Like many children – my children woke wanting to know who had won. When I told them their eyes widened and their mouths dropped and the first question was the one I wasn’t sure how I would answer. I had shielded them from as much of this election as I could, but even a child can tell that calling names, threatening and shouting is not something a grown up should do. It opened up many conversations in our house over the past few months so naturally, their first question this morning was “But why? Why would America pick the mean one?” And as carefully as I could, I proceeded.
For my 7 year old, I answered that much of the country was fed up with the current system – that they were scared for their jobs and longed for the way things used to be, so they chose to ignore the mean stuff because they thought it would bring better change in the end. He was incredulous, “But Mom, it’s hurting people.” he told me. “Well, sometimes people hurt people when they aren’t thinking – they are that mad. So they use force to get the result they want and they break some things along the way. It’s kind of like a hammer – sometimes the hammer is the right tool and sometimes the hammer is too big of a tool and it crushes the things around the nail. So now our job is to be kind and help clean up after the hammer. We are going to be kind – as people that he hasn’t threatened – we are going to be kind. We are going to stand up when we see people saying or doing mean things to our friends. We are going to let our friends know that we are here, we support them and we will help them. We will be the helpers. We will keep doing what we have always done. He replied “I can do that. I stood up for two people yesterday. I can do that.”
Then I went to my daughter’s room who at five, had a similar reaction. “But why? How could people vote for the mean one?” For her, I had a similar, but simpler response – I told her that people chose the one that they thought could make change happen fast and they didn’t want to think about the mean part. They wanted to think about what they wanted in the end. I told her we would do our part to balance the mean and we would be kind and that would be how we showed our country that we loved everyone. We would do our part to be the kind ones. She took this in slowly and agreed.
I was particularly struck by the capacity of comprehension even our smallest children are capable of in their hardest moments. When my daughter went to get dressed she started crying because her shorts wouldn’t fit, then I realized before I started rushing her off to school, that they were her red, white and blue shorts. She wanted to wear “The America Shorts,” she wanted to show America kindness. In her sweet and pure way, she was standing up. We changed her into her Stars and Stripes dress instead and she went to school – standing up. They both did.