Dear Tell All: I’ve raised my 8-year-old son to believe that the United States is a great place — a country that stands for freedom, tolerance and equality. I’ve taken him to volunteer for various Madison groups that uphold these principles, including those working with the homeless, the hungry and the oppressed. As a feminist mom, I’ve also taught him respect for girls and women.
I’m thrilled to see him developing a sense of idealism and a commitment to helping those less fortunate. But the election of Donald Trump has been a setback. My son was fixated on the campaign, cheering Hillary Clinton while hissing at Trump’s toxic values. I encouraged his interest — rather than shielding him from the ugliness — because the media and polls presented the election as a shoo-in for Clinton. It was shaping up as a heartwarming lesson in the triumph of good over evil.
Well, look how that turned out. Rather than proving me right about the United States’ inherent goodness, the election taught my son a brutal lesson about our dark side. This is a reality he would have to face eventually, but I didn’t want him to face it so starkly at age 8. This should be a time when he learns to believe in our best values so he can fight for them as an adult.
Instead, I fear this experience has made him cynical at too young an age, and it’s all my fault. The pussy-grabbing, Muslim-banning, immigrant-deporting, ignorance-spewing liar won a presidential election over a reasonable, qualified, dignified woman. What’s a mother to do for the next four years?
Dear Parental Fail: What’s a mother to do? Exactly what you’ve been doing. Keep emphasizing positive values and exposing your son to local folks who are making the world a better place. The spirit of resistance that has greeted Trump’s election gives you the perfect pretext.
Most important, don’t blame yourself. You couldn’t have shielded your son from the campaign if you’d tried. It’s far better to use current events to demonstrate the humane values you hope to pass along to him.
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