For My Daughter, After This Election

On the morning of November 9th you came into my room—your first stop on the route of your morning routine. “You didn’t wake me up, Mommy. You didn’t wake me up.”

I looked at the expression on your face, your eyes bright with anticipation. I wanted it to be the night before when I had sat on our living room couch. And you kneeled in front of that little wooden chair much too small for the big second grade girl you’ve become. You placed a map of America on the hard seat, and you used red and blue crayons to one-by-one color in the different states. You added together numbers in two different columns, and you jumped up and down with some announcements and groaned with others. At 10 p.m. I sent you to bed while I still felt a bubble of optimism in the room.

“270,” you said. “270.”

“I’ll wake you up,” I replied.

Perhaps I said this with a touch too much confidence. Confidence because before news outlets declared a presidential-elect and before you stood in your pajamas in the doorway to my bedroom, I had a certain amount of faith. I had faith that our country with all its varied political beliefs would not knowingly choose a president who bullied others, made racist remarks, exhibited xenophobia, mocked those with disabilities, and made light of sexual assault. Because of this faith I had in the voting public, I believed I would wake you in the early hours of morning. I would dance with you in our dark hallway in celebration of a moment history has yearned to see.

I didn’t wake you up because what I hoped for failed to materialize.

“She didn’t win,” I told you the morning of November 9th even as I imagined your unfinished map from the previous night. Your eyes reddened and fat tears pooled in the corners before rolling down your cheeks. You lay face down on the floor and buried your head in the carpet.

Later that day, after you wiped away your tears, after you went to school, and after you returned home, you said, “I didn’t want him to win.” So I read to you a list of women, a Latina elected to the Senate, a Vietnamese American elected to the House, an Indian American elected to the Senate, a Somali American elected to a state legislature, an Indian American elected to the House. A Thai American elected to the Senate.

All you said was, “I didn’t want him to win.”

“I know,” I said. And then I spoke words to you that I know I will say again and again. I told you that we honor what we hoped for by continuing to work hard in the places where we can make a difference. We honor what we hoped for by seeing injustice in our world and speaking out against it. This is how we continue to have faith. I said these words to you as fresh tears streaked your face. I will say those words to you again, and I will also add that we honor what we hoped for as we give dignity to others and recognize the value and worth of each human being—even the people we disagree with.

That night almost a full 24 hours after you kneeled at that little wooden chair and colored red states and blue states, you heard what I said. You nodded and replied, “I didn’t want this.” You wrapped your arms around my waist and leaned your head against my side.

“I know,” I said as I rested my arm on your shoulder. “It’s okay to be sad.”