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.

Everyone can all use a little lift at the end of the week, and we've collected some of this week's best stories to provide just such a pick-me-up. Here are 10 things we want to share, just because they made us so darn happy.

1. Introducing Lila, the U.S. Capitol Police's first emotional support dog.

After the traumatic experiences of January 6th, Capitol Police officers could definitely use some extra support. Lila, a two-year-old black lab, will now serve as the department's first full-time emotional support dog. Look at that sweet face!

2. Speaking of the Capitol, take a look at this week's gorgeous solar eclipse behind the dome.

NASA Administrator Bill Nelson shared the stunning "ring of fire" image on Twitter. Always a treat when nature gives us a great show.


3. Colorado sees its first wild wolf pups in six decades.

In the 1940s, the gray wolf was eradicated in Colorado by trappers and hunters, with the support of the federal government. Whoops. This week, Colorado Parks and Wildlife has announced the first evidence of wild wolf breeding in the state, a sign of hope for the endangered species. Read more about the discovery here.

Photo by M L on Unsplash


4. 30-year-old singer with terminal cancer amazed and inspired with her performance on America's Got Talent.

Keep Reading Show less

Everyone can all use a little lift at the end of the week, and we've collected some of this week's best stories to provide just such a pick-me-up. Here are 10 things we want to share, just because they made us so darn happy.

1. Introducing Lila, the U.S. Capitol Police's first emotional support dog.

After the traumatic experiences of January 6th, Capitol Police officers could definitely use some extra support. Lila, a two-year-old black lab, will now serve as the department's first full-time emotional support dog. Look at that sweet face!

2. Speaking of the Capitol, take a look at this week's gorgeous solar eclipse behind the dome.

NASA Administrator Bill Nelson shared the stunning "ring of fire" image on Twitter. Always a treat when nature gives us a great show.


3. Colorado sees its first wild wolf pups in six decades.

In the 1940s, the gray wolf was eradicated in Colorado by trappers and hunters, with the support of the federal government. Whoops. This week, Colorado Parks and Wildlife has announced the first evidence of wild wolf breeding in the state, a sign of hope for the endangered species. Read more about the discovery here.

Photo by M L on Unsplash


4. 30-year-old singer with terminal cancer amazed and inspired with her performance on America's Got Talent.

Keep Reading Show less
True

Each year, an estimated 1.8 million people in the United States are affected by cancer — most commonly cancers of the breast, lung, prostate, and blood cancers such as leukemia. While not everyone overcomes the disease, thanks to science, more people are surviving — and for longer — than ever before in history.

We asked three people whose lives have been impacted by cancer to share their stories – how their lives were changed by the disease, and how they're using that experience to change the future of cancer treatments with the hope that ultimately, in the fight against cancer, science will win. Here's what they had to say.

Celine Ryan, 55, engineer database programmer and mother of five from Detroit, MI

Photo courtesy of Celine Ryan

In September 2013, Celine Ryan woke up from a colonoscopy to some traumatic news. Her gastroenterologist showed her a picture of the cancerous mass they found during the procedure.

Ryan and her husband, Patrick, had scheduled a colonoscopy after discovering some unusual bleeding, so the suspicion she could have cancer was already there. Neither of them, however, were quite prepared for the results to be positive -- or for the treatment to begin so soon. Just two days after learning the news, Ryan had surgery to remove the tumor, part of her bladder, and 17 cancerous lymph nodes. Chemotherapy and radiation soon followed.

Ryan's treatment was rigorous – but in December 2014, she got the devastating news that the cancer, once confined to her colon, had spread to her lungs. Her prognosis, they said, was likely terminal.

But rather than give up hope, Ryan sought support from online research, fellow cancer patients and survivors, and her medical team. When she brought up immunotherapy to her oncologist, he quickly agreed it was the best course of action. Ryan's cancer, like a majority of colon and pancreatic cancers, had been caused by a defect on the gene KRAS, which can result in a very aggressive cancer that is virtually "undruggable." According to the medical literature, the relatively smooth protein structure of the KRAS gene meant that designing inhibitors to bind to surface grooves and treat the cancer has been historically difficult. Through her support systems, Ryan discovered an experimental immunotherapy trial at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, MD., and called them immediately to see if she was eligible. After months of trying to determine whether she was a suitable candidate for the experimental treatment, Ryan was finally accepted.

The treatment, known as tumor-infiltrating lymphocyte therapy, or TIL, is a testament to how far modern science has evolved. With this therapy, doctors remove a tumor and harvest special immune cells that are found naturally in the tumor. Doctors then grow the cells in a lab over the next several weeks with a protein that promotes rapid TIL growth – and once the cells number into the billions, they are infused back into the patient's body to fight the cancer. On April 1, 2015, Ryan had her tumor removed at the NIH. Two months later, she went inpatient for four weeks to have the team "wash out" her immune system with chemotherapy and infuse the cells – all 148 billion of them – back into her body.

Six weeks after the infusion, Ryan and Patrick went back for a follow-up appointment – and the news they got was stunning: Not only had no new tumors developed, but the six existing tumors in her lungs had shrunk significantly. Less than a year after her cell infusion, in April 2016, the doctors told Ryan news that would have been impossible just a decade earlier: Thanks to the cell infusion, Ryan was now considered NED – no evaluable disease. Her body was cancer-free.

