“Let’s read this book.”
Liam unclutched the book from his chest, and I caught a glimpse of Barack Obama on the cover. My heart sank a little. Just the day before, a friend sent me a text reading “If Hillary wins, our kids will have only known a black man and a woman as their presidents.” But the promise of ending old dividing lines would not come to pass. Not only would we not celebrate our first female president, but we would elect a man who is by his own admission a sexual predator. Worst of all, I can’t even really say that we elected him, because the popular vote didn’t.
The book offered brief biographies of all the presidents. We looked up who was the president when I was born (Ford), and who was the president when Liam was born (George W. Bush). We finished by reading about Obama. Our conversation turned to Trump, and the election for kids held at Liam’s school. For weeks, I’ve heard young children echoing the sentiments of the adults in their lives, not fully comprehending what they are saying.
“So-and-so voted for Trump,” Liam said with annoyance.
I composed my thoughts carefully and spoke.
“Well, we are going to give Donald Trump a chance. He is our president now, and we want our president to succeed. We are going to judge him by his actions, and if we don’t like what he does, we will have a chance to vote for someone else in four years.”
I’m not going to lie. It hurt a little to say those words. I could argue that I have already judged him by his actions and found him to be a disgusting person. I could debate that when all the votes are counted and the person chosen is not the one in office, democracy didn’t work. But I felt there was a more important message to send to my son.
On the night of the election, I stayed up well past my bedtime, hoping against hope to see a change in the results. I filled some of the time by checking my Facebook page. At one point, I came across a post where a “friend” gloated about enjoying seeing Democrats in tears, laughing about their misery. It is ok to be happy about your candidate getting elected. It is ok to celebrate. It is in poor taste to take pleasure in the pain of others. The comment stung. But one of the great takeaways from the Democratic campaign was “When they go low, we go high.” I am going to teach that to my child.
At the park the next day, I commiserated with a few like-minded moms as our children played. After discussing our ugly cries over Hillary’s concession speech and our sheer disbelief at how the election played out, we broadened our conversation. Once again, the idea of topics children pick up from their parents came to mind.
Liam and his friend wanted to wear suits to school on election day, so they could look like the president and vice president. I asked Liam if he were president, what would he do. I waited for a cute seven year old response about giving free Legos to everyone, or perhaps outlawing teachers issuing homework. Instead he said this:
“I would make a law so that cops could not pull over and arrest someone just because they have brown skin.”
I was dumbfounded. Where had he heard this? When I repeated this story to my mom friends, one piped up “Oh, he may have gotten that from my kid.” We live in Arizona, home of the infamous Joe Arpaio. As the election neared, she talked about the choices in the race for Sheriff, leading to a broader discussion on race. Until that point, I mostly tried to shield my children from topics I deemed too mature for their understanding. But Liam could understand- It is not right to discriminate against someone because of the color of their skin. We are going to watch what Donald Trump does with his presidency, and we are going to discuss how it impacts us.
After the boys finished their dinner that night, I advised them to go take a bath. I joked “You don’t want to be the smelly kid at school.” Liam piped up “So-and-so never takes a bath and no one plays with him.” Ben and I exchanged a look of what do we say to this?
Ben took the lead.
“Well, be nice to him. You don’t have to be his best friend, but you do need to be nice to him.”
I chimed in.
“Liam, do you know who the Dalai Lama is?”
He did not.
“The Dalai Lama is a great leader and thinker. At the school where I work, we have a quote on the wall from the Dalai Lama. The quote is this: Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.”
Those are pretty good words to live by. In the darkest moments, when you find yourself at odds with those around you, look for the common ground.
Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.