I have children. We listen to NPR a lot, such that when we’re driving anywhere, if we don’t have a favorite book on CD, the older one (age 8) asks for 90.9, WBUR. So what if I want a little hip-hop or hard rock or pop music for a change. Nope, he always wants the news.
Granted, it’s not been the easiest year for our children, what with the parental separation and then the moving. But even for kids with the most even, smooth lives, this has not been an easy election season.
How do I know this? Because I while I have my political opinions and am honest with my children — to an appropriate degree — they’d come home from school with statements and questions such as, “If Trump becomes President, he’s going to make all the Muslims leave.” Or, “Is it true Trump would start slavery again? I heard a kid at school say that.” Or, “I hate Trump. He’s a liar.” Or — out of nowhere, it seemed, “Mom, why would any woman vote for Trump if he’s against healthcare for women?” (My admittedly flip and feminist response: “Why would any man vote for him, for that exact same reason?” before getting into a brief explanation, which honestly I couldn’t answer, because I do not understand why anyone but either the severely disenfranchised white male or else someone who’s totally privileged and can’t see outside their own little window would vote for him. Also, not sure where he heard about this except from NPR or kids at school; I sure as hell haven’t brought it up.)
My kids have had a lot of questions. I have tried to be honest. I have been careful not to badmouth. I have tried to answer their questions with facts. In our little bubble, we only know one Trump supporter,* and I only know one Gary Johnson supporter (in a swing state, no less). Fortunately my kids are not yet aware of the role of third-party candidates in swing states. (Yes, we live in a very precious little bubble here in Eastern Massachusetts.)
As kids do, they have some opinions, and they also hear things from other kids.
I went to an election results party Tuesday night (which, yeah, was probably the least relaxing party in the history of parties, with people getting tense; some of us crying; some of us warning people we’d just met that we might need to hug them, for comfort; one guy swigging Maker’s Mark from the bottle at 2 a.m.).
I don’t know what time it was or where in the results we were when I turned to a friend, another parent, and asked, “How will we explain this to our children tomorrow?” Neither of us had an answer.
I wasn’t with my boys last night or this morning. I picked them up after their after-school program today. “He’s mad,” said the older boy’s after-school yoga teacher (also my sometime yoga instructor). “They all are,” she added, nodding toward two third-grade girls talking about how much they hated Trump and some of the bad things he might do.
It wasn’t until dinner that we could really talk about it. Until then, it was clear the boys were a little edgy and angry.
I get it. I woke up and started to cry this morning, after too little sleep. I reached out to a friend and we met for coffee — after I stood waiting near the kindergarten drop-off at school and had to move away so the kids didn’t see me crying, and other parents passed me after dropping off their kids and stopped to hug and also start to cry. I texted faraway and near friends to share support.
I cried more. I tried to work. I took a break to listen Clinton’s concession speech. I turned off CNN and worked more. More texts, hugs, support, plans, love shared. I got myself to the woods for a little bit and ran and cried and was grateful for my local favorite trail and forest and nature space.
I planned on an easy dinner and a slightly more involved comfort-food meal tomorrow, bought groceries, and went to pick up the kids from school.
They played on the playground with friends; we came home and they did homework. Emptied lunchboxes. Set the table. As usual.
We sat down to dinner.
“So, did anything happen at school today? Did your teachers talk about anything?”
Older boy: “You mean the election?”
“Yes, I mean the election. Did your teachers talk about it? Did kids talk about it?”
“Some kids did, but then then the teacher wouldn’t let us talk about it anymore.”
Ok. Let’s grab this bull by the horns.
So one time, years ago, I dated a grumpy comedian, and though he usually sucked, he did this one show at the Davis Square Theater (now renamed) in which he completely improv’ed and completely blew our minds. He started to talk and I have no idea where what came out came from, but it was amazing and stitched together somehow and led us on an amazing journey and brought us out the other side, laughing hard. It was spectacular.
(That was actually the only time he did that. It was amazing. The rest of the time, I winced as he bombed, poor delivery and timing and clumsiness and all that; I think he eventually gave up and went into social work).
I kind of felt like I channeled that one amazing show of his at dinner tonight, minus the humor.
I don’t remember exactly what I said, but I launched into a friendly monologue about how this election surprised a lot of people, but Trump isn’t evil (*crossed my fingers*) and we’re all going to work together and move forward. And we can work for change, but we support each other. and we’re not going to call Trump supporters bad names. We’re all safe and going to be safe. So are your friends. No, we are not going to build a wall. Yes, you’re right; there are a lot of ways to get over, under, or around a wall with Mexico, but there will not be a wall. And the President of Mexico reached out to Trump and they will work together (that shocked them). And other world leaders reached out, and they will work together. And it’s not perfect and we are going to work hard for change, but you’re safe and you’re loved and your friends are safe and we’re going to move forward and work together, and we’ll all be OK. It’s all OK.
I answered their questions as they arose, and by the end they seemed bored. Which, honestly, is fine with me for children who’ve had a year of many tough transitions. I will work hard for change, and they will at some point really understand what it means and why it is important.
**Yes, they know of only one Trump supporter in their sheltered world. I suppose that’s a special sort of privilege. And I would love to know how that Trump supporter can look her own granddaughter in the eye and admit that her vote says that her granddaughter’s healthcare needs and rights don’t matter at all. That her vote says women don’t really matter and they’re at fault if they’re sexually assaulted and maybe they’re not pretty enough to be pussy-grabbed, which they should not dare complain about should it happen. That her own immigrant parents shouldn’t have been able to stay. That her gay friends don’t matter. And so much more.
Friends, last night and today are hard. But we can mobilize. We can make change. Let’s go.