Isabelle walked into my bedroom while I was watching the first few minutes of “CBS This Morning.” A story about Hillary Clinton being the presumptive nominee was on. The report featured an excerpt of Bernie Sanders speaking in California. Isabelle seemed unimpressed by what she saw.
Shades of gray don’t apply to the preschool brain, do they? In Isabelle’s mind (& I’m sure many other kids’ minds), they see the world in terms of good guys and bad guys. And apparently, if someone is raising their voice — in Isabelle’s world — they aren’t a good guy.
I typically shut off the morning news as soon as Isabelle enters my bedroom in the mornings. There’s no need for her to hear about ISIS, deadly tornadoes, plane crashes, etc. However, one morning, several months ago, I didn’t turn off the television. Donald Trump was on the small screen. He was yelling about something. But instead of pressing the power button off, I asked Isabelle, “What do you think of that man? Is he nice or mean?”
“He’s mean,” she responded immediately.
“What makes you say that?” I asked.
I believe she said it was something about the tone of his voice. (Clearly, she didn’t understand the scope of the vitriolic message he was spewing, but she didn’t care for his tone).
And that was the end of it — for awhile.
Any time Trump appeared on the news when Isabelle walked into my room for the next few months, she’d ask, “Is that the mean guy?” I would nod somberly. She’s also asked, “Why is he always yelling?” and “Why is he a bad guy?” I’ve done my best to answer her, but it’s been hard to respond in a way that a five-year-old can comprehend.
One day Isabelle overheard Trump call someone stupid. She said, “Why did he say ‘stupid,’ Mommy? Stupid is a bad word!” I didn’t temper my response that time. I told her this wasn’t the way people were supposed to talk. In fact, I probably said too much because she always says “there’s the mean man with the orange hair” (I swear she added the orange hair part on her own.) every time she sees him on TV now (i.e., ever since the day we talked about him calling people “stupid.”)
I never thought Donald Trump would be the front-runner in the Republican race by March 2016! I thought it would be Jeb Bush, John Kasich, or Marco Rubio. Even though I watch “Morning Joe” every morning (and have seen the writing on the wall), I’m still I’m stunned that Trump — who wants to build a wall to keep Mexicans out of this country, put a temporary ban on Muslims, defund Planned Parenthood, and takes to Twitter to malign people — might become the Republican nominee. My daughter has recognized President Obama on television for the past three years (and affectionately refers to him as “O-bama!”). She has heard snippets of him speaking in a dignified manner time and time again. I cannot imagine how I would explain how and why our country might choose a man who lacks gravitas and spews hatred to occupy the White House. (I hope that day will never come.)
This morning, The New York Times ran, “How Do You Talk to Your Children About Donald Trump? Thoughtfully.” I felt a wave of relief come over me as I read the article since I am not alone in having issues talking about Donald Trump with my child. It’s a thing. Parents and educators are challenged to talk about Trump with children since so much of how he acts goes against the kinds of things we teach our children on a day-to-day basis.
For instance, Trump’s behavior wouldn’t be tolerated in schools. Here’s an excerpt from the article:
Kathy Maher, a sixth-grade teacher in Newton, Mass., said that election years usually presented an excellent opportunity for students to observe the virtues of the American democratic process. But this year, she said, she worries about the school’s mock-debate season, when someone will have to play Mr. Trump — a candidate who, if he were a student, would be sent straight to the principal’s office.
Unlike most of the parents profiled in the article, my daughter is asleep long before the raucous debates have aired. She hasn’t witnessed the outlandish statements Trump (and some of the other candidates have) made. My daughter is five. We shelter her from the news in an effort to preserve the sanctity of her childhood. However, I cannot shelter her forever. At some point, I’m going to have to explain how someone as bombastic as Trump has made it so far. I’m hoping I won’t have to explain why he’s occupying the White House at this time next year. I can’t even allow my mind to go there right now.
We don’t watch much TV, with Isabelle, around these parts. Therefore, rather than stay home to watch today’s media event (I call it that since the official swearing-in happened yesterday.), we were out and about with my parents who were in town visiting for the past few days. By the time we got home, it was 2:00 p.m. Isabelle was overdue for a nap, so why not push off that nap for another half hour to watch the Inauguration Day coverage? Therefore, we snuggled on the couch and watched Senator Schumer preside over the luncheon in Statuary Hall at the Capitol. It wasn’t full of pomp and circumstance like the swearing-in, the speech, or the parade, but it was what was on at 2:00 p.m. It allowed me to say, “Hey, you watched part of the Inauguration Festivities back in 2013.”
We watched for about 20 minutes. The highlight was watching Isabelle clapped every time the invited guests applauded for the photographs, the crystal vases, and other things that were given to President Obama and Vice President Biden. However, after awhile, she got tired of clapping. She laid her head on a pillow on my lap and rested. It was time for her to go upstairs for a nap.
As I walked down the stairs after placing Isabelle in her crib, I thought back to January 1997. I had four tickets to President Bill Clinton’s second inauguration. I got them thanks to a connection I had at the White House since I volunteered at the White House Office of Women’s Initiatives and Outreach for a little over a year. However, I didn’t use the tickets. I gave them to four college friends. Instead, I attended my cousin’s 60th birthday party up in New York. My parents gave me permission to skip the birthday party and go to the Inauguration since it was a once in a lifetime opportunity. (Did I mention they were GREAT tickets? I would’ve been able to see the President without binoculars!) After a lot of soul searching, I decided to put family first. There would always be another inauguration, right?
One day, when Isabelle is older, it is my hope that we’ll have the chance to attend an Inauguration as a family. When that day eventually comes, I have a feeling I’ll be watching it on a Jumbotron from the National Mall, rather than ticketed seats. And that will be okay because it will give me the chance to tell Isabelle the story of 1997, the meaning of family, and the importance of waiting for the right moment in time.