I know many of us are still grappling with the results of this historic election. I appreciated Audrey’s words of hope and encouragement that she shared with the NNM community.
Personally, for me, I recognize I am going through the stages of grieving: denial, anger, sadness…and I am trying to move towards acceptance.
Today was a tough day, but I was grateful to have spent the morning in my daughter’s classroom, at her Harvest Breakfast. I was grateful to be a part of the NNM community, to be among teachers and parents who share in the values that we know must prevail. While many of us were somber today, I felt hopeful that through love, strength, and courage we will rise, hold our heads high, move forward, and continue to do good work.
The greatest source of my strength today, was to be among the children. The children give me the greatest hope.
I know many parents (including myself) were feeling at a loss for words, and asking ourselves, “How do I explain our President-elect to our children,” especially when much of what he represents goes against the values we hold high and try every day to instill in them. The sun rose today and we had to have this hard conversation.
Given that I have young children, like many of you, I would like to share my story in hopes that it will give you guidance, if you are still seeking it.
This morning, I had to tell my 4-year-old daughter, with tears in my eyes, “Our country did not pick Hillary Clinton for president. She did not get the most votes, and this really surprised me.”* Tears began to stream down my face, and I did not feel ashamed to shed them. “I am sad today. I am disappointed that she didn’t win. I am sad that Hillary is not going to be our President.” I had to also give her words of hope, “A woman will one day be President of the United States, but we do not yet know who that will be, because right now, Hillary was not chosen.”
Also, my daughters knew that I had not only chosen to vote for Hillary because she is a woman but because, “she is an ally, she is an includer, she is fair, she wants to help everyone.” I wiped my tears and knew I had to say more.
“Now that Donald Trump has been chosen as our next president, we need to help show him what it means to be a good leader. We need to be sure he knows that a good leader stands up for others, makes others feel included and welcomed, always tries to be fair, and no matter what color your hair, eyes, or skin is, we must always be kind to each other.”
My 4-year-old responded with, “When can I meet him?” When I asked, “Why?,” she said, “I want to tell him he needs to be kind to everyone. He needs to be an includer.”
While this made me smile, her remark also reminded me of how children at this young age are still so concrete. I encouraged her, that while we probably will not meet him, she can try and get this message to him by writing a letter or drawing pictures, to show him what is it means to be a good leader. While this letter may never actually reach him, it’s a step in the right direction with our young children.
We need to teach our children that their voice matters. Their words matter. Our values matter: kindness, empathy, compassion, forgiveness, understanding, respect. Above all, their actions matter.
And our actions will speak loudest. As parents and as teachers, we must model these values for our children daily. We must embody them, even in the hardest of times. Together we are stronger, and we must help each other find this grace. Inspired by my wise friend and colleague, Dr. Caroline Adelman: We must reach out to our LGBT family, our Muslim brothers and sisters, our immigrant neighbors, our disabled friends, my fellow people of color and religious minorities. Now, more than ever before, we must show our support and let them know they are loved, valued, respected. We must be kind.
The children are our hope for the change we want to see in the future. They are watching us every day and learning from our actions. Both at home and at school, the children are learning what it means to be a peaceful, productive, and valued member of a community.
As a mother of three daughters, I leave you with this inspirational quote from today: “To all the little girls watching this, never doubt that you are powerful and valuable and deserving of every chance and opportunity in the world.” – Hillary Rodham Clinton
* Addendum: At the time I told my daughter, I did not know Hillary Clinton had actually won the popular vote. I would have worded this differently. However, given my daughter’s young age, I probably would not have explained the Electoral process to her, but this is something I might have tried to explain to an older child.