It had to happen sooner or later that someone was going to take a pot-shot at the new First Family, and it’s not surprising that that shot came from SNL. Comedians, at their best, rub our noses in our own worst nature, and SNL has a long history of lampooning Trump. Trump himself, with his hypermasculinity and proclivity for telling falsehoods, has certainly made himself an easy target. And it’s hard to forget the hate that Obama’s enemies, including Trump, cast on him and his family all the way through Obama’s two terms.
Here’s what’s not being said about this situation: Any attack on Barron Trump is an attack on the relationship between Trump and his son. And at a time when fatherhood is still evolving and being redefined, that’s criminal.
This is a 10-year-old boy – Trump’s youngest child, and his only child with the First Lady. This is a boy who lacks nothing, who attends private school, who was kept out of the spotlight for much of the Presidential campaign, but who now finds himself the center of unwanted attention, because of his father. This young man, who has his own aspirations and desires – whatever they may be – must look to Trump for those things that only a father can give. He’s looking to experience the world through his father. A father and son have a special relationship: while his role may be to nurture at times, what he really offers a son that no one else can offer is his experience of the world. A father’s role is to help his son explore and understand the world; to help him negotiate the pull between a boy’s desire to explore and his need to respect physical limitations. To provide a safe, loving container to come to terms with the world and its people.
Think about what having, or being, a father means to you. Now imagine, for a moment, what it must be like to have Donald Trump for a father.
I will not put my speculation into words. But sons and daughters look to their fathers for a certain protection from a dangerous world – not necessarily physical protection, but emotional protection. Robert Bly says that, if a boy’s father is unavailable, he’ll look to his mother for that protection. The moment he does that, Bly says, the boy feels shame.
Do not get between Donald Trump and his son, whatever the relationship may be. Don’t cast aspersions on them, don’t ask questions about them. Let Barron Trump and his father fail or succeed in their relationship without interference. To do otherwise will be to add shame to what is almost certainly a very difficult situation for this young man who is currently living in his father’s shadow. This may be hard to hear in the age of helicopter parenting, but his struggles are his, and his alone. Yes, I know he’s only ten. Yes, I know his father is probably not all he should be. The boy may need to do a lot of growing up quickly. That’s the hand he’s been dealt. Yes, he’s privileged. But he’s got his own struggles, whatever they are, and he should inspire neither envy nor pity.