6 conversations I was forced to have with my kids about the election because of Trump.

One afternoon, my 8-year-old son came home from school and informed me that Hillary Clinton is going to ban cheeseburgers.

At least, that's what a kid at school told him. He wanted to know if it was true.

I know I'm not the only parent who's found talking to their kids about this election a little bit more "challenging" than anticipated. I presume that you, like me, are probably ready for this election to be over.


After the whole Hillary-banning-delicious-cow-sandwiches incident, I decided to let my son watch the beginning of the first debate with me so he could hear what Clinton really thinks. Unsurprisingly, Donald Trump made a bit of a bigger impression on him and didn't exactly set a shining example of what being presidential looks like. Trump spent the last hour of the debate attacking his opponent's health and threatening to say "really tough things" about her, which meant he was gonna say mean things about her husband (who isn't running for president right now).

She sat through three debates with him. That takes stamina. GIF via CBS News.

I worried what Trump would do to kick it up a notch in the second debate and what kind of example this was setting for my son and daughter.

Then some news broke about an old tape of Trump and a bus and Billy Bush and bragging about doing not OK things to women, and it was announced that those comments would be addressed in the first question at the second debate. I didn't feel confident that the conversation that ensued would handle the topic of consent responsibly.

Regretfully, I told my son he couldn't watch the second debate with me...

No. No it's not. GIF via NBC News.

...which turned out to be the right call.

It seems weird that I'd have to shield my children from what should be a very informative example of our democracy in action. Yet there I was, doing just that. The problem is, like many parents, I really want my kids to learn about the democratic process.

So what's a parent to do?

Here are six not horrifying conversations I had with my kids about democracy this election season. I hope you find them useful and/or adorable.

1. On fact-checking:

When your kid's primary source of gossip is other kids, it's important to make yourself accessible to answering any questions they might have. Here, something clearly got lost in translation on the playground.

8yo: Daddy, is it true Hillary Clinton is gonna ban cheeseburgers?
Me: Where did you hear that?
8yo: At school, Teddy said she was gonna ban all cheeseburgers and candy and guns and stuff.
Me: Ah, no. She’s not going to ban any of those things. She does want to fix the rules to make buying guns safer for everyone.  Teddy is confused.
8yo: Then why did Teddy say she was going to?
Me: Well, sometimes people get incorrect information. If you ever want to know if something's true, just ask me, we can look it up together.
8yo: Fine, can I punch you in the stomach now?
Me: No, that's only for before dinner.






For the record, a good punch in the stomach has provided me more thoughtful introspection than watching the debates.

You'll see on Election Day, Trump. SPOILER: It's not. GIF via CBS News.

2. On temperament:

As if it isn't hard enough teaching your kids about appropriate and inappropriate behavior, doing it while one presidential candidate is demonstrating all of the "don't" behavior is even harder.

4yo: Daddy, why is Donald Trump yelling at Hillary?
Me: Well, some people aren’t good at controlling their tempers and listening. You know how when you are upset, sometimes I have to get you to calm down before we talk?
4yo: Yeah?
Me: Well, Donald Trump isn’t good at calming down or listening. He wants to boss people around and make them do what he wants, even if it isn’t a good choice.
4yo: He should calm down and listen more.
Me: Yeah, he’s just not very good at that.




On the other hand, Trump has been a delightful role model of how not to behave, and my 4-year-old could really use that right now, what with how she responds to criticism like he does. 4-year-olds: Earth's adorable defensive irrational narcissists.  

Trump doing his best toddler impression.

3. On building walls:

Honestly, I'm starting to think my 8-year-old would've been a great debate moderator. He asks the obvious questions that a 70-year-old belligerent uninformed presidential candidate refuses to think about or answer.

8yo: Daddy, why does Donald Trump keep talking about a huge wall? Wouldn’t he have to build it into space? Otherwise people could climb or fly over it.
Me: Um … OK. Yeah, making a bigger wall is silly. But the more important thing to ask is why it’s there? Do you know what immigrants are?
8yo: They’re people who come to live here from other countries.
Me: Correct. So some of those immigrants come here from other countries like Mexico. And sometimes they come here without permission because they need to make money to send home to their families or want to feel safer than they did in their country or it's sometimes hard to find work where they live. And Donald Trump says that they want to come here to hurt people and steal things.
8yo: Do they?
Me: Nope. They actually pay $11 billion into the economy each year, and then they can’t use any of the stuff that they pay for because then they’d get in trouble.
8yo: What’s the economy?
Me: Um…






We'll talk about the economy when he's older. But at least he's thinking things through logistically, unlike some people we know.

Former Mexican President Vicente Fox explains a big hole in Trump's wall plan. (The current president of Mexico later seconded that motion.) GIF via Fusion.

4. On campaign ads:

I don't know about you, but here in Colorado, the commercials that run when we watch the nightly news lately have been not what I would call "family friendly."

