As disappointed and distraught as I am traveling home from this god awful election, it was reading this post from my wife that made me stop in the airport and put on sunglasses so I could burst into tears.
I have been a political professional for 20 years now – twice as long as I’ve been a parent. When you work in campaigns and elections, you build up a little scar tissue around politics because, after all, at any point in time half the country disagrees with whatever you think. You learn that sometimes you win and sometimes you lose and you keep up a good front regardless. That’s because you secretly know that there are times when you win and really don’t care…but that there are also times when a loss tears you down to bone.
This morning I woke up and still hadn’t gotten to my own feelings about this election. I was thinking about staff and family and disappointment and how it is my job as somewhat of an elder statesman to help them put this election into perspective and move forward. But after reading my wife’s post my mind is racing. I can’t stop thinking about my kids. I can’t stop thinking about your kids either, or you. Our kids and us parents.
The Nunnery’s are a mixed race family living in Middle-America and there is a stark contrast between our family’s day to day experiences and the experiences of many of the folks where we live. Our community is full of families who don’t travel a lot and therefore have limited exposure to other cultures. We live alongside people who have never met someone gay or who have only had limited relationships or interactions with people of color, and there are many who have never been in a room where they looked different from everyone else and, yes, perhaps were treated differently than everyone else. The political leanings of our town reflect all of those things.
We know we stand out here. Sometimes it’s funny. Sometimes we can laugh when a person assumes our kids are Mexicans or when people complement my wife’s English (born and raised in Michigan folks…doesn’t speak anything else.) Sometimes we make the jokes ourselves. Of course my kids are good at math, they’re Asian…
But we can’t laugh all the time. We can’t laugh when it’s time to answer questions like “Daddy, what does it mean when someone says I have ‘chinky’ eyes?” That’s an important and serious question. And it’s not funny when we have to teach things like how to deal with another student saying “You bring seaweed for lunch?! That’s disgusting! Don’t sit by me!” And it’s serious to us when we have to help process conversations like “So and so’s mom and dad said it’s ok for them to have black friends at school as long as they don’t get in trouble or date people like that.”
I just read Rhonda’s post again. “…my daughter was nervous to get on the bus today, in fear of being made fun of by the kids of Trump supporters.”
So that’s a real thing today. Not a new thing, mind you; it’s a lesson, taught by someone, learned by someone and today presented to us to deal with. And of course it’s not about politics. Obviously my kids think what they think about elections because of what they see and hear from their parents and the same goes for other children. It’s not about politics. It’s about parenting.
The strange thing is, as I take a deep breath, close my eyes and lean back in this airplane seat with the hopes of coming up with the winning talking points for teaching my daughter yet another strategy for how to deal with being singled out and made to feel different, I’ve got one thing on my mind – thanks.
Thanks to our close friends, the people who believe in the same values as us, who try to be parents that do the right thing (but don’t always know what that is…and definitely don’t always do it), who look for “teachable moments” and cry in private when someone breaks our babies’ hearts so we can help them be strong when we know we ourselves would be weak. We love you for helping us feel like we’re making the right choices, even when we do it by accident. Thank you for keeping a knee at our back so we can stand up straight. We’ve got your backs too.
And thanks to the people who don’t have the same experiences as us, who don’t share the same values and world views as us, who don’t parent the way we do, and who may never have the time, interest or energy to care about the things we care about… Thank you for being our check and balance and reminding us that we’re part of something bigger than just ourselves, what we believe in and the people we choose to be around. Thank you for giving us a laboratory of different challenges that we can learn from as we tinker around and try and build our little girls into strong and confident women.
Know that we don’t believe our children need to be better than yours for them to be the best they can be. Know that the message we give to our kids is never that we are better parents and that you are worse, or that you’re wrong for not doing what we do or thinking what we think. Know that the first thing we do when we get report cards is to turn to the back page where the behavior reports are and look to make sure our girls are acting like young ladies and listening to their teacher, helping the new student feel welcome and encouraging your son or daughter to do the best they can. We believe “Rocket Math” is something our girls can learn. We believe character is something we must teach.
As a poetic sidebar, I just got a text message from a wealthy friend: ”Not to rub it in, but…” then a picture of his 9 year old daughter donning the victory sign in front of Trump Plaza. I am reminded of sage advice I was once given and try to share often – we don’t build teenagers when they’re teenagers, we build them now.
I’m going home to work on my mini-me’s and I’ll be thinking about you guys. All of you.