By: Amber Leventry
I heard my oldest daughter close the door to her bedroom a little before seven this morning. The sound told me she was awake, out of her room and ready for the day. I don’t know why she does it, but whenever she leaves her room first thing, she closes the door behind her as if to say, that’s enough of that. I am ready to move on and into the next day. I wasn’t ready this morning. I was on the couch, frantically checking my phone for the joke, the silver lining, the alarm to go off to tell me that the president-elect is not the man who embodies everything that is wrong with society.
I turned off the television and put down my phone. I greeted her at the bottom of the stairs as she hugged her blanket and favorite stuffed animal close to her rainbow decorated pajamas. I scooped her up and hugged her tighter than usual. She was still so warm from sleep. My heart tightened. She watched the beginning of the election results roll in last night. She knew we wanted Hillary to win. She knew we thought Donald was not a nice guy. She doesn’t know the specifics of why we feel the way we do; she is five, she has kindergarten, monkey bars, and Christmas lists to focus on. The trivial worries that come from those things should be the most and least of her problems.
She does not need to carry the fear I have for my rights as a woman, as a queer woman married to another woman, who is raising three kids. She does not need to imagine the fear that must be tormenting so many of us who are considered a minority, who wear our diverse skin and flag colors with pride. She does not need to worry about our future as a family and as a nation. She does not need to know anything about the feelings that are stirring in my chest.
The same feelings that move me to sickness after terror attacks, after school shootings, after another black man is killed, after religions and innocent people are blamed for the acts they don’t stand for, after another transgender person kills themselves or is killed because they are transgender, after another gay or lesbian person is attacked because of their love, after another woman is raped and made to feel like it was her fault, didn’t happen, or did and no one cares. This tightness in my chest, this bile in my throat, this tension filling my body is not hers to know. Not now. Hopefully not ever.
“Who won, Mama?”
Her voice was innocent but knowing somehow, as if my energy was resonating loss. I hesitated, trying to muster the right amount of strength to be honest without transferring my fear and disappointment to her. My partner and I had stayed wrapped around each other in bed an hour earlier, making a plan on how to explain all of this to our kids, specifically our oldest. I hated that we had to make a plan, that we had to start telling lies to our kids to keep them at ease.
“Donald Trump won.”
We settled in on the couch. Her big blue eyes looked at me with confusion. “But he is not a nice guy, and he won.”
It took everything I had to keep it together. I had told her this fact. I was not about to disagree with her, but I needed to find a way to keep her focused on things of love, kindness, and childhood. My job as a parent is not only to keep her safe but to make her feel safe. I chose my words carefully, not fully believing them, but needing her to as she snuggled into my chest.
“He’s not the nicest guy. But he is not the only guy who will make decisions for our country. There are a lot of nice guys and women who will help him make good choices.” I knew my voice sounded hollow.
We talked a bit more about the way government works. I made analogies to bullies being stopped by courageous and smart people who know what’s right. I reminded her that we will keep doing what we always do. We will be respectful and kind. We will enjoy what makes us happy. And we will surround ourselves with people who love us and think like us.
My voice found a bit more strength when we talked about what we will do, because those are things I can control. Those are the values I trust and what I need my children to trust. I no longer trust the bulk of humanity, however. I no longer trust a system that screams for change, but chooses change in the form of a racist, bigoted, sexual assaulting liar. This change is a direct undoing of the progress made for human rights. This change feels like an uprising of silent hate, gaining its voice in a new leader who will fuel their ignorance and animosity.
If the majority has spoken, then the voices of the minority have been silenced today. We are mourning. We are reminded that America has so far to go to truly be land of the free and home of the brave. Donald Trump is not brave, neither are the people who support him. They are reckless, even fearless, but not brave.
As I left my daughter in her classroom today I told her how much I loved her. I reminded her to be kind and generous, while my head screamed of uncertainty, doubting kindness would ever be enough.
As I hugged my son before he left for preschool I told him how much I loved him. I reminded him to have fun and to make new friends, while my heart willed him to grow to be a man who respects and cares for all people, especially women.
As I hugged my youngest daughter, my transgender child, I told her how much I loved her. I reminded her that even bad guys can turn into good guys, while my body wanted to envelop her forever, keeping her safe from a world that is uglier than I imagined.
As I kissed my partner I told her how much I loved her. I didn’t need to remind her of anything. She knows. She feels it too.
We are the brave ones. We are the ones who will move forward when we are terrified. Maybe not today, but we will. We are the ones who embody courage. I am leaving the door open today. I am not ready to say that’s enough of that. I am ready to move on and into the next day. Not yet. I am reminding myself that I am strong, even in my sadness and fear. I will shut the door tomorrow. I will because I am brave.
You are brave.
We will be brave together.
Photo credit: Molly O. Photography