Though I was raised in a wealthy Connecticut suburb by white, heterosexual, college educated, upper-middle class parents, our lifestyle was surprisingly apolitical.
Both of my parents, who worked in emergency medicine, felt outward support of one party over another could negatively impact critical business relationships. Still their abstinence from participating in (or very lame excuse for dodging) political discourse impacted me ― by inspiring me, I believe, to do just the opposite with my own children.
In the autumn of 2016, each of my daughters returned from their first and third grade classrooms with schoolwork completed to reflect her choice for the 45th President of the United States.
As the semester progressed, it became more and more evident that their assignments were completed as such due not to peer or even parental pressure, but rather the purest of dreams to see a female in the Oval Office.
With my husband’s blessing, I did whatever I could to include my 6- and 8-year-old daughters in the election cycle. We visited the Ronald Reagan Library and walked an Air Force One that toured seven U.S. Presidents. We completed over and over again an enormous floor puzzle featuring the faces of 44 male Executive-in-Chiefs. We watched a bit of the debates together and come November 7th, we stayed up late crafting homemade “I Voted” T-shirts. I lived and breathed Pantsuit Nation.
And though my daughters are not yet on social media, I personally shared enough political information, opinion and propaganda for all 3 of us combined.
It was all for Her, for Her and for Her. It was for Hillary, for Emilia and for Isla.
Then on the night of November 8th, it all fell apart. I fell apart. As state after state was called I (along with the majority of the popular vote) cried, which made my daughters so very sad.
On our drive to school the following morning, Ryan Seacrest consoled a caller live on the air. “Love always wins,” Seacrest said.
“Hear that girls?” I added. “Love always wins.”
“But love didn’t win, Mommy,” said my eldest. “Trump won.”
In that moment, she was right. But in the weeks and months since, an enormous part of our population (or at least our community) has proven her wrong. For that I am eternally grateful.
On January 21st 2017, an estimated 3 million people took part in Women’s March events worldwide. Human beings of every kind came together ― even when thousands of miles apart ― to stand in solidarity for the equality, protection, safety, health, rights and respect of womankind. Not of humankind, but of womankind.
These peaceful protests were so powerful, so poetic, so paramount. But I wasn’t there.
I’m ashamed to say that I didn’t attend a Women’s March. I’m ashamed not because I put a social event, a day of errands or even a nap before the Women’s March, because I really didn’t. I’m just ashamed because no matter how I justify my absence on that day, our absence on that day, I am a hypocrite. When it came time to take action, action much greater than pressing “post” or “share,” I failed.
I failed myself and I failed Hillary Rodham Clinton. I failed millions of women from Susan B. Anthony to Gloria Steinem, from Rosa Parks to Senator Elizabeth Warren. Most importantly, I failed Emilia Loren and Isla Grace ― my daughters.
Only a few weeks have passed since the Women’s March, but the lesson I’ve learned since is enough to carry me for another several decades. More importantly, it can carry my daughters for a lifetime. We don’t become politically minded on our first stroll to the polling booth at age 18. We are raised that way. From a very young age, I see now, we must be raised that way.
I’ve long debated my mother by proposing she did her children (or at least herself) a real social injustice my avoiding the political arena entirely. The only child of a World War II veteran so patriotic he refused to buy any product not made in the USA, my mother’s roots, though of German decent, were deeply planted in American soil.
But is she Republican or Democrat? I have no idea, and would venture to say even she is unsure to this day. And honestly that’s OK.
My daughters will never doubt that their mother is a proud Democrat. And whether they stay to true to my political opinions or forge their own is unimportant, as long as they act upon what they truly believe. In a way, they have their grandmother to thank for that.