Although we may be registered Democrats, Republicans, or Independents, we are parents first. And as parents, how do we guide our children in this post-election world, teach them tolerance and kindness, and empower them?
Like many of you, my children accompanied me to the voting booths on Election Day and helped me cast my ballot. They knew the names of the candidates and that they both hailed from our home state. They listened to their speeches. They accepted TV news programs as background noise. They knew that one candidate was a businessman and that the other had a chance of becoming the first female President. I talked about the election a lot.
Yet, as much as I thought my children knew, they didn’t actually get it. They didn’t understand the significance of the democratic process. My son compared the election process to the cookie voting that took place in his second-grade class, albeit absent the electoral college. My five-year-old daughter concerned herself more with the workings of imaginary kingdoms and her chances of becoming a princess than our democratic government.
My son, a proud reader, likes to steal glances at my Facebook feed or watch the news with me. Like you, my social media feed has taken an ugly turn: online arguments, friends of thirty years threatening to unfriend one another, and personal reports of local hate crimes (a Minnesota bathroom vandalized with anti-black and anti-immigrant sentiment, a child in New York asked not to sit with his friends because of his parents’ support for the other candidate, a Jewish woman in California who found a swastika etched into her car, or passengers who yelled to a New Jersey Muslim man, simply walking down a street, that he soon would be shipped home). This sampling from the Facebook feed of people I actually know does not even touch on the hundreds of hate crimes taking place across the states.
Thankfully, my children are very young and naive. Their friends are their friends. They don’t yet “get” anti-Semitism, sexism, and discrimination of any sort. Yet, I recognize that if this trajectory of intolerance in our country continues, their innocence will soon come to an end. Our children hear everything, feel everything, repeat everything, interpret and misinterpret, imitate, and react. I dread the moment when they ask me the meaning of a swastika or the words “white power” or repeat some inappropriate remark they learned on the playground.
So, in the days since, I found myself seeking out inspiration from books. My children and I sat together reading, questioning, discussing, [Read more…]