We try so hard to protect our children from danger, but that's not always possible. This sad truth hit home Saturday night when my 6-year-old daughter came running down the stairs in her Peanuts pajamas, sobbing hysterically and shivering with terror. "Daddy, Daddy, I'm frightened!" she cried, throwing herself into my arms. Somehow she'd seen the Republican debate.
"It's OK, honey," I told her, hugging her close.
"Those men, those mean mean men."
“Sweetie,” I said gently, “I think you're talking about Gov. Chris Christie, Sen. Marco Rubio, Sen.
"But why, Daddy, why?"
"Sweetheart, have you ever heard of something called 'the Republican base'?" She hadn't. "Well, they're very, very angry and some of the candidates are trying to exploit that anger."
She didn't understand, and I think I only confused the poor thing more when I explained the importance of momentum coming out of New Hampshire before the pivot to the Southern states.
I put my little girl back to bed, feeling I'd let her down. Then, in an amazing stroke of luck, I turned on the TV to find
"It's the same story after every debate," she told Rose. "My office gets inundated with calls from concerned parents. Their children can't sleep, some have nightmares, many imagine they're being chased by monsters with funny hair. The symptoms usually disappear after a couple of days, though there have been a few cases of children who simply can't get the image of a smirking Ted Cruz out of their heads. It's a sort of PTSD. We saw children similarly traumatized after the Bill Cosby revelations."
"Because they'd thought of Cosby as this beloved father figure," Rose said.
"That, too," Dr. Muldowney replied. "But I was mostly referring to the constant television appearances by Gloria Allred."
Dr. Muldowney then explained that the problem was more than just the Republican candidates' meanness. “If it was just that, we could simply have the kids shift their focus to Jeb Bush,
"So what are concerned parents to do?" a now very depressed Rose asked.
"If at all possible, don't let your kids watch any more debates. This is especially true of the one preceding Super Tuesday."
"But what if, despite your best efforts, they do see one?" Rose inquired gravely.
"In that case, I tell parents, when the kids have calmed down — and it's OK to let them cry and scream and get it out of their systems — sit with them, take their hands in yours and tell them in a soothing voice, 'They usually move to the middle after the nomination.'"
"And that helps?"
"No. But it's all we've got."
I went upstairs to look in on my daughter, who was sleeping peacefully. As I kissed her on the cheek, I realized we'd gotten off easy. It could have been so much worse. Carly Fiorina could have made the debate.
Gary Jacobs is a former television comedy writer and producer.