Like many Americans, the events of the past few weeks have left me feeling shaken, triggered, and violated.
Donald Trump will be our next president.
I have vacillated between feeling angry, devalued, and terribly unsafe — often all of these at once. I have been worried for the safety and well-being of my family, my kids, their friends, and the kids and families all over our beautiful and uniquely diverse country.
I’ve been watching the news on a 24-hour loop (yes, even checking it in the middle of the night), and sleeping in uneven spurts, waking up in a panicky sweat, and wondering if the whole thing is perhaps a nightmare I can wake myself up from.
I’ve been scrolling through Facebook like a madwoman, trying to keep up with the latest headlines and scandals, uttering to myself at least 80 times a day, “OMFG, did he really just effing say that?”— as though any of it should surprise me for one second at this point.
And I’ve noticed lately that I have been shorter with my kids, snapping at them more than I should be, and losing patience quicker than usual. I have been unhinged and depressing to be around. To put it simply, I haven’t been the mother I want to be, not at all.
I can blame it on sleep deprivation or the fact that I’ve been distracted with worry about what is to come. But I realized today that nothing really justifies it. And although I don’t want to deny my feelings or push them away, I certainly don’t want my feelings about the current state of our country to distract me from the task of mothering my children.
It is so hard to do — now or any time the world feels heavy — but our children should always be our main focus, no matter what. And now, more than ever, they need us.
No matter how much we shield them from it, they can sense that we are worried. They overhear our conversations and they pick up on the latest news headlines and subsequent discussions, even if we think they aren’t listening. If they are school-age, they may have heard other kids talking, or worse than that, they may have witnessed hate speech or bullying inspired by the president-elect.
So, as we enter this volatile time in American history, let’s focus on our kids. Yes, we need to be activists, too, in whatever ways we see fit. We absolutely cannot forget that the world needs our participation to preserve our democracy more than ever. But we can’t do that at the expense of caring for our kids — family first.
My plan lately has been to scale back on my media use, especially when it comes to the oversaturation of political articles everywhere lately. I’m reading the ones that are informative and from trusted sources, and especially ones that offer concrete ideas for what we can do as concerned citizens. But I’m not clicking on every headline or listening intently to every news program.
Maybe I’m not strong enough, or maybe I don’t have the thickest skin out there, but when there is just so much bad news out there — news that triggers me on the deepest levels — I can’t so easily turn it off, move on, or function at my best.
And I need to. I have to enforce some boundaries for self-preservation. My kids need their mom now, here, present with them as they play Legos on the carpet and ask me to unglue myself from my phone to get down to play with them. They need my full, open arms as they snuggle up to me at bedtime, and they need my undivided attention when they ask me to explain exactly how big the earth is and why the moon follows us as we drive home at night.
Let’s face it: Our country might be going to shit, but our kids are our biggest hope. And they can heal us too.
So however down in the dumps you’re feeling about the state of our world, take some time to see things through your children’s eyes. Listen to their questions. Notice how much trust and awe they have in their souls, right there behind their wondrous, seeking eyes. Hold their hands and squeeze. Smell their hair. Run home with them through a rainstorm. Stomp in a few puddles along with way.
And laugh with them. Laughter is truly the best medicine, and if anyone knows how to laugh — deep belly laughs with wild abandon — it’s our kids.
So yes, let’s make sure to pay careful attention to what is happening in our country. Let’s be spirited, committed activists so that we can save whatever shreds of democracy and humanitarianism there are left. But let’s look for balance too. We can’t let our fear and woe consume us to the point where we stop being the parents our kids so desperately need us to be.