana’s new position as president of the Plaza hotel. “My wife is a brilliant manager. I will pay her one dollar a year and all the dresses she can buy!” Equality in Trump marriages only goes so far, but the children were raised by a smart working mother as well as a smart working father.

Ivana recently said of her child-rearing role, “I decided on their schooling and everything they did.”  Don Jr., Ivanka and Eric grew up with nannies and a close relationship with Ivana’s parents, who initially lived with them. The boys describe their dad as a workaholic. Don Jr. credits Czech grandfather Milos for his interest in hunting and being a strong male figure in his early years.

The kids then went off to boarding schools and college. Ivana has said that when they were 21 and done with college, she “gave them” to her ex, telling him, “This is the final product — now it’s your job.”

The first Trump marriage ended in scandal and front-page divorce. Donald Trump began an affair with Maples while still married to Ivana, and the publicity rang loudly and clearly in the ears of their young children.  Donald Jr. was 12 at the time anddidn’t talk to his father for a year after the divorce. Ivanka was eight and Eric, six. Ivana received custody of the children but Donald Trump reportedly remained a part of their lives.

Marla Maples, an aspiring actress, became Donald Trump wife number two. Their daughter Tiffany became child number four. The marriage lasted six publicly tumultuous years before they divorced. Marla got custody of their daughter and moved them across the country to California. People Magazine described Maples as “virtually a single mother living on a comparably modest budget.” Tiffany had little time with her father or half-siblings. The New York Post reported that she spent about  at Trump’s Florida estate, Mar-a-Lago.

Tiffany appeared to become more part of the family once she started college at the University of Pennsylvania, the same school attended by her older half-sister Ivanka and their father. This past year was Tiffany’s senior year at Penn and also her semi-official public coming out as part of the Trump political family. There was a certain poignancy to her convention speech as she spoke lovingly about a father who, in reality, was largely absent from her childhood.

Donald Trump has said, “I want five children, like in my own family, because with five, then I will know that one will be guaranteed to turn out like me.”

The four adult Trump children have now shown their ability to excel to all those around them, including their father. Maybe it’s time for a familial group hug that includes the moms who also helped make them what they are today.

Marilyn Salenger is an Emmy-Award-winning news correspondent and anchorwoman. Follow her on Twitter @MarilynSalenger