I am a news junkie and a 48-year-old mother of three. Having my third child later in life has caused me to be a bit jaded, unconcerned with doing “the right thing” all of the time — parenting-wise, that is.
I say this to defend the fact that my 4-year-old typically watches the NBC Nightly News. Not a fan of cable news and the 24-hour pundits who rant and rave on either side of the political spectrum, I prefer to get my news the old-fashioned way, in one, concise half-hour, while I make my family’s dinner.
As a mom who works three part-time jobs and does a lot of community volunteering, I am not home as much as I would like, so my little Sarah attaches herself to me pretty tightly when I am. Thus, her exposure to the news.
As much as I have heard that it might be too much for her little brain to absorb, I have rationalized my guilty pleasure by telling myself that she isn’t paying attention, that it surely goes right over her head.
I learned otherwise the hard way. As she sat in the kitchen munching carrots to hold her over until dinner was ready, the lead news story came on. It was another shooting and the police were looking for the assailant who was still at large.
The next story was about Donald Trump. Sarah looked up at the television and asked who it was. I explained that he was running for president and, in an attempt to make that understandable, that meant he “wanted to be the boss of our country”. I went on to explain that I prefer the other candidate. To explain my choice, I may have use the words “bully” or “mean” to describe the man on the screen.
This may seem like too much information for a child so young, but I seemed to remember being as vocal about current events with my older children, now teens, and they were not traumatized. In fact, they are both avid followers of politics and international affairs today, excelling in social studies. My high-schooler in particular enjoys a hearty debate and has the knowledge and passion to back up her stance on numerous issues.
Nothing seemed awry until the next morning. I was at work and my husband called to tell me that she had been talking constantly about Trump having a gun and coming to get us. The poor child had clearly intertwined the news stories in her mind. He put her on the phone with me so that I could attempt damage-control. When her nerves could not be calmed, he called my brother, a police officer who Sarah looks up to as a great protector.
Officer/Uncle David reassured her that Trump doesn’t have a gun, that the bad guys had been caught and put in jail, and that she was completely safe.
My husband let me know that Uncle Dave’s strong words of wisdom helped immensely, but that it was imperative that I do a follow-up when I got home.
This is how I was brought to find the positive aspects in a man I felt had none.
“Sweetie,” I said later. “If Donald Trump saw you, he would think you were such a cute, sweet little girl.” Looking for words that might actually ring true, I continued, “I bet he would want to give you a hug!”
“So is he a nice man, mommy?” she asked, waiting patiently for my reply.
“Yes, he is,” I replied, trying to conceal the clench in my jaw. “Donald Trump is a very, very nice man.”