When my oldest son was 3 years old we got him into a preschool class at an elite private school across the street from Prospect Park in the Park Slope neighborhood of Brooklyn.
It was more than we could afford — we couldn’t even afford to live in Park Slope, but instead lived in the neighboring Prospect Heights neighborhood — but, nervous and stressed by the unreasonable pressure new parents often feel with a first child to give them the absolute best at all costs, we found the money anyway.
I thought my son was well adjusted. I had worked evening or late shifts since my son was born. He spent his mornings with me. I took him to the park and to play spaces with other children. He always seemed to socialize well with them. In the interview for the preschool — yes, there was an interview for a 3-year-old — the admissions officer dumped a tub of toys on the floor, watched him play with them, and asked him questions. Apparently, he passed.
On the day of school, I took him to class. He seemed fine, navigating the space with comfort and ease. But, then they told the parents that it was time for us to go. We nervously shuffled out and stood near the door in the hall, peeking through the gaps in the artwork taped to the window.
Some of the children cried, but none of them like my son. He threw a full tantrum, fighting and scratching the teachers who tried to calm him, screaming and crying until he finally threw up. I was stunned and anxious and mortified. I came back into the room and they let me take him home. His tiny body heaved in my arms as I walked him home until the crying stopped and he dozed off.
I realized that he was always so comfortable when in the park or in play spaces because I was always there. I was the comfort. I was the safety. I was his power.
For a week, I took him to class, and the scene repeated itself every day: fighting, scratching, screaming, crying and then the vomit. At which point, each day, I would collect him and take him home.
This could not continue. I asked his teachers if I could sit in the back of the class with him — his school day ended at noon — until he got comfortable. They allowed it. So, every day I would sit in the back of the class in a chair design for a preschool — yes, they are very, very, very small and low, like sitting on a small stack of books — with my coffee and newspaper, him glancing over every now and then to make sure that I was still there.
When they snacked, I snacked. When they went out for recess, I went out for recess.
This went on for months until one day when we were heading out for recess, he turned to me and said, “Dad, it’s OK, you don’t have to come.” And that was it. That was the last day I stayed with him at school.
I am reminded of that story now that President Trump is refusing to concede the election and throwing into question whether or not he will peacefully relinquish power: He is acting like a child throwing a tantrum because he is being displaced from his comfort and power. The smattering of states that four years ago handed Trump the presidency abandoned him this year and he is unable to handle that idea.
But, my son didn’t hold the power of the presidency. Americans simply don’t have months to let Trump grow up and get comfortable with his loss.
So he is doing, and has done, everything in his power to undermine the legitimacy of this election. And, among his supporters, that is working. A poll this week by The Economist/YouGov found that 86 percent of Trump voters believe that Joe Biden didn’t legitimately win the election. That would represent about 62 million voters under Trump’s misinformation spell.
Trump is of course being aided and abetted in his deceit by a devout, deceitful conservative press and the conservative cowards in Congress who don’t want to get crosswise with him, even if Trump does damage to our democracy.
Trump has essentially thrown in the towel on fighting the surging coronavirus pandemic, instead choosing to fight the will of the majority of the American electorate.
Many legislators think that they can simply ride Trump’s anger as he works his way through the stages of grief, finally to acceptance. That’s the mistake they made when Trump was first elected. They thought he would grow into the normalcy of the presidency. He didn’t. He took their silence as license. And by the time they thought they needed to confront him, he had grown too strong for them to do so.
Trump is once again taking Republicans’ silence as license, and by the time they speak up, he could be too invested in the idea of resisting the Election Day reality.
Trump isn’t only throwing a tantrum, he’s cutting his teeth.
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