It’s a phrase you don’t hear often. His chiefs of staff don’t say it. The terrified people of Guam don’t say it. You’re unlikely to catch any endangered species cooing it. But I’m gonna say it, and I’m gonna say it loud: Thank you, President Donald J. Trump! You’ve done me a solid, and I’ll bet you don’t even know it.
You see, my youngest son starts junior high this week. My baby. The child whose swaddling blanket still sits in his closet beside his hipster hoodies, and who until very recently still shuffled into his parents’ bedroom each morning to snuggle. I don’t mind telling you his transition to tweendom is every bit as brusque and grievous as you’d expect:
He spends time in front of the bathroom mirror, flipping his hair from side to side and making sneery tough-guy faces. He dismisses me curtly when his friends burst through the front door. He no longer wants to tag along to the supermarket. He no longer needs rides to school. It’s a moment every parent dreads, this abrupt, late-summer shift from sweet little kid to self-involved-big-kid-in-training.
Or rather, it would be if I didn’t have more pressing matters on my mind — namely, the grotesque daily subversion of our once great nation.
And so I give thanks to #45 for his generous and frequent failings as a leader. A speaker. A speller. Even his woeful inadequacy as a grownup man person. If it weren’t for his constant breathtaking missteps, and his near-hourly insistence on revealing his astonishing deficit of both wit and character, I would be a mess over this junior high thing. I mean it: a wreck.
Everyone knows that today’s teens face pressures like no generation prior, and this is when it all starts. But every time I start to panic about the homework avalanche and collegiate expectations that are about to swallow up my unsuspecting son, I get an NPR alert and see the humiliating transcripts from our president’s phone chats with other world leaders — who are stunned by his inability to follow a simple conversation thread. And then suddenly, pleasantly, a little fierce academic competition doesn’t seem like the worst thing.
I fret about the potential long-term effects of too much screen time on my child’s brain, and what impact video-game violence and hyper-sexualized entertainers might have on his humanity, his compassion, his sense of equity and justice. But then Twitler comes along with his wall-building rhetoric and encourages actual armed Nazis to storm our streets, spewing tiny-minded invectives from their pasty, wild-eyed faces. And my thoughts turn instead to … what kind of twisted cartoons were these guys nursed on? And how the heil do we bounce their Führer from our Oval Office?
Then, just as I’m beginning to hyperventilate over the scourge of cruel cyberbullying and the truly terrifying rise of depression and suicide that afflicts modern teens, I discover that our commander in chief’s unpluggable piehole is spewing playground-style tough talk and baiting the world’s other lunatic leader into an actual nuclear war.
And all of a sudden, nothing else matters.
So thank you, Trump, for the genuine distractions this month. Sure, I’ve traded the normal, appropriate nail-biting of mid-stage motherhood for the grim, ceaseless hand-wringing, hair-tearing, and Tums-popping that American residency now demands. But if it weren’t for your incessant infantile antics and impressive if demoralizing demonstrations of stunted maturity, I wouldn’t be able to appreciate this potent parental moment for what it is: the opportunity to watch a man actually grow up.
Starshine Roshell is the author of Broad Assumptions.