If you believe the local attack ads, my congresswoman wants to protect child predators (she doesn't). Also apparently there's a ballot measure that will pressure people to end their life if they are terminally ill, even if they don't want to (it won't).

Neither of those things are true, but try explaining that to a kid.

8yo: Daddy, is this commercial talking about how Hillary is bad?
Me: Yes, but here's the thing: Never believe anything you see in commercials.
8yo: Why?
Me: Well, the folks who make political commercials like to only tell one side of the story and sometimes don't tell you what you really need to know.
8yo: Even Hillary commercials?
Me: Yes. They're probably telling stories a little better than Trump commercials, but they still will skip over important details. If you see it on a commercial, you should probably google it too and get the whole story.
[Commercial comes on about how my Democratic congresswoman is super stoked to let all the child murderers out of jail.]
Me (loudly, to drown out audio): HEY, KIDS! WHAT DID YOU DO AT SCHOOL TODAY, I WAS JUST WONDERING! WAS IT SUPER FUN?! DID YOU STEAL A CAR OR LIGHT THE BUILDING ON FIRE?! (Continues this charade for 30 seconds until awful ad goes away.)
Kids: DADDY, WHY DO YOU KEEP YELLING AT US?! USE YOUR INDOOR VOICE! WE DON'T STEAL!







Make the horrible stop! GIF from "Friends."

Obviously, the smart choice here is to just turn off the news until 2017, but where's the fun in that? Either way, my kids just learned a great lesson in doing their own research. And I learned that they don't steal or set things on fire. Maybe I am actually OK at this parenting thing?

5. On breaking glass ceilings and good role models:

This conversation just gave me all the feels. I don't know how my daughter was aware of the gender of all our previous presidents (although she does love the musical "Hamilton"). But she did the math. And then asked this:

4yo: Daddy, Hillary will be the first girl president?
Me: Yup.
4yo: I want a girl president for once. It’s about time. Also, Donald Trump keeps yelling and being mean.
Me: Yeah, he’s been making some bad choices lately.
4yo: Can you talk to him, please?
Me: Um….




I could try talking to him, but he doesn't seem to listen. Maybe he needs a time-out? GIF via NBC News.

She thinks politics are boring and is adamant that she won't run for president herself one day. I can't decide if I'm relieved about that or not.

6. On voting:

The most clutch part of being a citizen is the whole voting thing. So I sat down with my kids and went through the ballot section by section. (We have mail-in balloting in Colorado, which is so much more convenient). We have like 473,023 things on the ballot, including nine state ballot issues, a ton of judges, and 22 different presidential candidates. I walked the kids through the major initiatives, and then we got to president.

Me: OK. So for president, should I vote for Jim Hedges from the Prohibition Party?
Kids: WHO IS THAT?! NO!
Me: OK, what about Roque De La Fuente from the American Delta Party?
Kids: NOOOOO!
Me: What about Ron Silva from the Nutrition Party?
Kids: NOOOOO!
Me: What about Donald Trump?
Kids: NOOOOOOOOOOOOO! He's MEAN!
Me: So Hillary Clinton, then?
Kids: YES!!
Me: Why?
4yo: Because she's a girl!
Me: Do you have a better reason?
4yo: She's cute! And I want a girl president!
8yo: She's not cute! She's a grandma!
Me: Have any better reasons?
8yo: I just want her because you want her. I don't really know enough stuff about what she believes and stuff.
Me: That, sir, is an astute observation. When you get to vote for president, I hope you learn all the stuff first. Don't take my word for it.
8yo: OK, can I go play now?

















Full disclosure here: I have no idea if I'm doing any of this right.

Kids are impressionable. I don't want to turn them into little robots who spout talking points from political parties on the playground. I want them to be exposed to lots of different ideas. But I'd prefer if their beliefs come from an empathetic place that considers the greater good for all (I'm zany like that). Which is why I believe Trump is a poor choice for me personally. I'm planning on sending a clear goodbye message to him this year with my vote.

This is a metaphor for the message I hope all Americans send to Donald Trump on election day. GIF via Time/YouTube.

Obviously, like all parents, I'm making this up as I go. What about you? How have you handled it? Let me know. And please vote. That way we won't spend four years having to explain horrifying things to our children about topics they will have plenty of time to learn about when they are at the actual appropriate age to actually talk about them.

I'm gonna go let my kid punch me in the stomach now instead of reading what Trump said today on Twitter. If you were looking for something to do, this nonpartisan site will tell you where and how to vote. Please? And while you're at it, ask your friends how they handle these conversations.

True

When Sue Hoppin was in college, she met the man she was going to marry. "I was attending the University of Denver, and he was at the Air Force Academy," she says. "My dad had also attended the University of Denver and warned me not to date those flyboys from the Springs."

"He didn't say anything about marrying one of them," she says. And so began her life as a military spouse.

The life brings some real advantages, like opportunities to live abroad — her family got to live all around the US, Japan, and Germany — but it also comes with some downsides, like having to put your spouse's career over your own goals.

