I’ve never in my life faced such a profound case of writer’s block. Simply put, I have had no words to describe the way this last week has shaken me to the core. And yet, now, as I sit down to write, the words seemingly won’t stop.
You see, when I dressed on Tuesday morning, carefully crafting an OOTD that included pantsuit, crisp white blouse, and combat boots, I didn’t actually suspect we were going to battle. I believed, in the deepest recesses of my heart, that we must all feel the same way that I did. After all, I believed in the American values of life, liberty and pursuit of happiness for all. Our optimism, hope, and positivity was well placed; kindness would prevail.
And then, with my boys by my side, I sat watching the news in stunned disbelief Tuesday evening as my confidence fell apart.
As the tallies rolled in, I spent the wee hours of the night drafting a simple statement to express my feelings; it took far too long to express far too little. And on Wednesday morning, I walked through the preschool parking lot at drop-off time, numb to the world, wondering who among us could have possibly believed in the rhetoric served up throughout the campaign by our President-elect. Flabbergasted to hear that the data called out nearly half of the people of this nation.
When Secretary Clinton said: “And to all of the little girls who are watching this, never doubt that you are valuable and powerful and deserving of every chance and opportunity in the world to pursue and achieve your own dreams,” I sat there, tears streaming down my cheeks. For a presidential candidate to so eloquently share a directive to young girls to never doubt… but no, that wasn’t it at all.
For a presidential candidate to feel that she needed to. I felt broken.
The world of today is a scary place for many of our neighbors, friends, and family members. I know that we are all watching the news as reports of riots, violence, and hatred unfold. I know we are all watching the vitriol on our Facebook feeds, the sarcasm and callousness rolling off the tongues of people we thought we knew. The truth is, a lot of people are hurting.
But then this statement was released by California’s legislative leaders:”Today, we woke up feeling like strangers in a foreign land, because yesterday Americans expressed their views on a pluralistic and democratic society that are clearly inconsistent with the values of the people of California. We have never been more proud to be Californians. By a margin in the millions, Californians overwhelmingly rejected politics fueled by resentment, bigotry, and misogyny.”
“California was not a part of this nation when its history began,” they wrote, “but we are clearly now the keeper of its future.”
And so here’s where I completely shift gears, and it will probably surprise you, because this isn’t the blog you expected (and you’ve probably either hot button clicked and jumped to conclusions in the comments, or you’re really taken aback right now). Because this post is not about politics. None of it has ever been about politics. This post has been about parenting.
Here’s the point, all politics aside, and yet it was something that was driven home to me again in that statement from our legislators: as parents, teachers, and caretakers, we are the most important keepers of the future.
I will be the first to admit that the day my oldest son was born, my world was rocked as well. A confident, competent, career-minded, and very self-assured adult, I was unprepared for the amount of insecurity a little face could manifest. When an earthquake rocked Southern California just 4 days after his birth, I stood clutching him in my driveway as the rolling faded, and I wept as I was hit with something that somehow had not yet crossed my radar with any finality.
This little person, brand new to this world and wearing a pair of socks so loose that they barely clung to his little ankles…. he would be dependent on me from this day forth. Yes, for his health and wellbeing, to carry him away from danger, and to tuck him in at night. But also for guidance. For development of his moral compass. A fully formed, absolutely perfect human… completely unfinished.
I nursed my sweet boy on demand, dragging myself to breastfeeding support group after support group as we struggled together through our first months. I carried him close to my heart, read him the labels on grocery store cans as we strolled through the aisles, kissed his sweet face as I cuddled him through teething, illnesses, nightmares. Talked him through conflict mediation with his friends. Modeled respect and dignity.
I remember when I picked him from preschool and he said, “I don’t want my amber anymore. My friend says that boys can’t wear necklaces.” I remember when he informed me, laughing: “My brother’s teacher says he is wearing GIRL pants today. Girl pants!”
I remember when he told me that a boy in his class had made a cool-kids-club and a nerd-kids-club at school. I remember when he was kicked out of the cool-kids-club because he told that boy that we can be friends with whomever we want.
And I remember the day just a week or so ago, when he told me, earnest expression set in his sweet 1st grade face, “Mama, I don’t think you should vote for him.”
“Why, buddy?” I asked him, surprised (because while we’ve sat together to watch debates, my political views have gone unshared).
“Because, Mama. He doesn’t respect girls.”
There was a moment earlier this week when I too, like so many, wondered how I could possibly teach my children to stand up to bullies if we were willing to elect one to office. But then I realized that Tuesday was not a turning point. And the issues and politics, while certainly quite real, are only a piece of the picture. Neither “side” wants their child bullied, to feel as though he isn’t listened to, as if she isn’t valuable and powerful and deserving.
And so, without being bullies, we will continue to model the strength in kindness, listening, and learning. We’ll keep teaching them how to push the boundaries in a healthy way in order to stand up for what they believe in. We’ll continue to show them how to honor the people whose lives intersect with their own.What respect looks like. How to listen. And by loving our children with every fiber of our beings, we will continue to forge a new world – one in which kindness, patience, and dignity are at the forefront, and in which angry, heated words have no power and instead teach us patience and have us digging deep to find compassion and that space deep inside where we can all listen to what we have in common.
My reality was shaken earlier this week, but I find that, here on the other side, my conviction remains the same. I hold these truths to be self-evident. As the keeper of the future, it is my job to stand for love, to teach listening and patience and kindness. To promote the general welfare and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity. To be the change I wish to see in the world, and the change that my children deserve.
I believe that parents everywhere want that still. And I believe that the work that we are doing will shape the future some of us wish was now.