Yesterday, I picked up the kids from camp, made them dinner, bathed them, let them watch one show, played a game of Parcheesi (our new favorite game that my mom recently unearthed from my childhood), gave the girls their “last foods” (strawberries for Mazzy and a cheese stick for Harlow), helped them brush their teeth and put them to bed.
Then I crawled into bed myself, with my phone and my laptop and read every piece of news I could get my hands on (the Times, Wapo, convoluted twitter threads that I only half understood, etc.) until I eventually passed out. I woke up with my phone on my chest, the battery dead. This is what I have done most nights since November 2016, but yesterday, the news was particularly bad. In front of the world, on television, Trump backed Putin over the findings of the US intelligence community, which many politicians, both Democrats and Republicans, have called an open act of treason.
For me, it was unsurprising, but I guess people expected Trump to at least play the part of a President concerned about the interests of our country and the future of free elections in the United States. Whether the universal outrage is the beginning of the end of our collective nightmare or the start of something much worse, I don’t know. I’m hopeful that we’ve finally reached a moment where both sides can come together to fight for our country.
Last night, I thought for sure that’s what was happening. But this morning, I see it already fading from the conversation. On Twitter, the world is still ending. On Instagram, it’s dappled sunlight and flower petals as usual. Granted, on Twitter, I’m following politicians and journalists, while on Instagram, I’m following mostly moms and regular people, but my measurement for tides turning is always when political conversations spill over into places I don’t expect them.
And so, I’m writing this post. Because I am a concerned citizen, raising two daughters in this country and the stakes are really fucking high. I had planned to write another post today, about milestone parenting moments that I missed over the years, but I am saving that for another time, when it feels more important. Today, I want you guys to know that even when I post photos of my kids playing in the yard or on the beach or at some crazy Instagram pop-up, there is an undercurrent of awareness of what is happening. We have our fun, the kids think all is normal, but then I put them to sleep and the sense of impending doom returns.
I have a picture that I’ve been saving since January of Harlow eating from a huge tub of popcorn. My plan was to pull it out when something major happened that marked a sure sign of impeachment. “Grab the popcorn and pull up a chair,” as they say. But, of course, every new low that I thought for sure would result in definitive action, proved to be just another blip in an ever-changing news cycle. There is no bottom to the lows it seems.
I look at my children and although they are not completely in the dark, they are also not privy to the real dangers Trump poses. They know he’s not a nice man who is not making good decisions for our country. That’s the extent of it. They don’t know about kids in cages or the rise in school shootings or our new Supreme Court Justice nominee. They know that it’s important to vote for the politicians we want to see in office in 2018, but they don’t know about the possibility of repeated Russian election interference. They know that things are bad now (in a distant way that doesn’t really affect them), but they don’t know, if unchecked, what our country has to the potential to become. Will women rights be upheld? Will the NRA control government policy? What is life like when our enemies are now our allies and our allies are now our enemies?
I also wonder what their impression of the United States will be as they start to learn more in school. How will schools handle teaching about government if Trump remains in power? How will our kids be taught “facts,” if journalists are considered, as Trump called them this past weekend, “the enemy of the people?” What will our children be taught in science, if scientific findings aren’t valued? I grew up in a world where I trusted the people in power. I was proud to be an American. What will it mean to be an American in the world my kids come of age in?
We have been very lucky so far. I am able to keep my real fears hidden from them. They exist in the abstract. The “what ifs.” I tell them about President Obama because I want them to know that having a good person as a leader is possible. That no one will ever be perfect but at least they can be intelligent, informed and well intentioned. My message to them is the same as the message Obama gave to us— one of hope.
I always look at my own life and laugh that I am somehow one of the grown-ups in charge. I wish someone else could make the decisions. Tell my kids to go to bed, make them brush their teeth, enforce the rules and come up with punishments when they have done wrong. I feel that way about my country now. Where are the grown-ups? Who says enough? Who lays down the law and delivers the consequences? Who has the final say?
I see Republican senators saying that Trump is in the wrong, but big talk isn’t enough. As I always tell myself when my kids get out of hand— you must follow through with action. You must let them know you mean business. You must be the grown-up.
Please. Do it for all our children.