UNITED STATES—Long ago when my husband was in college, a family friend commented on his ability to turn a bad situation into a good one, with the observation that when life threw my husband a lemon, he’d make lemonade.
I recalled that comment after two moments that conjured up the lemonade story and gave me hope that we can still nullify the terrible role model that our president has become for our children.
Teachers are having a hard time with misbehaving students who offer the excuse for their offensive remarks with the retort that our president does it. This is the lemon part of the story, fearing years of work ahead to rein in unruly children who feel emboldened by our commander in chief to be cruel and vindictive.
But maybe we don’t have to wait years. Maybe we can start right now to use our president as a role model in how not to behave. I saw a photo of a child carrying a sign that read, “I’m not allowed to act like the president.”
Trump can be an unwitting Exhibit A in teaching children how to be the exact opposite of a small man in a big role whose cruelty and coarseness have actually diminished him throughout most of the world.
I’ve seen this work before. I know a woman whose mother would never have been nominated for Mother of the Year. She grew up sad, knowing her mother had little time or regard for her wellbeing. But this woman had children of her own, and I commented on how loving and patient she is with her children, giving them her time and attention with just the right amount of discipline. She said she had a great role model – her mom. It was simple; she did the exact opposite of everything her mother did.
Let’s turn our lemons into lemonade. Instead of shielding our children from our president, maybe we should let them hear his brash remarks under parental supervision, and have a discussion about why it has no place in their family. Let them ask questions about his mean-spirited nicknames, his bullying threats, and try to answer them in kid-speak words and examples that they can understand in their world of crayons and playgrounds.
We can either let their manners and feelings devolve into a hardened set of beliefs, or we can kick-start their evolving empathic understanding of the world around them and their place in it. Let’s show them video clips of how former presidents spoke and behaved, allowing them to make comparisons and asking them to explain how different they were from our current president.
The most difficult teaching moment will be in describing how we came to elect such a person. This could be a civics lesson, explaining how we are an imperfect country who nevertheless tries to get as close to our idea of an ideal democracy, never reaching it, sometimes slipping away from it, but always self-corrects in a sputtering, two steps forward one step back progression.
Our upcoming election could be a testament to the two steps forward momentum, the perfect example of America rejecting the flawed character currently occupying the White House.
Or not. We shall see, but if you want a lemonade example to present to our children, you need to vote.