I’ve been struggling this election season. I’ve been having a hard time trying to find the good in all of this. I’ve worried about what my girls hear in the news. I worry about the assault discussions, the accusations, the lying, the accusations of lying. I’ve worried about them seeing two people, people who have been nominated by their political parties to be the next leader of the free world, bicker and shout at each other, sling mud at each other, threats to investigate and incarcerate, calling their supporters deplorable.
These things are the exact opposite of what I teach my daughters the way that they should live in the world and the way that they should interact with others. We do not shout at each other, we give each other time to talk. We do not accuse each other falsely. We do not, under any circumstances, lie. And we are proud of our bodies and our place in the world; no one can take that from us with words that demean us.
So, this election has been a long row to hoe, trying to help them to navigate through the rhetoric. Michael and I have taken issues individually as they have come up. No, it is not right to start violence in a rally. No, it is not right to set fire to the other party’s headquarters. No, it is not right to sell guns with pictures of the opposition on the targets. No, it is not right to grab a woman by her vagina and brag about it.
No, it’s not right, has been my go-to response this election season.
And I feel like that needs to be turned around, my response is not enough. It is reactive and at the end of this extra-long, extra-dirty election cycle, I decided that I need to come up with a proactive list of statements for my daughters. After some reflection, this is what I came up with. This is what I will tell them after the elections are over.
Number One: You are beautiful and talented. Someday, a person will see your inner light and will love you for it. They will want to be with you because of whom you are and what you stand for. They will love all the parts of your body and they will tell you that. But you need to love your body too, because it is strong and resilient and has carried you through many hardships. Your scars are your battles that you have won.
Number Two: Do not ever, EVER let a person demean or belittle you to think that you are not the amazing person that you are. Speak to the meanness, say you will not tolerate those words. You actually have to say that. You have to say, “I will not tolerate what you have said to me.” And they will either change, or you need to leave. Sometimes the leaving hurts, but you do not need that person if they are going to diminish your inner light. Sometimes walking away from toxic people is the most rewarding thing you will do in your life.
Number Three: Words matter, names matter, accusations matter. You cannot say one thing and mean another. You cannot tell half truths. One of the only things we have in this life for sure is our integrity, and you cannot lose it. People need to rely on the fact that you are good on your word, that you tell the truth, even when it’s not popular. Life is about choices, but in our hearts most of the time we know the right choice to make. Stand on the right side of decisions, on the right side of history.
Number Four: We are put on this earth not just to survive, but to make it better. We each need to find the unique thing that we can do, either big or small, to improve the world. The country has lost sight of the fact that we are one big community, and we need to take care of each other. Find the thing that moves your soul and makes the world a better place and you will have found your calling.
Number Five: There will always be people with whom you don’t agree. Be sure you listen to their whole argument before you respond. Listening is a gift you give to others, it tells them that they are important. You do not have to change their minds, but an open discussion will lead the way to more open discussions and more open minds. It never hurts to see the other side of an argument even if you don’t agree with it.
Number Six: None of these things will be easy, but we are here with you to help you. Your family is here to build you up and keep you strong. There will be days that are hard, and you will wonder if you have enough strength to fight the good fight, but you do. You do. And those who love you will support you. Always.
Number Seven: You can be anything you want to be. Anything. Even President of the United States if you want to. And I can’t wait to see what you will become and how you will impact this world.
I am tired of this election. I am weary. I am worried that the vitriol will continue and will poison young minds. We have to speak to this as parents, to let our kids know that this is not ok, this is not what we condone as civility.
It’s not who we are. It’s not who they are.
We need to lead our children back to kindness, back to confidence, back to finding their own true passion.
No matter what the politicians say.