Last week while driving in our car, my 5 year old started talking to me about our current president:
“I think Donald trump will be there next time we pick.”
“What? What are you saying?” I was listening to music and not expecting a thought-provoking conversation from the backseat.
“Next time we pick a president I think he’ll be there.”
“You’re probably right.”
“I don’t want him to win though.”
“He’s not very nice. Why don’t you?”
“Well I don’t because I think our president should be someone who cares about everyone who lives here, at least, and they should care about more than what benefits them.” He nodded in agreement and I added, “But he is our president now, so we just need to work together and be nice and do good things for others when we can.”
“Like Hillary Clinton? I wish she was our president. She was really nice. She cared about schools and kids and everyone.”
“How do you know that? Did someone tell you that? Did I?”
“I told myself.”
He continues, “maybe Hillary Clinton will be president next time.”
“I doubt it, honey.”
“Well, I hope it’s someone even nicer then. Even better! And not Donald trump. Maybe he’ll get fired.”
My husband and I do speak about the current state of national/world affairs, but we censor it when the boys are around. It was no secret in our home who we voted for in the past election and both my kids joined me at the polling booth. I try to talk to them about just being good humans and caring for others and helping out when possible, without naming politicians who I disagree with. My hope is that if those values are instilled upon them young, then when they are older and able to cast their first vote, they will not choose the person who uses hate-filled rhetoric and, instead, will always choose the candidate who has the greater good of our country as a whole on their agenda without turning a blind eye to those suffering overseas. It may be a tall order, but a mother can hope.
It weighs a little heavy on my heart when I know that children who are only in preschool are able to show more empathy to strangers than the man we have standing in as America’s leader, along with elected officials running state and local governments. When my husband gave our son money to give to a homeless man on the street, that prompted even more inquiry. Why doesn’t he have a house? Why do some people not have homes? He looked at him with curiosity and his first instinct was to discover why when, in the eyes of a 5 year old, we live in such comfort; and yet, there are people who are thankful to simply have a blanket to cover up with at night. I’ll never show them videos of police officers confiscating blankets on freezing nights from the less fortunate. And I understand they were following orders and “doing their job,” but those are pretty terrible orders to be given. I won’t tell them about the laws being passed that make it harder and harder for people to pull themselves up from the “bottom.” Or cities that confiscate the few belongings those who are homeless still posses. But I will let them offer a person on the street money; and I will let them know that the shades of ones skin or the language they speak or the size of house the live in or type of car they drive doesn’t make a person better or worse than the other. I’ll encourage them to always ask questions. I hope they discover young that just because a person has a higher position than them doesn’t mean that everything they say is true. It’s a frustrating lesson to teach because I set myself up for being questioned and they’ve already started. But I do admit when I’m wrong (to them anyway), whether I’m happy about it or not.
I keep hearing that children and teenagers are the future of our country. And that is true for obvious reasons, but I also believe they can influence our present tremendously. Whether it’s because I’m now a mother or that there are so many questions to be answered with our current administration, it doesn’t matter, I’ve noticed so many young ppl voicing their concerns for our country and being recognized for it. It can be a little kid asking questions to his mom in the car to a 16 year old taking on her state’s senator about his desire to defund planned parenthood and strip women’s rights from low-income families. If our president has his way women will soon need to pay more for health insurance simply for being a woman, that pesky pre-existing condition. I felt that burden when I was pregnant with my first baby.
Of course, in the end, the younger the children the more they are a product of their environment. I’m sure if my kids overheard me talking about how happy I was with our new president and how I hope he makes it 8 years, our conversation would have been different. I don’t bad mouth the president around them but I do talk policies when they are in earshot and they’re smart enough to read my tone. And luckily questions are welcomed in our home.
Not too long after our car discussion I watched the viral clip of the young lady who questioned Senator Flake at a town hall. She spoke eloquently and with confidence. It wasn’t until I read further up on it that I realized she was a 16 year old girl.
Recently I learned about the 7 year old boy who has already started his own recycling company. He doesn’t want the bottles and cans ending up in the ocean. He began this journey at 3&1/2 yrs. old and I’m guessing that in his life he’ll think of many ways to raise money and help save the environment and wildlife.
I’ll always remember Vidal who was randomly interviewed by Brandon Stanton of Humans of NY. He was asked who has inspired him the most and he named his school principal. “When we get in trouble, she doesn’t suspend us. She calls us to her office and explains to us how society was built down around us. And she tells us that each time somebody fails out of school, a new jail cell gets built. And one time she made every student stand up, one at a time, and she told each one of us that we matter.” That post generated a viral sensation and he and his principal, Ms. Lopez, appeared on the Ellen DeGeneres show. Brandon of HONY started a fundraiser and has raised over a million dollars for the school. It’ll be used for scholarships as well as class trips to visit Harvard University.
There are ppl who were just under the age of 18 in this past election that are starting viral thunder with their art, like Aria Watson. She created the photo series #SignedByTrump that took over social media. Her intention for the art was to use raw images that reflected the man who was recently elected president, using his own words. While she may have been focusing on her disbelief of the election results, she also brought light to the forms of misogyny and sexual harassment that women confront everyday.
The Women’s March had a platform for young activists. It was there I listened to 6 year old Sophie Cruz give her speech about continuing to fight for immigration reform. She was memorable not just because she was the youngest speaker among a long list of celebrities and activists, but also because she was able to express her concern and the need for us to “Fight with faith, love, and courage so our families will not be destroyed.” She conveyed her message in both English and Spanish.
We need to pay attention and respect the children of this world. We need to view things from their perspective from time to time. They still have completely pure hearts and clear eyes that haven’t been jaded. Kids can pick out a con when they see one, whether they voice it loudly or not. We need to give them the confidence to speak on it and the knowledge to know just because someone is in a leadership role doesn’t make them right. We need their smiles and laughter and energy, as well as their courage and passion and the conviction they still possess. And in conjunction, we have to show them we have their backs in our daily practices too. We can’t tell them to respect different cultures and respect nature and also show blind support for a man who defiles all of that. It is our actions that children watch the most closely and the first examples they see about how to interact in this world. Young people may be the future of our world, but we need to start listening to them now.