I was left awestruck this morning by an ad that flashed across my television screen. It showed various children, all wide-eyed and open-mouthed, listening to a litany of repulsive things being uttered from the mouth of one of our current political frontrunners.
“When Mexico sends its people, they’re bringing drugs, they’re bringing crime … they’re rapists.”
“I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody, and I wouldn’t lose any voters … “
It was a political ad, of course, and as such, inherently biased. But it was nonetheless quite convincing: I was left annoyed at Donald Trump who I heard, in the span of just two minutes, use foul language, hurl violent threats, make fun of those with disabilities, and insult both immigrants and women. In a nutshell, I found myself lamenting our current conservative nominee and cheering for Hillary Clinton. But it also left me pondering where my children are in this type of political climate — what they are seeing; what they are hearing.
The question the ad poses is simple enough, yet hard to answer: “Our children are watching. What example do we want to set for them?”
This thought weighed heavy on me, as I considered the many hard questions that have come my way over the last few months; questions mostly from my two older boys. My oldest, who’s 11, seeks concrete information. “What is a Democrat?” he recently asked me. “What does that mean?” My next son, at age 8, listens and interprets on his own. He has made up his own mind on who is sneaky or mean — both in politics and in the real world. And while I try to answer their questions, I am also careful not to immerse my children in my own political views. But it’s a tricky line to walk.
Truthfully, I’m confused myself these days.
I am left feeling uncertain about both candidates, and recent new headlines and commercials only leave me more annoyed at politics in general, and unable to proudly state who I will vote for this November. I’d like to imagine myself leaning down to my children on Election Day, smiling at all four expectant faces, holding my son with special needs and thinking, You will be loved and valued in this world. You will know you are important.
That is my hope; though I’m not sure how it will all play out.
Still, I am thankful to have the right to vote. I am thankful that my Scottish great grandparents were welcomed into this country. I am thankful that my grandparents and parents were given opportunities for education and achievement, achievable through hard work, as well as their own sweat and tears. And when thinking of them now, I have to wonder, Who did they admire? Who did they look up to? Certainly it may have been Nixon or Kennedy, but from the stories I often hear, it was most likely the previous generation — their parents, grandparents, and all who came before them.
That is the tradition that my husband and I offer to our own four children; one where they look to us and listen to the stories told by their grandparents of picking tobacco or washing dishes for meals in college. When it comes to finding their role models in this world, I want my children to look inward, not at those who are masterfully creating agendas in the name of politics.
Yes, I want to be proud of our next president, but regardless of who our next leader is, I hope my children remember their father who worked late some nights so he could coach a soccer game; and their mother who writes in hopes of making the world a better place, and to provide opportunities that would not be available without her income.
In the end, we are our children’s best role models.