"Though we choose to marry someone in the military, we had career goals before we got married, and those didn't just disappear."

Career aspirations become more difficult to achieve, and progress comes with lots of starts and stops. After experiencing these unique challenges firsthand, Sue founded an organization to help other military spouses in similar situations.

Sue had gotten a degree in international relations because she wanted to pursue a career in diplomacy, but for fourteen years she wasn't able to make any headway — not until they moved back to the DC area. "Eighteen months later, many rejections later, it became apparent that this was going to be more challenging than I could ever imagine," she says.

Eighteen months is halfway through a typical assignment, and by then, most spouses are looking for their next assignment. "If I couldn't find a job in my own 'hometown' with multiple degrees and a great network, this didn't bode well for other military spouses," she says.

She's not wrong. Military spouses spend most of their lives moving with their partners, which means they're often far from family and other support networks. When they do find a job, they often make less than their civilian counterparts — and they're more likely to experience underemployment or unemployment. In fact, on some deployments, spouses are not even allowed to work.

Before the pandemic, military spouse unemployment was 22%. Since the pandemic, it's expected to rise to 35%.

Sue eventually found a job working at a military-focused nonprofit, and it helped her get the experience she needed to create her own dedicated military spouse program. She wrote a book and started saving up enough money to start the National Military Spouse Network (NMSN), which she founded in 2010 as the first organization of its kind.

"I founded the NMSN to help professional military spouses develop flexible careers they could perform from any location."

"Over the years, the program has expanded to include a free digital magazine, professional development events, drafting annual White Papers and organizing national and local advocacy to address the issues of most concern to the professional military spouse community," she says.

Not only was NMSN's mission important to Sue on a personal level she also saw it as part of something bigger than herself.

"Gone are the days when families can thrive on one salary. Like everyone else, most military families rely on two salaries to make ends meet. If a military spouse wants or needs to work, they should be able to," she says.

"When less than one percent of our population serves in the military," she continues, "we need to be able to not only recruit the best and the brightest but also retain them."

"We lose out as a nation when service members leave the force because their spouse is unable to find employment. We see it as a national security issue."

"The NMSN team has worked tirelessly to jumpstart the discussion and keep the challenges affecting military spouses top of mind. We have elevated the conversation to Congress and the White House," she continues. "I'm so proud of the fact that corporations, the government, and the general public are increasingly interested in the issues affecting military spouses and recognizing the employment roadblocks they unfairly have faced."

"We have collectively made other people care, and in doing so, we elevated the issues of military spouse unemployment to a national and global level," she adds. "In the process, we've also empowered military spouses to advocate for themselves and our community so that military spouse employment issues can continue to remain at the forefront."

Not only has NMSN become a sought-after leader in the military spouse employment space, but Sue has also seen the career she dreamed of materializing for herself. She was recently invited to participate in the public re-launch of Joining Forces, a White House initiative supporting military and veteran families, with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

She has also had two of her recommendations for practical solutions introduced into legislation just this year. She was the first in the Air Force community to show leadership the power of social media to reach both their airmen and their military families.

That is why Sue is one of Tory Burch's "Empowered Women" this year. The $5,000 donation will be going to The Madeira School, a school that Sue herself attended when she was in high school because, she says, "the lessons I learned there as a student pretty much set the tone for my personal and professional life. It's so meaningful to know that the donation will go towards making a Madeira education more accessible to those who may not otherwise be able to afford it and providing them with a life-changing opportunity."

Most military children will move one to three times during high school so having a continuous four-year experience at one high school can be an important gift. After traveling for much of her formative years, Sue attended Madeira and found herself "in an environment that fostered confidence and empowerment. As young women, we were expected to have a voice and advocate not just for ourselves, but for those around us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

Yamiche Alcindor/Twitter, U.S. Department of State

It takes a lot to push a career diplomat to quit their job. A diplomat's specialty, after all, is diplomacy—managing relationships between people and governments, usually with negotiation and compromise.

So when the U.S. special envoy to Haiti, whose "diplomatic experience and demonstrated interagency leadership have been honed directing several of the United States government's largest overseas programs in some of the world's most challenging, high-threat environments," decides to resign effective immediately, it means something.

Daniel Foote, who was appointed special envoy to Haiti in July of this year, explained his decision to quit in a strongly-worded letter to Secretary of State Blinken. His resignation comes in the wake of a wave of Haitian migrants arriving at the southern U.S. border and widespread reports of harsh treatment and deportations.

"I will not be associated with the United States inhumane, counterproductive decision to deport thousands of Haitian refugees and illegal immigrants to Haiti, a country where American officials are confined to secure compounds because of the danger posed by armed gangs in control of daily life," he wrote. "Our policy approach to Haiti remains deeply flawed, and my recommendations have been ignored and dismissed, when not edited to project a narrative different from my own."

Foote went on to describe the dire conditions in Haiti:

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