I don’t know how much you’ll remember this moment in the future.
You’re 6. I certainly don’t remember much about George H.W. Bush being elected just after I turned 7.
My first real memory of a presidency was the first Iraq war. Our 3rd grade class wrote letters of support to the president and sent money to commander Norman Schwarzkopf so he could indulge in the desert with his favorite ice cream, mint chocolate chip.
At that time, nothing seemed truly scary. Adults were in charge. Everything was under control. I had a child’s simple understanding of the world.
I think I still held onto that view until around 10 pm last night.
You crawled into our bed somewhere around 3 am this morning and asked if we knew who was president yet. I was still awake after a fitful, mostly sleepless night.
I couldn’t bring myself to tell you, so I said we would probably find out in the morning. I let you snuggle in our bed.
This morning you asked again. I told you, then waited. I didn’t know how you would react. You knocked on doors for Hillary and were excited for our first female president.
You made a face and you were quiet. I asked if you were OK, and you said you were fine.
Then we got up and got ready for the day. You picked out a sweater dress and surprised mom by getting ready early without mom’s help. It was just another Wednesday morning.
To be honest, you got me through.
Not long before you were born, your mom and I cried tears of joy watching the country elect its first black president. It seemed like our country had turned a corner before our kids came into the world. It was a sign we were becoming a more just and equal society. It wasn’t a Democrat or Republican thing, it was a human thing. I was just as inspired by John McCain’s speech that night as I was by Obama’s.
Last night was the opposite. Long after you had gone to bed, I sat on the couch sobbing. I was crying for you. I didn’t know how I was going to face you in the morning, like so many other parents who dreaded talking to their sons and daughters.
Were we naive to think that so much history could change overnight? Now it seems naive to think that our generation could do it alone. Last night put that illusion to rest.
There’s so much uncertainty and ugliness and fear right now. But I’m trying to take the long view for your sake. I’m hoping Martin Luther King, Jr. was right when he said, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.”
There are still three more presidential election cycles before you can vote. That’s a long time. Who knows what will happen by then, but we may look back at today as a high water mark of hatred and bullying and bigotry.
I don’t know if this is really what it feels like to be a parent, but something changed in me last night. I stopped thinking that the adults were in charge. And now, I put my hope for the future in you.