Curbing my Child’s Election Anxiety

Alec Baldwin My impression of Alec Baldwin doing Trump wasn’t spot on but enough to make my daughter laugh. She knew that Trump had blamed a broken microphone for his poor debate performance. I’d squint my eyes, puff up my mouth, and point a finger at her. “My microphone is broken. She broke it. She and Obama took my microphone to Kenya and broke it. And now my microphone is broken.” She’d giggle with glee as I’d tuck her into bed, then insist I do it again. We’d let her and her siblings watch that first parody on Saturday Night Live. It lessened their anxiety about Trump. That crazy, bully man wasn’t so scary after all. He was just silly. Not powerful.

Earlier this last fall, my daughter roamed in and out of the TV room as I watched the debates. She and her sister noticed Trump interrupting Hillary Clinton, they noticed the strange way he frowned, they noticed how mean he was. We talked about why their dad and I were voting for Clinton. How we believed in helping all people, not just the rich, helping the planet’s environment, having a peaceful talk with other countries and not going to war. They were always reassured but then news would come out weekly about some horrific way Trump had treated someone: the disabled reporter, Latinos, African-Americans, women, etc. And each time, my younger daughter would go into processing mode: either asking me a slew of questions about why this was happening or play-acting a scenario.

Sometimes I’d walk in the kitchen and hear her say to an imaginary friend, “Why are you voting for Trump? He makes fun of people.”

That processing continued for weeks as the election dragged on and became darker and darker. In her bedroom, I’d pass by a “speech” to an imaginary audience about why they should all vote for Hillary Clinton. On other days, we’d be at dinner and she’d ask a series of questions. Where were Trump’s parents and why didn’t they tell him to be nice? Why did he want to grab a lady by her private part? If Trump won, would Daddy still have a job? Would we still have money? Would there be soldiers in our neighborhood?

After the questioning went on awhile and I worried it was descending into obsession, I’d lean forward and squish up my face. “My microphone is broken. She broke it. She and Obama took it…”

Uncontrollable laughter.

Later, she’d recite the bit verbatim to me.

When election day came, I told her that the reasonable, thoughtful people in America would prevail. We didn’t know for sure, but the people who called voters and asked them questions said Clinton would probably win. Then I kissed her and put her on the bus.

I walked away thinking that the truth was that there were a lot of angry, white, bully voters, but not enough compared to all of the brown people and women and millenials whose values didn’t match Trump’s corrupt, aggressive ones. They would vote and Clinton would be elected.

Well, last night I discovered not enough of those groups came out to vote. They were complacent, or busy, or cynical, who knows. Now, Trump’s about to take power. This morning when my daughter asked me who won, I brushed off Trump’s win, saying we’d have to wait to see what he did. He might not be as mean as he promised.

“Are we going to move?” she asked.

“No,” I said. “We’ll stick it out. Wait and see.”

As more questions came, I answered them as honestly as I could without creating a panic, even though, of course, I’m panicking inside. I’m privately processing how many ugly, bigoted people there are in America. More than I predicted. People who don’t care about civil rights or women’s issues or the world economy or really just facts. I also realized that I couldn’t use my Alec Baldwin impersonation to diffuse the worry anymore, because the worry is now reality.

During these next years, I’m hoping Baldwin will spoof Trump over and over. Point out his hypocrisies. Make light of his awful character. That would be a welcomed balm, until Trump of course pinches free speech and forces Saturday Night Live off the air. If that happens, I won’t be surprised — by that or much of anything else after last night. My job now is to take care of my family and make my daughter laugh in some other silly way.

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