Do you know what is more annoying than listening to politicians say and do stupid stuff? It is listening all day to people talking about politicians saying and doing stupid stuff.
But do you know what is even worse than that?
Having your five and six year old tell you about all of the stuff that people are saying about the politicians who are saying and doing stupid things.
“Mommy, are you voting for Trump?” My son was looking up at me earnestly.
“Why are you asking?” I was surprised he even know the name and was wary of a trap.
“Because Mr. Trump says mean things about women. You’re a woman, mommy. You can’t vote for him!” Actual tears were welling up in his eyes.
“Who told you this?”
“Elani, from school.”
“So you think I should vote for Hillary Clinton?”
My daughter chimed in, “No, you can’t vote for her. Victoria, says she killed a bunch of people.”
Let’s stop for a moment, shall we?
I have tried to instill in them pride and excitement over the election process. I usually take them to go vote with me. We talk about types of races and elections and positions and why I am voting for this person or against that proposition. I don’t want them to feel disenfranchised from the process later as adults. But this presidential election I have purposely not discussed with them at all.
“Mommy, Hillary Clinton stole a bunch of money!”
“Did you know that Donald Trump is a loser?”
Clearly, I have been remiss. I mistakenly thought I could shelter them from all of the ugliness. Kids hear and absorb what the adults in their lives are saying. All of this negativity is trickling down and the kids are having political discussions at summer camp. I had not started the discussion for my own kids and now what their peers have to say has become their reality.
So I sat my kids down and explained that sometimes when people want something very, very badly they say mean things and tell lies and try to hurt the other person so they can win.
My son’s voice caught and he asked, “Mommy, why would they do that?”
I don’t know.
But I still have to come up with some sort of answer. I’m the adult here, after all. “I don’t know,” is just not going to fly.
“Because they are afraid of losing their power.”
“Well, I don’t want to vote for either of them, then.”
Before it was over with, they were both crying, upset that Mr. Trump and Mrs. Clinton would be mean to each other for “no reason”.
My first reaction was to sigh and think, Really, aren’t they old enough to NOT be crying about something like this?
Then I had flashbacks to last Tuesday when my son punched my daughter in the arm and screamed irrational, ugly things at her because she was beating him at Connect Four.
But then I realized that they just don’t get the concept of winning at all costs when it involves other people. It is part of the narcissism of childhood, that stage that some people just never grow out of. When it is them, they don’t quite get that what they are doing is wrong.
It is all about ME and what I want!
But when it is someone else, they feel the wrongness acutely. They don’t recognize that their motivation is coming from the same place as everyone else’s.
I am glad that they are not jaded enough about life just yet to take the political behavior in stride as par for the course. I am very glad that it bothers them, the unfairness of it all. But I also know that “innocence” is not going to last much longer and it will become harder and harder to teach them love and joy and peace and kindness.
But I will do my best.
There are already enough grown ups in this world who behave badly. We don’t need to add any more to the mix.