On the night of November 8th I held an election party. It was planned as a celebration. We all thought she would win. There was a cake, decorations, and lots of celebratory drinks in the fridge.
And then she didn’t and the lump started to grow in my throat. Not prone to tears or public hysterics, I toted that dumb lump around until yesterday when I got on the treadmill, put on the wrong music and all the anger, sadness, and fear came pouring out.
I stewed in the locker room, stormed through the grocery store, baked three trays of chicken and tried to work it through. This can’t be it. Look for the helpers, learn from mistakes, fall down, get back up… What is the message? How am I going to turn this sow’s ear into a silk anything?
In the words of one of my wisest male friends, “I think you are less mad that she lost and more mad that he won.” And he was right.
But I will be damned if I walk around all winter in a funk of defeat and inaction. Instead I choose hope and think I found enough good in all of this to turn the page and get to work.
I have decided that the months surrounding the United States election have made me a better mother, a stronger woman, and more aware that together as a family we owe the world and its people more than we are currently giving.
Hatred and discrimination were not reborn on November 9th. They have always existed in both quiet and blatant ways. Just two years ago, a man carrying a broomstick threatened our black friend as we walked home from a late dinner in New Orleans. Sadly, our friend did not seem to be nearly as horrified as we were. He merely said with a shrug, “And that is why I chose not to practice medicine in the United States.” And Canada is far from perfect, too. I just thought I could protect my children from all of it for a few more years.
They are only 8, 10, and 12. We have always made equality, diversity, and kindness mandatory in our home, but until now have we been able to avoid the raw, grittier discussions that perhaps best illustrate the need for these principles.
Gone are the years of a Reagan style election, when my father and mother could hide the paper, or turn off the news. Modern kids are inundated with hundreds of images and messages every day in ways we cannot control.
Even if we vigilantly restrict or monitor their devices, they can still learn everything they ever wanted to know — or never wanted to know — at recess or riding home on the bus.
This election made me feel as though a storm was rising, so huge that I could no longer protect my children, only arm them the best I could.
I found myself scrambling desperately to have conversations with them that I hadn’t planned on having for a number of years. My husband and I drilled them on consent, body image, gender ,and equality issues. Together we read the paper, watched the news and created an open dialogue that I hope will remain.
I made them dump out every word of hate they knew and realized that of course they could read what was written in bathroom stalls. Once they knew that they no longer had to protect me by playing innocent, the questions flew and so did my answers.
I got so good at it that I was able to explain to a carpool of the curious why an HPV shot is a blessing, while also using my hands to demonstrate the positioning of a cervix while parked at a stoplight.
Together we watched the debates, leading to discussions about intimidation, narcissism, and bullying.
I made sure they could identify examples of good men and women in our daily lives. We talked about the best ways to sort information from the media.
I dragged them out of bed to watch every single speech Michelle Obama offered and taught them that although raised Catholic, watching Kate McKinnon sing Hallelujah was the best religious experience I have ever had.
And I am so glad for all of this because they know so much more than I thought they did and soon they will be leaving home to pave their own paths. They will always be my babies but I cannot afford to baby them anymore.
In the next few short years I will use my time with them to create the kindest people I can and teach them that privilege means that you are obligated to give and make the world better for those who need help. I will make sure that I no longer hide the sad faces depicted on Food Bank mailings and instead take them to volunteer. Where they can meet the hungry in person. Because I have always believed that if you are healthy and strong you must pay that back with service.
And as for me, I too may have been lulled by the beauty of the past eight years into complacency. Believing that it was all being taken care of somehow. Perhaps this new presence could be used as a dark illustration of how much there is to be done.
So if you are looking for me, I will not be clutching my pearls or wringing my hands. More likely I will be using them to help my physician cousin launch drones full of IUDS into the Deep South because, in the words of W.E.B. Dubois, “There is no force equal to a woman determined to rise.”