In 2016, a pair of momentous things took place. Greyson F. Wingert was born, and Donald J. Trump was elected president. Rarely have two events been juxtaposed with such clanging dissonance. One was a dream come true — and an improbable one at that — that reaffirmed my wonder, my capacity for deep love, and my belief in God. The other was a waking nightmare that made me feel so nauseated that I called in sick the morning after the election and didn’t regain my mental equilibrium for several months afterward.
To this day, I have not uttered a word to Greyson about Trump being president. I’ve familiarized him with the members of the Obama family through a portrait of the former First Family on my coffee mug. (Sasha is his personal favorite.) Even though I told Greyson that the Obamas lived in the White House for 8 years, he is under the impression that they still live there. I have opted not to correct this impression. My fervent hope is that he will be at the tender young age of 4 when Trump leaves office, relieving me of any meaningful responsibility to try to explain to my good, sweet, trusting boy that a bad, cruel, predatory man is in charge of the country where we live.
I feel genuinely sorry for every parent who has had to conjure up some explanation of Trump to their older children. Where do they even start? How can a parent give an honest account of what is transpiring in America while still preserving their child’s innocence? Or their belief that adults, on the whole, are to be trusted? That seems like an impossible needle to thread. And how on earth do parents explain the clips of Trump’s crass, cruel words that their kids invariably see? He is setting the worst possible example for America’s young people — not to mention America’s old and middle-aged people — of integrity, morality, respect, and basic human decency. The task of educating a child, especially a sensitive one, about what is happening in 2019 America strikes me as a singularly daunting one, and not for the faint of heart.
For instance, how much harder is it to instill honesty in your daughter when she is old enough to see that the president gets away with brazen, compulsive lies every day of his life and is still strongly supported by roughly 90% of his political party? Or how much harder is it to teach your son to respect women when he is old enough to realize that the president has shown contempt for women — including his own 1st and 2nd wife — throughout his life and continues to do so to this day?
The answer, of course, is to use the president as an object lesson of how not to behave. But why should we ever grow numb and accept that the White House has come to embody the diametrical opposite of nearly every single value we try to carefully teach our children? Past presidents have lied, and past presidents have cheated on their wives, and past presidents have had deeply regressive views — no question about it. But I would argue that no president has been morally unfit in as many different ways at the same time as this one is.
I know this post isn’t my most eloquent. I know it’s “negative,” a word that gets thrown around a lot these days to describe the basic act of identifying reprehensible behavior. (How, might I ask, does one call out vile rhetoric while maintaining an air of breezy positivity?) But it’s something I needed to scribble out. A bit of catharsis amidst the onslaught of Trump’s degradations.
Greyson and Violet are the defining joys of my life. Watching them emerge into the world and blossom into radiant, wonder-filled beings is a miracle beyond description. I only wish they weren’t growing up during the airwave-clogging reign of a malignant narcissist and wannabe despot whom I can only describe — without a drop of hyperbole — as the most hateful, most morally debased, and least truthful person to hold public office in my 39 years of life.
As a parent of two small children who are getting bigger far too quickly, I would do anything to slow down the hands of time. I would wave that magic wand in a heartbeat.
But as a citizen of the United States, 2020 can’t possibly come fast enough.