I cried all the way to school drop-off this morning. My daughters, buckled in their booster seats in our minivan, heard the voice of Hillary Rodham Clinton playing through the car radio as together we listened to her concession speech. My seven- and eight-year-olds glanced back and forth from each other, then back to me, meeting my eyes in the rearview mirror to smile, somewhat nervously. They weren’t sure how to react as they watched Mommy’s emotions come out on the rainy drive to school.
Stop crying, I told myself. Put on a brave face. For your kids. Make sure they see it’s all okay.
“And to all of the little girls …” Hillary said.
My quiet tears turned to sobs, looking back at my own girls as if my presidential candidate were talking right to them. They sat up tall, proud to be addressed. My eldest whispered, “That’s us.”
“… never doubt that you are valuable and powerful and deserving of every chance and opportunity in the world to pursue and achieve your own dreams.”
Tears momentarily sequestered, I clapped, told my kids to listen. “That’s right!” I said. “She’s right.”
But I couldn’t help myself. As Hillary’s speech went on and the reality of the election results kept sinking in, I began to cry again. Only this time, I decided to stop beating myself up for it.
The reality is I hadn’t sheltered my children from the emotions of this election, anyway. Starting with the national conventions over the summer, I was alarmed, anxious, and at times, angry. I’m a vocal person by nature, a messy person by nature. A human by nature. It was all too much, and even as I tried to remain a steady rock for the sake of not alarming my children, I couldn’t always contain the emotions stirred up inside me.
I wasn’t alone. Everywhere around me, I watched other adults’ anxiety pour out along with mine in our political Facebook rants, frantic support of “Black Lives Matter” school programs, and fierce opposition to the Standing Rock situation. Many a mama friend shared passionate posts and articles on social media, determined to educate our preschoolers, kindergartners, elementary-aged children as change agents to make this next generation different, damn it. We can do better than this. Change. Everything. Now.
We have been stuck in what Dr. Gordon Neufeld refers to as the traffic circle of alarm. Alarm – an almost constant dose of it – dumped us into the circle, with only three routes to drive ourselves out: changing the situation, moving to attack, or grieving.
An election isn’t about grieving. What moves us in elections is the opportunity for change. (And in this election, what also moved us was a typhoon of attacking energy.)
But the concession speech has been delivered. The U.S. election is over. We cannot change the outcome – at least of the election. For those who did not see our candidate of choice into the presidential office, it is time to grieve. And it is okay to grieve in front of our children, as long as they know it is with control and we are still there for them, no matter what.
Me crying in front of my children doesn’t mean it’s not all okay, as I first admonished myself. It means I know when to give myself permission to express what is inside. It means my children know that I get disappointed sometimes, too. It means the next time they don’t get their way, they’ll believe me when I say I know how much it hurts. It means my kids see that I’m a person who cares. It exposes my soft heart – the best chance I have of keeping their soft hearts that way.
In the midst of my grief, they still see me walk them into school, help them unload their backpacks into their cubbies, remind them to wash their hands. They see me getting and giving hugs to the other parents, and teachers, as together as a community we cry a little more.
They see, through the tears, because of the tears, that we are okay.