In the wee hours of Wednesday morning, after a long night of reporting from polling stations all across the country, the American people did what so few thought it capable of: besting former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton by more than 50 electoral votes, Donald Trump became the President-elect of the United States of America. Hours later, after the results proved not to be one long, unending bad dream, mothers across the country were faced with an impossible task: figuring out how to explain the outcome of the election to their children.
Though reports on Wednesday morning indicate that Clinton won the popular vote, Trump took key states like North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin to secure the White House. But after running a campaign that fed off of hurling misogynistic, fat-shaming, derogatory, xenophobic, and racist comments in every which direction, President-elect Trump (a title I'll spend the next four years getting used to) is now faced with uniting a country that has spent the last two years of this election cycle firmly tearing itself apart. Beyond the work that lay ahead of Trump, parents now face an equally frustrating chore.
Below, Romper spoke with eight mothers who offer a candid look into the conversations they had with their children this morning. Though many of us are having an incredibly difficult time figuring out how we'll digest and live with the news, these women spell out how they're helping their kids understand and grapple with the ever-changing definition of what it means to be an American in the aftermath of the 2016 election.
Jeanne is mom to an 11-year-old daughter.
When my 11-year-old daughter came into my bedroom this morning and asked if I'd heard the news, I was numb so I only nodded. She was angry and upset. I gave her a hug and told her it would be OK and we would get through this, that her father and I were disappointed, but that this is democracy in action and we don't always get what we want.
Later this morning, I heard her telling her friend that we are all going to die. It was a shock to my system, and one I confess I wasn't prepared to answer. I told her that we would be OK and not to be afraid. Unfortunately, I am afraid for all my friends of color, my Muslim friends, my immigrant friends, my LGBTQIA friends, for my daughter, for my husband, and for myself. But I want her to know that when things don't go our way, we don't give up. We find another way to fight.
Candace is mom to a daughter, Lilliana, 10 years old, and a son, Sullivan, 5 years old.
Unfortunately, I didn't get the chance to tell my daughter who won because when I woke up, she was watching the news in tears. My son is too little to understand just yet, but she and I have discussed, at length, why this election was so important. Seeing the fear in her eyes didn't require additional conversation. Just hugs and comfort.
I don't know how to explain to them that every lesson and rule I've worked so hard to teach them — to be kind to others, to include not exclude, to ask permission before you touch someone — can be ignored by someone [else].
Elizabeth is mom two three boys: Blaise, 6 years old; August, 5 years old; and Sunny, 3 years old.
When Blaise woke up this morning, I told him that the election was last night (which he knew) and that I had bad news. He hung his head and said, 'Trump won?' I nodded. I assured him that everything would stay the same: he would live in the same house, with the same toys, and the same dogs — today, and the day he's elected. I also told him that we have to be extra good and extra kind to make up for the badness in the White House.
I didn't cry and I am very proud of that. When August woke up, I simply told him that Trump was elected president. He repeated "Trump" over and over for a while (this is how he thinks), and then asked how that happened. I told him more people voted for Trump than for Clinton.
I didn't cry.
Megan has twin 3-year-old sons: Jeremy and Logan.
I'm not [talking to my son's about the outcome]. At least, not right now. At 3, I don't know how to explain to them that every lesson and rule I've worked so hard to teach them — to be kind to others, to include not exclude, to ask permission before you touch someone — can be ignored by someone [else]. [I don't know how to explain that] instead of a timeout, [our president-elect] got rewarded.
Liza has two children: Charlotte, 9 years old, and Campbell, 6 years old.
This morning, when my kids cried upon learning of the election's outcome, I told them it was going to be OK. But I knew they wouldn't buy it, because I'm not sure I believed it either. I told them I was sad too. That it's OK to feel what they're feeling. But that we are not going to let anger cloud our vision. We are not going to call anyone names, even if they are bullies. And to my 6 year old, yes, we will try to kick him out if he does anything wrong.
Shandi is mom to two children: Madison, 12 years old, and Lucas, 7 years old.
Today, when they get home from school, I will tell them that sometimes in life we don't always get what we want. That even though I voted [in] another direction, and I don't like the outcome, it doesn't make me a better or worse person than someone else. [Democracy] is one of the best things about our country. [It's] the right to vote. And to choose. But it is never OK to be mean to anyone whose views aren't the same as our own.
I've always told my kids that 'everybody likes different things.' This is no different. And we should respect each other's choices in life and this election, even if they aren't the choices we would make. So let's make the best of it, and enjoy Saturday Night Live for the next four years!
He stopped chewing his cereal and said, 'Trump is President now?' And I said, 'Yes.' He thought about it for a bit and then said, 'Does this mean the world is going to be a bad place?'
Steph has four children, Katrina, 10 years old; Katelyn, 7 years old, Toby, 6 years old; and Ian, 4 years old.
We woke up this morning to our 10-year-old daughter weeping audibly in the dining room, before the coffee pot had even started brewing. My husband's first words to her were, 'It will be OK,' [and] I stumbled in and said, 'No, it won't. Not for a lot of people.' His glare was enough to get me to try again. I said, 'It's OK to be sad and to cry. This is terrible. Not as much for us as it is for a lot of people. We can take some time to grieve and then we need to use our privilege to fight back. To make sure that our country stays strong and fair and that people don't get hurt. We can talk more after school.'
Alexis is mom to a son.
I told my son over breakfast this morning, 'Baby, I have some bad news: The bad guy won the election.' He stopped chewing his cereal and said, 'Trump is President now?' And I said, 'Yes.' He thought about it for a bit and then said, 'Does this mean the world is going to be a bad place?' Before I could say what my gut wanted me to say, which was something along the lines of, 'unfortunately, yes,' my husband swooped in and said, 'everything will be fine. We will all be OK.'
I just hope he is right.