My daughter turned four in August. Three months later, Trump was elected President. It’s now the night before Inauguration Day, and I have yet to talk to her about it because I have no idea how.
Potty training is nothing y’all. This is the hard shit of parenting, and the part I was least prepared for. People warned me to get ready to give up my Saturday nights out, my right to uninterrupted sleep, and my perky boobs, but no one said a damn thing about giving up my indecision–my cozy philosophical hideaway when contemplating Hard Things gets overwhelming and scary. Suddenly, not only do I have to decide what I think, I have to distill those thoughts down to something a preschooler can understand.
When Eleanor was a baby, I used to think I’d be very comfortable telling her “I don’t know” when she began to break out the philosophical questions. I pictured it as a such a chic moment of modern parenting–the two of us sitting shoulder on a pier somewhere, or maybe lying in a field of flowers.
“Mama,” she’d ask, “why do some people hate others just because they’re different?”
I’d sigh, and say “I don’t know, my love. That’s a really good question.”
Then she’d toss a stone into the water or pick the petals off a flower and arrive at some private self-actualized truth about systemic oppression because of the humble honesty of my non-answer.
That was when it was all hypothetical, before she started actually learning Hard Things. I don’t know if you’ve ever had the experience of witnessing the exact moment a child loses a part of their innocence, but let me tell you, it is an exquisite agony. And the last thing you want to do in that moment is allow your child to sit in pain or uncertainty for one nanosecond longer, modern parenting be damned. This is how we end up with the trite answers. This is how doggie heaven gets invented.
And right now, on the eve of January 20th, I wish someone had a “doggie heaven” answer for me about the next four years. Because it may seem premature to worry about having to explain the words and actions of Donald Trump to a four-year-old, but she’ll be eight by the time the term is over. Eight year olds perceive a whole hell of a lot. Eight year olds understand what someone means if they say they’re going to grab them by the pussy.
In the past, my excuse for frequently disengaging with politics was that I didn’t feel confident taking a stand if I didn’t think I had all the answers. Sometimes, like with most economic issues, I felt like I barely understand the problem. I hid in a deep cave of “I don’t know” and called it a day. I thought that trying to be a decent human being in my personal life was good enough. And although I still think that is the most important thing I can do each day, I no longer think it’s enough.
I have a young daughter in a Trump presidency, and we are going to have to weather the Hard Things together now. Both of us may feel uncertain; both of us may be scared. But I believe in the power of sacred community to overcome, and having faith in that is like having faith in God–there is room for all of your doubts and fears.
We can come as we are to the work that lies ahead. The most important thing is that we show up.