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How to Explain the Stormy Daniels Scandal to a Kid (If You Have To)

It's a father's duty to discuss current events. And sometimes that gets really uncomfortable, or really silly, or really whatever the hell this is.

Flickr/Thomas Hawk; Fatherly Illustration

Because yesterday’s 60 Minutes lasted for 60 minutes we’ll never get back and because that Stormy Daniels interview might (unexpectedly? ironically? sadly?) prove to be as history-altering as the publication of the Pentagon Papers and because “Stormy Daniels” constitutes four-syllables your child will likely stumble on, it’s time for dads to expect that they’re going to have to turn a story about a pornstar spanking the future president into a teachable moment. Ugh. Obviously, the approach here is what the smirkiest sorts of magicians refer to as misdirection. Rather than denying that Stormy Daniels, née Stephanie Gregory, is a pornographic actress or stonewalling on the whole scandal — avoidance is going to help — the best approach is to bounce off the thing, like a magazine against an oversized rump.

Rather than talking about memorable films with names like Asscar, Swallow the Leader, and Breast Side Story or why Daddy sometimes closes the computer really really fast when you walk in on him in the bedroom, the trick is to focus on the less tawdry parts of the affair. It’s a difficult trick but doable. Here are the three best ways to have the Stormy Daniels conversation without really having the Stormy Daniels conversation.

Teachable Moment #1: You Can Change Your Name To Literally Whatever You Want

As chronicled in the New York Times, Ms. Daniels was born Stephanie Gregory. She was a good, unobtrusive student, “a natural fit at a competitive, racially diverse high school with an engineering focus” in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Importantly, for the purposes of this conversation, she was known as Stephanie Gregory. Now there are two ways of approaching the fact that she is professionally known as Stormy Daniels.

The first is savvy your child to the concept of noms de plume.  I mean, for a kid, the idea that you could be known as, for example, IRL as William Sydney Porter but sign your work as O. Henry is a cool concept to explore. But the much more interesting notion to float is a legal name change. Though not technically true, surely true in spirit, that a body can be given a name like Stephanie Gregory and change it to Stormy Daniels, or be born Tyler Gold and change it to Tyrannosaurus Rex or Jeffrey Drew Wilschke and change your name to Beezow Doo-Doo Zopittybop-Bop-Bop is surely one of the most empowering lessons we can bequeath unto our children. As Heraclitus wrote, “Character is destiny.”

Teachable Moment #2: Anyone Can Fight the Power

Your kids, and hell, probably you too, are too young to remember Daniel Ellsberg, who, as a RAND staffer, leaked the Pentagon Papers to the New York Times in 1971 thus bringing to light the murderous dishonesty of the United States. And though they might have passing knowledge of more recent whistleblowers like Edward Snowden, Chelsea Manning, and Reality Winner, that the Trump administration might very well be brought down by an actress — an actress whose specific genre of film, though unmentioned, ranks perhaps only under animated children’s shows on the pecking order of cultural ephemera — is an immediate reminder that the power to effect change by speaking out is not the exclusive province of those already in power. I mean, look, if you’re having that conversation for realsies, talk about Parkland but if you find yourself up to your tits in Stormy Daniels mishegoss, that’s a fine place to start. As Pema Chodron writes, “Start where you are.”

Teachable Moment #3: Sign Your Contracts

That Daniels is speaking publicly about her presidential peccadilloes due to the fact that the Trump either forgot or neglected to sign the document just begs to be turned into a lesson on the importance of details. Though non-disclosure agreements are legal documents of uncertain validity that surely rest well above the threshold of your child’s ken, you know what isn’t? Permission slips. Your kid can not go to the aquarium unless you’ve signed the slip. You can fill out all the other details — phone number, emergency contact, etc… — but unless you sign your name, the slip is useless. Though a minor’s signature is not legally binding — minors not being able to sign contracts — this is a perfect opportunity to float the notion of what a legally binding contract is and how it enters into force.

Also, this presents the always-diverting opportunity to practice handwriting!