No, I didn’t get much sleep.
I got into bed at a reasonable hour, and tried, I really did. But as the news turned dire, I sat downstairs, in the dark, eating granola and obsessively refreshing my Twitter feed.
Yes, I cried.
Around 3:00 A.M., when I understood that what was happening was really happening, and that refreshing my feed wasn’t going to change anything, I cried, and finally fell asleep.
No, I don’t know what you should say to your children.
I had enough to process with my own children. They needed me—and my explanation—in different ways, at different times, for they are two very different people.
Finn, 13, decided he’d go to bed early and find out about the result in the morning. He admitted he needed to feel “extra cozy,” so we put the heated mattress pad on his bed, swapped the plain cotton sheets out for flannel, and I kissed him goodnight.
When he emerged from his room in the morning, I told him, and he got very quiet. I let him have his space as he went through his morning routine. When he left the house for the bus, I reminded him not to let anyone push his buttons.
He knew what I meant; another child on the school bus has been angling for a fight over political differences for a while now. As in many small towns, the differences that divide our nation have been playing out on a smaller scale, trickling down from parents to their children. As a result, we have had a lot of talks about how Finn can stand up for himself, his family, and his beliefs without fanning the flames of discord or violence.
Ben, 17, stayed up to watch the election with his friends, texting us all the while about his anxiety over the Congressional and Senate races. He arrived at his first class to find that he and his friends had all dressed in blue, without having discussed it ahead of time, and continued to text us throughout his day as he processed each new layer of the situation.
It took me the whole day, but by bedtime, I'd found my words. As I said goodnight, I reminded them of five things:
- Injustice exists on a scale you can’t fully comprehend because you were born male, white, and straight, into a family with financial security.
- We don’t have to love everyone around us, we don’t even have to respect everyone around us, but we do have to make the attempt to climb into their skin and walk around in it, if just for moment.
- Informed, reasoned debate will always prevail over shouting in the long run.
- That run can feel very long sometimes.
- Hate makes us sick, and weak, and we don’t have time for that; there’s a lot of work to be done.