"Help! My 3-Year-Old Is Obsessed With Trump"
By ANNIE PFEIFER
JULY 20, 2017
The New York Times
Credit Marie Assénat
My 3-year-old daughter is obsessed with Donald Trump.
This is a problem if 1) you live in New York City, 2) you are liberal, 3) your friends are liberal, 4) your daughter attends a liberal school and 5) your relatives are affected by the Trump administration’s travel ban.
Yassi, my daughter, attends the kind of school that made counseling available in the wake of the 2016 presidential elections. Parents stood together comforting one another on Nov. 9 in an act of collective mourning that I hadn’t seen since Sept. 11. This is probably exactly the type of school that the Trump voters were hating on with their epic middle finger raised to the elites of this country.
On that same morning, Yassi made few friends by screaming “Donald Trump!” at the top of her lungs in the crowded stairwell to her school. People whirled around to find the traitor. Red-faced and humiliated, I pulled her aside and said, “Shhhh, Yassi, we do not scream these things at school.” And so, an expletive was born, much more potent than any four-letter word.
“Annabel,” she would say, turning to her best friend, “I want to tell you a secret.” Annabel would dutifully move closer.
“Donald Trump!” Yassi would do her 3-year-old best to whisper, which, of course, turned out to be a poorly modulated stage whisper audible to anybody nearby.
“What’s your name, little girl?” kindly strangers would ask her in the checkout line of a grocery store, or at the playground.
“Donald Trump,” she would answer slyly, delighted by the explosion of giggles she elicited.
We had to leave a play date early because the kids — upon Yassi’s encouragement — kept calling one another “Donald Trump” until one little girl dissolved into tears. “Your daughter keeps talking about Donald Trump,” Yassi’s teacher reported, eyeing me suspiciously as if my morning news routine started (and ended) with Breitbart.
It all began during the campaign, when Mr. Trump seemed like little more than a joke and nobody thought he had a fighting chance. “Who do you want to win the election, Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump?” I would ask Yassi. “Donald Trump!” she would scream excitedly.
Who could blame her? He shared a first name with Donald Duck, and his last name rhymed with “jump,” her favorite activity. She was never able to pronounce Hillary Clinton, which evolved into “Hairy Clinton,” and then finally, “Mustache.” (I can’t pretend to follow a toddler’s logic, but it appears this was one more demographic with which Secretary Clinton failed to resonate.)
After the election, his name, like everything else, was no longer very funny. To me, Yassi’s obsession with Donald Trump represented the radical disjuncture between the brave new world we adults came to inhabit and the innocent world of a child, where even the names of autocratic despots are reduced to lyrical rhymes. Kids are sponges, and every conversation — public and private — was saturated with his name.
Yassi’s father is Iranian-Canadian and was affected by the first travel ban, which included permanent residents from the blacklisted countries. For several weeks, he was forced to cancel business trips overseas for fear of being denied re-entry to the United States. Even under the revised travel ban, Yassi’s Iranian-born grandparents would have had a hard time entering the country, in spite of their Canadian passports.
For Persian New Year, in March, Yassi’s grandparents gave her cherubic twin baby dolls, one dressed in blue overalls, the other in a light pink dress. Naturally, Yassi named them Donald Trump and Mustache. “You can’t name a baby doll ‘Donald Trump,’ ” I admonished her, trying not to laugh. Not that Mustache was much more becoming.
Of course, the best way to get a 3-year-old to continue doing something annoying is to try to stop her. So we bathed Donald Trump, dressed Donald Trump in his blue overalls and then gently put Donald Trump to bed next to his twin.
“Doesn’t Donald Trump look cozy in his new bed?” I asked her as baby Donald Trump snuggled under the covers of his little trundle bed.
“Mommy, Donald Trump is my best friend,” she replied.
With his blinking blue eyes and small tuft of blond hair, baby Donald Trump seemed more like a joke than a threat to the world order. As Sigmund Freud theorized, by turning something threatening into a game, we rob it of its power over us. In this way, play transforms a passive experience into an active one, allowing the child to gain mastery over a threat. Yassi was onto something.
Her childish irreverence for authority made me realize the way even liberals give Mr. Trump too much importance by parsing every tweet and speaking about him in hushed tones. It’s easy to feel powerless by the deluge of depressing headlines. But by subverting his authority even in subtle, silly ways, we loosen his herculean grasp on us.
One day, when Yassi’s father came home from work, she motioned to his ear. “Can I ask you something?” He obediently leaned down.
“Donald Trump,” she whispered triumphantly.
“O.K., Yassi, let’s try something else. Can you say Vladimir Putin?” He winked. “After all, that’s who’s really in charge here.”
“Vladimir Poopy?” she asked, and then began giggling hysterically.
Annie Pfeifer is an assistant professor in the department of international literary and cultural studies at Tufts University.