What Do We Tell Our Kids… and Ourselves?

I first lost it when I was lying down with my daughter at bedtime. The end of an era. The end of innocence. When she wakes up Trump is going to be president elect. She had fallen asleep and I lay next her, my body wracked with sobs.

Then I kept losing it. There wasn’t going to be that moment in the middle of the night when I could go down to her room, wake her up and whisper giddily: “Hillary Clinton is our President!” Any time I thought of my daughter, and how I would tell her, and what it meant for her… for the future, I lost it.

And I lost it most uncontrollably at the end of the night. As I was going down to bed I saw one of her stray signs cast aside on the dining room table – ‘go HILLARY’ written on a piece of paper and attached to a popsicle stick. She had so much enthusiasm and so much unbridled hope in that little six year old body and that massive six year old heart.


What are we going to tell her?

I am going to tell her that Trump won and Hillary lost. And that means three things:

  • that Trump will be President;
  • that Hillary will still be working for everything  she stood for during the campaign; and that we must sill be WITH HER – because everything that Hillary stood for and all that she believes in and all those values of being kind and good and welcoming everyone are not lost; she will still be fighting for those and we must do the same; and
  • that we need to turn to ourselves for the answer: that even though love didn’t win on the national stage, it needs to – it needs to so, so desperately – win out in our own hearts.

What we tell her, however, is secondary to how we act.

How are we going to model for her in her most intimate environment the values that she needs more than ever? How are we going to walk this path with some modicum of grace and compassion and integrity? What legacy do we want to leave her with, in the small orbit of our family – the only environment we have any control over right now?

How will we hold onto our values when we feel the floor has dropped out from under us? Because that’s the thing: it wasn’t just a glass ceiling that wasn’t shattered; it was our foundation doing a free fall. A free fall into negativity, hate and constriction.

In the face of this, we need to soften, to keep our hearts open. As I read before bed on election night, Pema Chodren writes in “Practicing Peace in Times of War”:

“…to the degree that each of us is dedicated to wanting there to be peace in the world, then we have to take responsibility when our own hearts and minds harden and close. We have to be brave enough to soften what is rigid, to find the soft spot and stay with it. We have to have that kind of courage and take that kind of responsibility. That’s true spiritual warriorship. That’s the true practice of peace.”

When we feel anxiety and fear and constriction, we need to soften our hearts. We need to allow love to have a seat at the table so that we don’t fall into the traps of anger and fear. It’s a moment to moment to moment journey. Choose love. Choose love. Choose love over fear.

I also know that we pass on feelings – our own hurts and fears – to our children on the deepest cellular level. They take them on. Like they instinctively absorb our love and affection and nurturing, the flip side of our human emotions are also imprinted. That’s not to say that we should pretend to be happy. On the contrary, we need to be more authentic. We need to allow ourselves to be sad – to name the feeling, live the feeling, then let the feeling go when we have walked through it sufficiently.

We all need to take time to mourn. It is OK to be sad. It is OK to feel. What is not OK is to let that sadness rot into destructive fear or anger.

In this time of lacking control on the outside, we need to go inside, to our inner selves, to our inner bodies, to our inner hearts. It is through self-care that we will heal. Every choice we make, every step we take becomes infinitely more important – if we can heal ourselves, we can heal our families, we can heal our communities, we can heal our country and our world and the universe. I believe that with all of my being. I get chills writing it and chills thinking about it.

When I told my daughter the news at breakfast, she rested her cheek on the cold counter. “I’m tired,” she said. Yes, her little body was surely tired. But those words also conveyed to me that her soul was tired.

She is exhausted. The world is exhausted. We feel like we fought so hard. We hoped so mightily. And we were squashed. But we have to remind ourselves that we were defeated only in the election – we can’t mistake the election as a direct representation for humanity.

This is a time for love. For telling the people you care for how you feel. For reaching out with a phone call or a hand or a hug. For really seeing people and really hearing them. It’s time to nurture our ability to embrace others and acknowledge differences and one action at a time, create connection. Show love. Speak love. Give and receive love.

When we feel down – and put down – we can’t give in or give up. And we can’t fuel what attacks us with more anger. Fighting back with anger is fighting back against love

What’s become obvious to me is that this pervasive question of “What do we tell our kids?” is really a more reflective question: “What do we tell ourselves?”

Only by first figuring out how we want to respond to the situation can we then adequately respond to others. Now is a time to love ourselves and love others even more fiercely, to allow those most vulnerable and most authentic depths of our being remain open, remain soft.

Be love. Choose love. That’s what I’m going to keep telling my daughter. And that’s what I’m going to keep reinforcing to myself.


Sign we made for a local peace rally last weekend — her words, her concept and ideas.



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