There are a lot of how and why questions in the aftermath of any election. Those questions are a good opportunity to explore — whether that be with your child or your neighbor. (Photo: Arthimedes/Shutterstock)
Like many other parents last night, I gave my 7-year-old son permission to stay up late to witness history. For him, the thought of being up way past bedtime was excitement enough; for my wife and I, it was a thrill to include him in what we thought would be an unprecedented trip to the White House by a Democratic female candidate.
Leading up to this moment was something of a crash-course in American politics for my son, an aspect of adult life that is increasingly difficult for children to escape these days. We explained the moral differences between the two candidates, the controversies, the slights and snide remarks that buoyed inescapable headlines. In simple terms, we boiled down why the inclusion of one candidate should triumph over the exclusion of the other.
He fell asleep at 9:30 p.m., just as the first cracks in our assumptions were starting to appear. He woke up to the incredulity so many of us are feeling today.
It’s tempting to mince words and mask feelings in moments like this, but we decided that honesty would be the best course of action. We told him we were bummed. The person we wanted to be the next president of the United States lost — and that loss hurt us. The candidate who won does not represent the America we envision or the moral fortitude we strive for. We didn't hide the fact that the outcome was a complete and total disappointment.
An opportunity to go deeper
But we also explained how government works, the importance of a system built on checks and balances, and why one person alone does not define our country. What happened last night was also a win for democracy, with a large group of people who have felt underrepresented and left behind coming out en masse to enthusiastically support their candidate.
And while campaigns are often harsh and divisive, we now have an opportunity to come together and support one another. Who we are doesn’t change. What we believe in, the love we have for our country, our fellow humans of every color, race, religion or sexual orientation doesn’t change. The need to fight to transform our world for the better is as important as it ever was. The opportunity to empower everyone only intensifies.
Who knows if any of this message stuck or if we even approached it in the right way. These are heavy moments for any kid to digest — and uncharted territory for most parents. The only thing we can do is to instill hope, continue imparting values of love and inclusion that are important to us and look to our new president to do the same.
When I dropped my son off at school, he jumped out of the car, threw me a kiss, and started skipping towards the entrance. I watched as he met up with a friend and the two of them laughed, ran circles around each other, and disappeared from view.
And in that moment, I started to feel better.