Yesterday, I heard my beautiful, sweet, daughter—whose mind is like a little Garden of Eden right now, fertile and fresh—clearly say “President Trump.”
I won’t be ambiguous here. It sliced my heart open. I do not like this man. I’m grieved that his inauguration day draws near. But of course, I’m no fan of ignorance. I’m not going to keep my daughters from knowing about him or about other ideas we disagree with. While I was immediately angry that someone has been talking to her about the president-elect, I once again relished in my role as her parent. Though she may encounter ideas and ideal that we don’t believe, I am her mother. I get to have discussions with her for her whole life about love, justice, democracy, righteousness, etc. I have the awesome opportunity to make space for her to question, discover, explore, to disagree boldly, to chase down new ideas, to imagine.
I can’t erase an idea or a name from her mind. It’s tempting to want that superpower. But I don’t have it and maybe I don’t want it. I do have the power to teach her new names. Names of real heroes, real leaders. I was watching the farewell address when she said that. So I taught her the name of President Obama and let her see my tears that spilled out as he said goodbye. I listened and wondered how we would navigate the next four years. How we would continue to be a house of open discussion for all ideas.
I felt a calling—an element of parenthood that I had never contemplated—I want to make sure she knows the names of real heroes. People whose names are worth knowing. Jesus. Mother Mary. Saints. Poets. Women who were brave, smart, and rebellious. Nasty women. Gentle leaders. Artists, writers, soldiers. I want to decorate her mind and the halls of our house with people she can really look to for inspiration. Imperfect humans that chased truth, love, revolution. I will make it my project to identify these people one by one (because I could use some hero education myself) and find a way to bring their image and their story into our home.
But we will also know and talk about ideas and people we do not love, respect, or abide by. We won’t just paint one side of the picture for her. That’s one reason we’re so divided right now, anyway. We stopped listening to all sides. We took the multi-faceted human experience, and more specifically the experience of being American, and reduced it to two-sided debate between those who are right and those who are wrong. And we started listening only to the people who agree with us, the news sources that square with our experience and education and prejudices. I’m no perfect parent or citizen or a superhuman intellect—I can’t always rise above this human instinct to avoid confrontation and the feeling of being wrong—but I can try. The ability to listen to a variety of ideas and experiences, to question yourself, to change your mind, to articulate your feelings and ideas—is the way forward, the way of love and strength.
What do you file this under? Creativity? Community? Contentment. What is it to be content when there is so much division, injustice, hatred? What is it to be content and indignant at the same time? Is it possible? I don't want to teach our children that they need to fight every battle but I want them to have a keen sense that wars are raging all around. I want them equipped with inspiration and strength of mind to join in and to refrain. To listen, always listen, and to SPEAK.