Thursday, January 12, 2017

Teaching My Son to Not Be Like the New President

Yesterday, as I drove Oren and Erez to daycare, I had NPR on the radio. I don’t often listen to the news on the daycare commute because I am nervous about the kids picking up on bits and pieces of information that might not be age appropriate, but with everything going on – Trump’s first press conference, the leaked dossier, etc., I was overly curious about what was going on in the news.
Of course, the words “President-Elect Trump” were spoken on the radio within seconds of my turning it on. And Oren, ever the curious child, asked me when Trump was going to become the president. When I told him Trump would be president within the next few weeks, Oren looked thoughtfully out the window. Then he looked at me and smiled.
“Trump says girls are PIGS!!” he said, and started laughing.
I hadn’t told Oren that Trump had called a woman a pig. He had heard it from a girl in his preschool class back in September, when the campaigns were heating up. From that point on, whenever he has heard Trump’s name, he has the same reaction: Trump says girls are PIGS!
And I have had to have the same conversation with him. Over and over and over again.
“Oren,” I say, “It was absolutely wrong of Mr. Trump to call a girl a pig. That is name calling, and it hurts people’s feelings.”
Oren looked at me. He GETS it, but he still doesn’t seem to REALLY get it. He’s four years old. To him, saying the words “poopy” and “fart” is REALLY funny. He thinks calling people animal names is funny, too. He doesn’t understand that the word “pig” and “cow” are used to degrade a person and make them feel fat and shameful.
 “Oren,” I continue, “There are some words that SEEM funny, but they aren’t funny, and people use them to hurt other people’s feelings. If someone called ME a pig, I would be really sad. Would you want someone to call Mommy a name that would make me sad?”
Oren shook his head.
“Sometimes, even important people can behave badly, and can do mean things. Even the president.”
And that is the end of the conversation. For a while. Until the next time Trump’s name is mentioned and Oren remembers that Trump said girls are pigs.
Unfortunately, this is a conversation I think I am going to be repeating many, many times in many different ways over the next four years. I think about Oren evolving from a four year old preschooler into an 8 year old grade school boy all in the era of Trump, and it scares me. As his awareness of the world around him grows, and he is more mindful of news and politics and our country, I know I am going to have to continue to run interference between our president’s words and my son’s interpretations of those words. I am going to have to have to continue to explain that our chosen leader doesn’t always say nice things, doesn’t always treat people with respect, and doesn’t always lead by example.
As we ready ourselves for the inauguration next week, I find myself filled with concerns I never imagined myself having. How am I going to teach my children to respect others, show kindness to their peers, to speak with empathy, and to exhibit restraint and care, when their president is unable to do so?