Confrontation makes me nauseous, and I’ve always been shy and socially awkward. This might seem weird since I’ve chosen to put parts of my life on the internet with this blog, my Facebook page, and Instagram, but these platforms feel safe because interaction is tempered through screens. I assure you I’m not as witty in person as I appear to be online. However, I’m sitting here with a knot in my stomach because what I’m about to write is opinionated and will seem confrontational. I mentioned the other day that I was devastated by the election outcome. Henning and I stayed up until the wee hours of Wednesday morning watching the election coverage, hoping that there would be a miracle and we wouldn’t be faced with a president who exuded hate and touted exclusivity throughout his campaign. When it became clear there would be no miracle, I sobbed on the couch and Henning wrote a letter to Margaret apologizing because she now faces growing up in a country that threatens to be far less kind to her as a woman than the country we know now. And to Niels and Margaret, Henning wrote that no matter who they love, we will love them, no matter what, no matter what path this country takes. We have real fear for what might happen, and I don’t believe this fear is unjustified. Henning, as an immigrant, also feels less welcome in the country he’s called home for nearly 40 years. He might look every bit as American as the next blonde hair, blue eyed white guy, but he wasn’t born here. Our emotions are raw. We are shocked and dismayed. We are disappointed.
For those of you who read what I usually write, this is a brisk change of pace. I will say my piece and turn back to regularly scheduled programming in the following days. My message is simple: If you are passionate about something positive, speak out. Do something to make your voice heard. Get involved, and when it comes time to vote, DO IT. If this election has taught us anything it’s that assuming everything will turn out OK is not OK. And let me be clear, this isn’t about the left or the right, Democrats or Republicans. This is about modeling good behavior and not excusing away the bad.
My goal as a mother is to raise independent, strong, and caring individuals who will stand up for themselves and know the value of compassion. We don’t know everyone else’s story, so it’s not our place to judge. If someone needs help, we help. We reach out our hands and help people up when they’re down, when they have less than they need, just as we hope others would do for us. We are nice and courteous and compassionate. We respect each other’s space and opinions. Even with Niels who is only 1 year old: he is a person and deserves respect, too, and by giving him respect he will learn to return it to us when he’s older. This is not to say that we are perfect parents. We are far from perfect, and don’t strive for perfection. But we always keep in mind how our actions impact Margaret and Niels and more broadly, our society. In the days after the election, I’ve been reading articles and watching news about people in the United States who are being downright hateful and violent to others just because they view them as other, as not belonging. The president elect set a dangerous precedent for this behavior, and as parents how can we not be troubled by this? I fear for what this might teach children and know shielding them from this hate won’t make it anything better. Even though I feel like I’m in mourning right now, slowly working through a very real feeling of grief, I’m moved to action, seeking out ways to promote a positive impact that will model the behavior we all want to see in our children.
The other day a good friend came over to my house with two of her children. We gave the kids pumpkin cookies, pumpkin bread, grapes, and juice boxes and sent them off to play while we brainstormed how to get involved in our community. We want to be involved and offer help where it’s needed. We’re passionate about promoting education, protecting the environment, stopping childhood hunger, and maintaining (and improving) women’s rights. We will start small by going to city council and school board meetings. We have a plan and are thinking of ways to start our own community unity project.
On our way home from school one day Margaret asked me, “Did Barack Obama die?” I was taken aback by her question, but realized we’ve been talking about how a new president was being elected and she must have concluded that something had happened to the previous president. She obviously doesn’t have a good grasp on the political system, but she picks up on how people talk and comments on whether she thinks someone is nice or not. Since we’re on the west coast, we listened to the debates on the radio because they were during dinner time. We asked Margaret to be as quiet as possible so we could hear what Hillary and Trump were saying. At one point Margaret broke our silence and said, “Excuse me, Mommy. Why is that man so mean?” She’s four and she’s listening. I honestly wasn’t prepared to provide her with a good explanation. How do I explain to her that the person leading this country isn’t a nice person?
I’m still working through accepting the election results and the news of hate and bigotry isn’t helping. I’m scared. But I refuse to hide. I will work to promote positive change and get involved. I will not accept my kids growing up in a country where misogyny, racism, xenophobia, bigotry, and sexism are brushed off as no big deal. Words matters. Their context matters. Our children are listening. Margaret and Niels will see their mom be a strong woman who works toward positive change and making a safe space for everyone.