Matthew Soffer

How I told my son Trump won

'Daddy, we should ask him to be nicer. What if I give him one of my toys!'
'Daddy, we should ask him to be nicer. What if I give him one of my toys!' (iStock photo)
'Daddy, we should ask him to be nicer. What if I give him one of my toys!' (iStock photo)

It’s November 9, 2016. I wake up Nicole to consult her on how I tell our three and a half year old son Caleb about the election — we agree on two basic truths, which I reiterate to myself the moments before I tell him: First, he needs to know he’s safe; second, don’t lie — tell him the truth.

Me: Caleb there’s something we need to talk about.

Caleb: What? (He looks at me so innocently).

Me: Last night, Hillary didn’t win.

Caleb: Huh?

Me: Hillary lost last night, and Donald Trump won.

Caleb: What does that mean? Trump won?

Me: Yeah, he won. And Hillary lost. (I say this in a matter-of-fact manner and await his reaction to determine my next move).

Caleb: Why did he win and she lose?

Me: More people voted for him. (I know this is not precisely true, but there’s no possible way that at this moment I’m trying to explain to him the ridiculousness of the Electoral College). You know how we voted yesterday? And we voted for Hillary, right? Well, more people voted for Donald Trump, so he won and she lost.

Caleb: What does that mean?

Me: It means he’s going to be our next President. Do you know who our current President is?

Caleb: Yeah, Obama.

Me: Right, so Donald Trump is going to be our next President.

Caleb: But will he be mean? Daddy, last night I saw him smile.

Me: You did?

Caleb: Yeah, he smiled, maybe it was because people took a picture. (Caleb puts on his selfie-smile)

Me: Maybe, buddy.

Caleb: But Daddy, you think maybe he could be nicer? (Here’s where my insides churn. I think to myself, “Make sure he knows he safe, make sure you tell him the truth.”)

Me: Maybe — maybe he could be nicer. What do you think?

Caleb: Yeah, Daddy, we should ask him to be nicer. I saw him smile so maybe he will say yes. What if I give him one of my toys! (He’s excited by the idea.)

Me: Caleb, that’s such a creative idea! (I match his enthusiasm.) Maybe we can write a card and ask him to be nicer? (I smile at him. It dawns on me that he hasn’t yet reacted to Hillary losing — he knows how much we cared about this and he himself was a strong advocate. I want to make sure we cover that part too). So Caleb… that means Hillary, she didn’t win.

Caleb: She didn’t win, but we don’t give up! Like in baseball, I swing and miss but I don’t give up.

Me: Yeah, we never give up, that’s right. But Hillary did lose. You know, sometimes you win and sometimes you lose.

Caleb: It’s okay daddy.

Me: Yeah, because we don’t give up, and we will try to get Trump to smile more.

Caleb: And give more hugs, Daddy, he needs to give hugs like Hillary.

Me: That’s a really good point, Caleb.

Caleb: And Daddy, send him a note to ask him to be nicer, and give more hugs more.

Me: Let’s do that, for sure.

Caleb: I know! I’ll give him one of my toys! Then…then…then maybe he’ll smile and give more hugs.

Me: Wow, so maybe later we’ll figure out which toy to give him.

Caleb: Yeah, and we don’t give up. Hey Daddy, I have a question.

Me: What’s up dude?

Caleb: Can I watch Wild Kratz now?

Me: Yeah bud.

Caleb: You have to sit with me and watch it too, okay?

Me: Okay buddy boy. I love you. (I kiss him.)

About the Author
Matthew Soffer is the Senior Associate Rabbi at Temple Israel of Boston, where he leads the social justice efforts, practicing congregation-based community organizing with the Greater Boston Interfaith Organization (GBIO). Matt serves on the Advisory Council of the Pluralism Project at Harvard University, the Board of the Jewish Alliance for Law and Social Action (JALSA), the Massachusetts Board of Rabbis, and the Rabbinic Council of Hand-in-Hand Center for Jewish-Arab Education in Israel.
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