4 kids in 3 years: reflections on motherhood, art and life.
Last night I stayed up as long as I could watching the television coverage of the election results. And then somewhere close to midnight I finally went upstairs to bed.
I went from room to room like I always do in order to kiss each of my four children on the head. But when I got to my daughters’ rooms, I couldn’t help but tear up. I had told them I would wake them up and tell them the election results once we knew. But I just couldn’t, and besides, at that point in the night we didn’t know for sure. Earlier in the day I had told them the story of the night I went to bed thinking Al Gore was president and woke up to find out George W. Bush was president after all.
But as I leaned over my sweet six-year-old girl I whispered I’m sorry into her hair. And then I did the same to my eight-year-old daughter. Because I feel like I let them down, or we all let them down.
This election has brought out the worst in so many people. Such vitriol for people of color and people with disabilities, for non-Christians and immigrants. But more than anything, I can’t shake the loop in my head that tells me that no one could imagine that a human who could grow a child in her body, birth that child, feed her and wipe her bottom, take care of her husband, put up with his infidelities, no one could possibly picture that person, a woman as the president. With her shrill voice and her pant suits just slightly more stylish than something my mother would wear, how in the world could Hillary Rodham Clinton be president?
And we can say it’s because of her emails, but if we can go without seeing someone’s tax returns, which is unprecedented, we all know it’s not really the emails. And we could say it’s because of the Clinton foundation, but if you’ve seen the garish portrait of himself that Donald Trump bought with his foundation money, it couldn’t really be that. And we could say it’s because we don’t trust her and that she’s a liar but Trump lies all the time, and that’s a fact. And we could say it’s because she had too much experience, because she’s been standing up and fighting for the rights of the people around her since she was 18 years old. But how stupid would that make all of us? How gullible?
So maybe it’s something different altogether. I get it. A backlash against the last unusually forward-thinking thing we did as a country, or maybe as an eff-you to the audacity of hope. Fine.
What makes this country amazing, what has always made it so amazing, is that there is a multiplicity of views. People are allowed to feel different things about political parties in government. And I respect that I have friends and family who voted differently than I did. I hate it, but I respect it as their right.
And so when I calmly told my kids this morning that Donald Trump had won, my oldest son looked at me in disbelief. “How is that possible?” he asked. “See I told you so,” his younger brother added.
“Will we be okay?” he asked.
“Oh, baby,” I replied without rancor, “you are a white male in the top 15% economically, more or less Christian, without disabilities, with at least average intelligence. You could be president someday. You’ll be fine. It’s the rest of us I’m worried about.”
Last night I prayed in my head for the first time in a long time as I lay in bed. Please don’t let this happen, I prayed. Please watch over my two mom families, my friends of color, women, friends who struggle economically, recent immigrants, the environment. And maybe my Christian Midwest family will say god heard my prayer (and also, I suck for only praying once a year.)
Maybe they’ll say Trump is the answer.
My husband woke up around 4:40 am this morning to look at his phone and see the results. He came back to bed, and I whispered, “Is it final?” And he said yes. He held me as I cried in the darkness. Such hopes dashed for so many.
Yesterday I wore a white pantsuit to vote, and today I wear black mom clothes, from head to toe.
But tomorrow we will rise and put on our dresses and pantsuits, our uniforms and mom clothing. And the next day and the next.
It is daylight now, and I can see more clearly. The sun rises every day, I rationalize, and this election is just a small thing. We will be fine. Half the country made this choice so there must be something to it. Maybe they know something I don’t. And of course, there will be another presidential election in four years. Maybe I will do more to make my voice heard, maybe we all will.
I continued to hold it together all morning, dressing my four kids, feeding them, caring for them in that utterly forgettable way moms do. I held it together as I explained the electoral college again, as I talked about the popular vote and George Bush on the way to school.
But after dropping them off I ran into school to return a pile of library books and I saw the easels with the Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony books displayed proudly. Then I walked by friends clustered in small mourning groups including a gay mom for whom my heart aches with shame and fear, and I waved in that way that says I’m with you but I’ll cry if I stop. And I held it together.
But just before leaving the school I walked by my youngest daughter’s classroom and I saw them standing there with their hands on their hearts saying the Pledge of Allegiance.
And I walked outside and finally, let my tears out in the light of day.
As I walked out of the school with those tears running down my face a woman with more conservative leanings said, “She just wasn’t the right woman.” But I can’t help but feel that no person could have taken what Hillary Rodham Clinton did and still moved forward. Maybe there was no right woman for this country. Maybe no woman would have been acceptable. Not yet. We sent her into the fray running ahead, and her destiny was to be shot down.
But maybe she did us a service greater than she’ll know. Maybe Hillary Rodham Clinton is that first soldier on that field in Gettysburg running up the hill, waving her flag, destined to be shot down, but not alone. There are more behind her fighting for the union of our country, for the rights of all people no matter their skin color or beliefs or gender or anything else, an army of women in pantsuits (with perhaps a line of honorary pantsuited men in the ranks.) There are more and more of us. And they can’t shoot us all down.
(For a touch of hope, here is Maya Angelou reciting her poem, And Still I Rise. )