Ryan is still NED today and continuing annual follow-up appointments at the NIH, experiencing things she never dreamed she'd be able to live to see, such as her children's high school and college graduations. She's also donating her blood and cells to the NIH to help them research other potential cancer treatments. "It was an honor to do so," Ryan said of her experience. "I'm just thrilled, and I hope my experience can help a lot more people."

Patrice Lee, PhD, VP of Pharmacology, Toxicology and Exploratory Development at Pfizer

Photo courtesy of Patrice Lee

Patrice Lee got into scientific research in an unconventional way – through the late ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau.

Lee never met Cousteau but her dreams of working with him one day led her to pursue a career in science. Initially, Lee completed an undergraduate degree in marine biology; eventually, her interests changed and she decided to get a dual doctoral degree in physiology and toxicology at Duke University. She now works at Pfizer's R&D site in Boulder, CO (formerly Array BioPharma), leading a group of scientists who determine the safety and efficacy of new oncology drugs.

"Scientists focused on drug discovery and development in the pharmaceutical industry are deeply committed to inventing new therapies to meet unmet needs," Lee says, describing her field of work. "We're driven to achieve new medicines and vaccines as quickly as possible without sacrificing safety."

Among the drugs Lee has helped develop during her career, including cancer therapies, she says around a dozen are currently in development, while nine have received FDA approval — an incredible accomplishment as many scientists spend their careers without seeing their drug make it to market. Lee's team is particularly interested in therapies for brain metastases — something that Lee says is a largely unmet need in cancer research, and something her team is working on from a variety of angles. "Now that we've had rapid success with mRNA vaccine technology, we hope to explore what the future holds when applying this technology to cancers," Lee says.

But while evaluating potential cancer therapies is a professional passion of Lee's, it's also a mission that's deeply personal. "I'm also a breast cancer survivor," she says. "So I've been on the other side of things and have participated in a clinical trial."

However, seeing how melanoma therapies that she helped develop have affected other real-life cancer patients, she says, has been a highlight of her career. "We had one therapy that was approved for patients with BRAF-mutant metastatic melanoma," Lee recalls. "Our team in Boulder was graced by a visit from a patient that had benefited from these drugs that we developed. It was a very special moment for the entire team."

None of these therapies would be available, Lee says without rigorous science behind it: "Facts come from good science. Facts will drive the development of new drugs, and that's what will help patients."

Chiuying "Cynthia" Kuk (they/them) MS, 34, third-year medical student at Michigan State University College of Human Medicine

Photo courtesy of Cynthia Kuk

Cynthia Kuk was just 10 years old when they had a conversation that would change their life forever.

"My mother, who worked as a translator for the government at the time, had been diagnosed with breast cancer, and after her chemotherapy treatments she would get really sick," Kuk, who uses they/them pronouns, recalls. "When I asked my dad why mom was puking so much, he said it was because of the medicine she was taking that would help her get better."

Kuk's response was immediate: "That's so stupid! Why would a medicine make you feel worse instead of better? When I'm older, I want to create medicine that won't make people sick like that."

Nine years later, Kuk traveled from their native Hong Kong to the United States to do exactly that. Kuk enrolled in a small, liberal arts college for their Bachelor's degree, and then four years later started a PhD program in cancer research. Although Kuk's mother was in remission from her cancer at the time, Kuk's goal was the same as it had been as a 10-year-old watching her suffer through chemotherapy: to design a better cancer treatment, and change the landscape of cancer research forever.

Since then, Kuk's mission has changed slightly.

"My mom's cancer relapsed in 2008, and she ended up passing away about five years after that," Kuk says. "After my mom died, I started having this sense of urgency. Cancer research is such that you work for twenty years, and at the end of it you might have a fancy medication that could help people, but I wanted to help people now." With their mother still at the forefront of their mind, Kuk decided to quit their PhD program and enter medical school.

Now, Kuk plans to pursue a career in emergency medicine – not only because they are drawn to the excitement of the emergency room, but because the ER is a place where the most marginalized people tend to seek care.

"I have a special interest in the LGBTQ+ population, as I identify as queer and nonbinary," says Kuk. "A lot of people in this community and other marginalized communities access care through the ER and also tend to avoid medical care since there is a history of mistreatment and judgement from healthcare workers. How you carry yourself as a doctor, your compassion, that can make a huge difference in someone's care."

In addition to making a difference in the lives of LGBTQ+ patients, Kuk wants to make a difference in the lives of patients with cancer as well, like their mother had.

"We've diagnosed patients in the Emergency Department with cancer before," Kuk says. "I can't make cancer good news but how you deliver bad news and the compassion you show could make a world of difference to that patient and their family."

During their training, Kuk advocates for patients by delivering compassionate and inclusive care, whether they happen to have cancer or not. In addition to emphasizing their patient's pronouns and chosen names, they ask for inclusive social and sexual histories as well as using gender neutral language. In doing this, they hope to make medicine as a whole more accessible for people who have been historically pushed aside.

"I'm just one person, and I can't force everyone to respect you, if you're marginalized," Kuk says. "But I do want to push for a culture where people appreciate others who are different from them."