"Baby, listen. Worst-case scenario: we'll just go down to the basement storage room and hang out there until the storm passes. But please remember, we do not live in a place where tornadoes are likely to happen."
Max had come home from school terrified. It was a windy day following a day during which several tornadoes touched down in different parts of our state. A friend in school had told him that, during the tornado watch the day before, her grandparents, who live several hours away, had to shelter in their bathroom. The wind made him nervous and he needed to know our Disaster Preparedness Plan. After some snuggles and more reassurances, he was okay. He ran off to the playroom to join Evan in the Lego Galaxy Battle of All Time.
My kids are worriers. I learned early on that it's more effective to address their fears and anxieties with action plans rather than to dismiss their fears or tell them not to worry.
I find myself acknowledging their concerns by pointing out what we would do in any Worst-Case Scenario, if it were to come to that.
"Worst-case scenario, you fall off your bike. You're wearing jeans and a helmet so you're well-protected. We're right here to help you up if that happens."
"Worst-case scenario, you do have to get vaccines at today's appointment. It'll pinch for a moment but then it'll be over."
"Worst-case scenario, you don't know a single kid in your class on that first day of kindergarten. You'll get to know some friends really quickly. You're awesome at Being a Friend and Kindergarten teachers know a thing or two about building classroom communities, too."
"Worst-case scenario, you do get a vomit-flavored Every Flavour Bean and you spit it out. We'll have a cherry one waiting for you to get the taste out of your mouth." (The kids were spared the worst of them, as luck would have it. My mom drew the vomit bean, while I suffered through earthworm.)
I don't only use this strategy with my kids. When talking to my mom friends about their mom-worries, it can come in handy, too. "Worst-case scenario, he goes to kindergarten in diapers. But he's only two. Give him time."
I used it recently on my little sister, too. While I wouldn't normally try to persuade her into calling in "sick" to a work shift, I did the other day. She needed a mental health day and I wanted her company. "Worst-case scenario, you get fired. So you find a new job. You work at a college library. No one will die without you there to enforce Quiet Hours." Maybe not my most Responsible Big Sister moment, but it was a beautiful, warm, sunny day and a nature walk with kids and a puppy is good for the soul.
It can feel Pessimistic and Over-Reactive to be a Worst-Case Scenario Mom, but I think there's comfort in knowing that, in most situations, the worst isn't that bad and, more often than not, it won't come to that anyway.
I try to be honest with my kids and give them as much information as they need to feel secure, without giving them too many details to unnecessarily frighten or overwhelm them.
With the upcoming election, though, I've totally blown it. I have been Worst-Case Scenario Mom to the Max and my Max is taking it pretty hard.
In addition to explaining why I support the candidates I support, I have been...well, completely honest with the boys about my concerns about some of the others. I have felt as though they're old enough to know that racism, sexism, and xenophobia are still, inexplicably, alive and well in this country. I want my kids to know that, despite what the loudest person in the room may be saying, they can be the change. My kids can be the Good. The world will be a better place because of them. I want them to know that the way they treat people matters and that Good People and Kindness will always win.
But for some reason, Trump keeps winning and I. Don't. Get. It.
My family got together last weekend for an early dinner at one of our favorite restaurants. I know a lot of families don't talk about politics but we do. We are respectful, but we are honest and open and opinionated as hell. Though we don't all agree on every issue and we won't all be voting for the same candidate, we talk. We challenge. We debate. But there's one thing we can all agree on: Trump.
We were talking about the upcoming Primary Election while waiting for our meals to arrive. The grown-ups at the table were each weighing in with their own "no, but THIS is the most ridiculous/dangerous thing he's ever said." We were presenting cases for the best ways to prevent his nomination and to ensure that he didn't actually win the whole damn thing in November. I didn't think Max was paying much attention but, as usual, he was.
"Mommy?" he said, wide-eyed. "Is Donald Trump going to win and be the president?"
"No, baby." I said, sorry I had been so open with my opinions with him. Sorry I had given him one more thing to worry about.
"Are you sure?"
"No, baby, I'm not." I said, sorry, most of all, that I couldn't lie to him.
"But what if he wins?"
"Listen, Max. Worst-case scenario: Donald Trump wins. But even if that happens, you will always be safe with your family, who loves you so much and who will take such good care of you," I said. "Donald Trump is a Grown-Up Worry. You don't have to worry about him."
But I do. And so do you. And I am worried. And I hope you are, too.
So now we just get out there and vote and hope that reason and sensibility and humanity and kindness wins.
Tomorrow is Super Tuesday, it's time to put this baby to bed. I'll do my part. Republicans, it's time to do yours. We can not allow this Worst-Case Scenario to come true.