From the moment my kids could understand words, I’ve told them that there is nothing more important in this world than kindness. I decided early on in my parenting that was the one thing I wanted them to remember after all my admonishments about getting their homework done on time and not running with metal skewers in their mouths were long forgotten.
But how do I teach them about the importance of kindness under the Trump administration?
Since the election, Trump has managed to do something I consider shocking, shameful or embarrassing to our country nearly every single day. I watch the news. I talk about the day’s events with my husband when he gets home from work, and my children, who are almost 9 years old, try to participate with their own elementary-school insults about the president. My daughter, for example, likes to call him “Ronald Dump,” which is silly and fairly harmless, but still makes me uncomfortable.
I have spent so much of my children’s lives talking about how we don’t make fun of people — how we never know what someone else is going through, and that while there is behavior that is unacceptable and wrong, when we are cruel to others we are no better than they are. But now, not only is cruelty celebrated in our country, but our president doles it out daily with abandon. And I don’t know how else to respond to it but with anger. When my kids do the same, however, I worry — they’re too young to understand the full weight of Trump’s words. All they can do, for the most part, is parrot back my opinions in order to seek approval. And it’s hard for me to hear them reaffirm a hatred that they don’t completely understand.
What I remind myself, and what allows me to continue to rail against our president in front of my children, is that there are, in fact, inarguable rights and wrongs.
- Spending your first day as the leader of the free world arguing about how many people attended your inauguration? Wrong.
- Taking away people’s health care without having a replacement in place? Wrong.
- Billing taxpayers $14 billion for a wall when we have more important things to spend that money on? Wrong.
- Claiming that millions of people voted illegally without a shred of proof? Wrong.
- Silencing the EPA and National Park Services for their positions on climate change? Wrong.
- Building a pipeline that will hurt the environment and destroy land that is sacred to Native Americans? Wrong.
- Taking funding away from groups in other countries that provide abortions, which will result in women’s deaths? Wrong.
When something is wrong, I want them to be able to be able to stand up and say, “This is not OK. This will never be OK, and I will fight for what’s right.” I want them to be able to recognize injustice and cruelty and have the courage to speak against it. I will teach my children that there is a difference between being kind and being nice, and that while we always want to be kind regardless of what the opposition is doing, that doesn’t mean we always have to be nice.