The Paradox of Parenting in the Trump Era
By Farrah Alexander
“Mom, do you like Donald Trunk?” my four-year-old son asked with a somber, quizzical expression.
My son, with his limited knowledge of our nation’s current polarity, couldn’t have possibly understood what a loaded question this was. Although I’m pretty passionate about political issues, I tend to shield my children from civil discourse. At least until after kindergarten.
But I knew my son needed an answer to this question, which was very simple in his mind. He’s starting to grasp new concepts such as that he lives in the United States. Also, we have a president of the United States who sits in a very prestigious looking office and wears suits. Also, his mom doesn’t seem to like the president very much, which is strange because she seems to like everyone.
One week before the 2016 presidential election, I wrote a piece published on HuffPost and Scary Mommy with the headline “I Have to be Able to Tell My Children I Stood Against Trump.” In the piece, I discussed why I felt a personal responsibility as a parent to do everything I can to prevent a Trump presidency:
“I believe after our children learn of the atrocities committed by Trump and the carnage left behind by his vile campaign, they’ll then look to us – as survivors of the 2016 election – and want to know how we felt. More than that, what did we do about it?”
Honestly, I never genuinely considered the possibility of Trump actually winning. I felt assured by Nate Silver’s projections that Clinton would win by a large margin. But beyond poll numbers, I really just had enough faith in the American people that they would not elect someone who spewed vitriol and embraced such intolerance. And yet, here we are and my son is asking if I like Donald Trunk.
It’s quite the parenting dilemma. I have to explain to my children that while Trump holds our nation’s highest office, I hope they never grow up to be like him.
I may have differing political opinions than Trump, but that has no bearing on my opinion of him. If my son asked about George W. Bush, I would choose to talk about how he sought to unite our country after the most horrific terrorist attack most of us had ever seen. If my son asked about Barack Obama, I would discuss how he worked so audaciously his entire life to break down walls and became the first black president. Even if he asked about a presidential candidate such as John McCain, who I didn’t vote for, I would discuss his tremendous courage and bravery in an utterly hopeless scenario.
I plan to teach my children to treat everyone they encounter with respect, regardless of religion, gender, nationality, sexuality, race, disability or any other inherent differences. They are neither inferior nor superior to their peers. I’ll encourage them to treat others as they would like to be treated and choose to be kind.
When I see Trump mocking a disabled reporter, hear him bragging about committing sexual assault and read his callous insults on Twitter, these are all examples of how I raise my children not to behave.
I believe the Maya Angelou adage that when someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time. With Trump’s position of high visibility, I know my kids will be exposed to both his past transgressions and his future offenses. I’m not a total pessimist, but I’m not hopeful that Trump will suddenly put a stop to the same vile behavior that brought him into the political realm.
Many have accused Trump of acting like a toddler. As a parent of a toddler, I find this assertion completely absurd. My toddler is more mild mannered, sweeter and doesn’t whine nearly as much.
I understand my children will likely see Trump as someone who has had fame, fortune and now the oval office. After all, his name alone is plastered in large gold letters on the sides of skyscrapers in most major tourist destinations. Many people probably view such success as a goal to aspire towards. So, I know it’s difficult to tell my children not to emulate the behavior of someone in such a unique position of power.
Behind the glitz, tweets and presidential seals, Donald Trump is just a man. He’s a man who has said and done some very bad things that lead me to believe he may not be very nice.
I always want to protect my children from bullies as they grow and bullying becomes an unfortunate reality. But even more so, I never want them to become bullies. Zero-tolerance policies common in schools would discipline any student using language like Trump routinely uses in an attempt to eliminate the bullying behavior. Elementary school students are not allowed to model the behavior they see from the sitting president.
Success is a worthy goal and I hope I give my children the tools to achieve their own definition of success. But success is not the one and only goal to chase in life. Whether my children grow up to be professional street performers who juggle fire for tips in a can or real estate moguls, I just hope they also have character and integrity. I hope I raised them to be good humans.
I want to give my children the strength and courage to stand up for what is right, even if it’s difficult. It’s my job to monitor who influences my children, helps shape their character and molds them into the contributing adults our society depends on. I know I don’t want that influence to come from Donald Trump.
No, my son, your mother does not like Donald Trump.