My two older children continue to struggle with the outcome of the election and the implications of Trump’s presidency (as have I, to be honest). Heather’s kids are in the same boat.
Because my first instinct as a lawyer is to research, I’ve been doing a lot (a LOT) of reading on what I should be saying to them – how to be truthful while explaining things in a way they can understand, and without scaring them too much.
Here’s what Heather and I have come up with so far.
Look For the Helpers
Mr. Rodgers’ famous speech is famous for a reason: it really is comforting to children. And – kudos to all of us – many, many helpers have stepped up recently.
My family is lucky enough to live in Los Angeles, where my children have a diverse group of friends and classmates, including several who are Muslim. The “Muslim Ban” that Trump referenced so often on the campaign trail was and is one of the two things that scared my daughter the most. (The other was his statements about women, which I will discuss momentarily.)
Those fears, which I tried hard to quell right after the election, sprung up again last Friday when Trump signed the Executive Order restricting immigration. My daughter has been obsessively worried about what this might mean for her good friend A who is Muslim. “Will [A] have to leave now?” she asked me tearfully on Friday night.
Of course I told her no, and by the time she woke up Saturday morning, I was able to point to all the the protesters – and even better, all the lawyers – who raced to the airports around our country to support and help people affected by the Order. She found this tremendously comforting, that all these people would drop whatever they were doing and hurry to airports to help people they didn’t even know. It made her feel much less alone.
Look to Our Other Leaders
During the campaign I let my two older children watch much of the first two presidential debates. I regret that now. (And yes, I realize how deeply sad it was and is that the debates were so full of vitriol, name calling, and spite that I regret allowing my children to watch them.)
I mostly regret it because of Trump’s many misogynistic comments – the things he said directly during the debates, and his comments that Hillary referenced. Both of my kids were aghast that he’d called women “fat pigs, dogs, slobs, and disgusting animals”. And seriously, I never expected to have to explain sexual assault to my kids because of the Republican nominee for President.
When I picked my kids up from school the day of Trump’s inauguration, my daughter asked me, “He said he is going to be a president for everyone. Does this mean he will try to be nice to girls now?”
Oof. Out of the mouths of babes, right?
Luckily, I have been able to tell my children that many, many people in America do not approve of the things Trump said about women. And I’ve been able to back up that speech by pointing to the women in our government who are respected by both women and men, who are smart, and who are using their voices to advance civil liberties, equality, and fairness: women like California’s own Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, Kirsten Gillibrand, and straight-up badass Sally Q. Yates.
For anyone who has been on a media blackout this week (good for you for taking care of yourself!) Acting Attorney General Yates refused to enforce Trump’s Executive Order on immigration because it violates the Constitution. Her refusal led to her swift firing by Trump, despite: (i) her nearly thirty year tenure in the Justice Department, and (ii) the fact that she was a short-timer as acting AG, since the Senate is going to force through confirmation of Jeff Sessions as quickly as possible.
Ms. Yates served as a particularly powerful role model for our children this week: she is the concrete example of someone acting with integrity and standing up for what is right in the face of controversy and personal consequences.
Anything degrading President Trump has said or will say about women wilts when confronted with these examples of smart, fearless, principled women excelling at the highest levels of their professions. (Personally I find it delightful that the Trump resistance is being led by women, but I try not to let my smugness show in front of the kids.)
Look to History
God bless Lin Manuel Miranda. My kids are both huge Hamilton fans, and the musical has enabled me to put a lot of our current situation into historical context for them. For example, when discussing the Women’s March and last weekend’s airport protests, I drew a parallel between them and the Boston Tea Party. I’ve explained that protest is part of our nation’s history, and that the right to peaceful protest is so important that it’s written into the First Amendment of our Constitution, which Alexander Hamilton helped write.
When discussing the very serious fights happening in Congress right now, I’ve referenced Hamilton’s cabinet battles. While these obviously aren’t direct parallels, they illustrate the point that people in our government often disagree with each other, and that debate is part of our governmental process.
Finally, I’ve explained that President Trump is not a king like King George in the play; he does not get to make decisions all on his own. We’ve discuss how Hamilton and the other founding fathers organized our country as a democracy rather than a monarchy on purpose. We’ve talked about the three branches of government, and our system of checks and balances.
I’m just going to say again – thank you to Lin Manuel Miranda for making all of this fascinating for my children rather than boring. #EyesUpWiseUpRiseUp
We Are Not AloneMy husband and I have repeatedly reminded my children that we are not alone, and Heather has done the same with her children. We remind them that Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by nearly 3 million votes, and that the majority of Americans preferred her vision for America. We tell them we respect the outcome of the election and the peaceful transfer of power, but that President Trump does not speak for all of us.
Most powerfully, we have told them our country has been through challenging times before, when we as citizens felt deeply divided. Our country has always made it through those hard times in the past, and we will again.
American is already great. We will remain great.
And midterm elections are less than two years away.