Published on November 12th, 2016 | by Tara Dorabji1
ASK A MUTHA: What Did You Say When Your Children Woke Up On November 9th?
“What did you tell your kids when they woke up on November 9th?” Asks Tara Dorabji.
MUTHAs from across the nation share their tears, wisdom, and struggle as Trump is elected president of America
As I watched the President-elect’s speech on election night, I was overcome with fear for my 6-year-old American Muslim son. I crawled into bed next to his sleeping body, as if to physically protect him from the terror of what was unfolding.
The next morning I told him who had won. My son whimpered, curled into fetal position, & clung to me. He said he was “sad and scared” that “the angry, unkind man will know we didn’t vote for him and will come get us.”
I soothed him, murmuring he was safe with us and that no one was coming to get him. Not yet, I told myself.
The evening after the elections, I joined a huge, vibrant, diverse rally for social justice in defiance of the election result.
When I returned home to my son, I held his face in my hands and told him, “Tonight, I was with thousands of people who love you. They love and want to protect you and all the other kids – kids who are indigenous, black or brown, undocumented or immigrants, Muslim, Sikh or Jewish, gay or straight – everyone. We belong to each other, love. We’re working together to protect you and make sure we elect someone kind next time. Do you want to help?”
He grinned and said yes.
We read books together, ate chocolate, and gave each other extra long hugs. This is how we heal & carry on. This is how we have always survived: we create & resist & speak out & connect & welcome joy & cherish each other & protect our loves, big & little. We remember that we belong to each other. Always.
– Ayesha Mattu is a writer and editor of two groundbreaking anthologies – Love, InshAllah: The Secret Love Lives of American Muslim Women and Salaam, Love: American Muslim Men on Love, Sex & Intimacy. Her books have been featured globally by media including the New York Times, NPR, the BBC, Washington Post, Guardian, Times of India, Dawn Pakistan, and Jakarta Post.
On the night of the election, my 9-year-old daughter made a Trump protest sign before falling asleep. In the morning, she and her twin sister crawled into my bed, Trump is President.
By breakfast, my daughter had drawn up a call to protest and created a sign-up sheet. I hate Trump, she said. I tell my daughters that we cannot win this with hate.
On the walk to school, I tell her that when I first organized protests, there were elders who helped me, taught me what they learned from decades of organizing.
I tell my daughters that this is for the long haul. That I need them to be strong and healthy. That we have more work to do. That if we are fighting on the inside, in our home, in our family that we can not show up to stop all these injustices.
I won’t let Trump deport me or father, my U.S. born daughter says.
Trump’s election feels so personal. Like an intimate betrayal.
I only know two people who voted for Trump, my daughter says.
I let my daughters sit with this. I don’t say, they are good people. They do not hate you. They will not tell you to go back home. They are not trying to make you feel like your family will be broken up that you don’t belong. I let us all sit in the discomfort of knowing good people who could elect someone that make us feel that our human dignity is under assault. It is always good people who make up horrific institutions that commit atrocities.
I know in large part this is a moment of reckoning with our own self-delusion.
The only question I know to pose to them is, How will we become the people we need to be to find human kindness?
– Tara Dorabji is a writer, strategist at Youth Speaks, mother, and radio journalist at KPFA. Her work is published or forthcoming in Al Jazeera, Jaggery, Tayo Literary Magazine, Huizache, Good Girls Marry Doctors (Aunt Lute 2016), Center for Asian American Media, Mutha, and So Glad They Told Me (Bestselling New Release for Motherhood Fall 2016). Her kids are 9,9, and 21.
My 2-year-old recognizes his voice by now. When he comes on the radio, she says, “That’s Trump! Why we listening to him?” She looks at me. “I don’t like that guy. He’s mean.”
“He wants to hurt people,” I tell her. Up until election night, I didn’t think I would need to say much more than that.
Now Trump is President and the conversation is different.
“Are you feeling a little sad, Mommy?” she asks the next morning. She’s just waking up.
“Yes. Trump is President now.” I’m not sure what to say next.
“But you know what? We’re going to see our friends and go pro pro today. We’re going to stick together and say ‘STOP!’ to Trump.” We practice pushing one hand out and saying “STOP” in big serious voices.
At night we drum and dance and march. We meet and plan. We cry. We play dinosaurs and make art. It’s good to be together.
“What you talking about?” she asks at some point.
“We’re talking about Trump,” I tell her.
“And community, and family, and good things too,” a friend says.
“Oh…” She goes back to jumping like a frog.
“Does she know what’s going on?” another friend asks. I share what she knows. My friend’s eyes are shiny with tears.
“That’s enough for right now, I think.”
She doesn’t know yet what a President is. Or that our friends and families are among the people Trump wants to hurt. I don’t know how or when to explain these things.
But she has seen her parents talk with neighbors and friends about what we can do. She knows what it looks like when people stand up for each other and keep each other safe. And she knows the beat of pungmul drums in her bones. I hope that’s enough for now.
– Marie Choi is a mama, researcher, and radio producer. Her kid is 2 years old.
7 am the morning after the election, I was lying in bed staring at the tree outside my window. The yellow and red leaves glowed in the morning light. I wondered how the world could still look so beautiful after the tragedy of this election. My twelve year old knocked on the door. She stared at me, wide-eyed. “Mami, Trump won.” I pulled her into bed and held her. A few minutes later, she went out to walk the dog, then left to school. What more do we have but to go on with our lives?
I thought about the high school students I was supposed to teach that evening—all poor, all black and brown, two undocumented, a few queer, one trans. If I, as an adult, was having a difficult time grappling with this, what were they feeling? How are they going to navigate a world that has told them in no uncertain terms that they are hated?
I resisted the temptation to hovel up at home, got dressed and headed to work. My kids needed me. What I didn’t realize was that I needed them, too.
I sat in front of the class and stared as they walked in. This group that’s normally boisterous talked in whispers, their shoulders were slumped, eyes downcast. That’s when the tears I’d been fighting all day came. Soft tears that gathered at the corner and slipped down my face.
“Who’s scared?” I asked. Hands went up.
“So am I.” And before I knew it, I was coming out to my students. I told them that I was in a relationship with a butch who didn’t have the privilege of presenting straight, like I do as a femme. “I’m scared for her. For us,” I said. I told them I raising my twelve-year-old daughter in this gay relationship. My voice cracked as I told them about the homophobia I’d endured while being raised by my two moms in 1970s and ’80s Brooklyn. I told them about the girl who told me, “You’re dirty like your lesbian moms.”
“Is that what we’re going back to?” I was shaking by that point.
Slowly my students shared their fears. One girl came out to me. I walked out of there with more faith than I walked in with. When my students slapped their hands on the desk and raised their fists in the air and shared their soft, pulsing hearts, I saw the generation that is inheriting this country and was proud.
A few hugged me as they left. One kid lingered. As he approached, a hulking six feet of pure love, I noticed his eyes were wet. “A white guy called me a nigger this morning. I had just left my house,” he said he went back upstairs and cried while he played video games. “I couldn’t go back outside for an hour. I was late to school.”
I thought about my daughter. What had she encountered on her way to school?
At home, I started the conversation in our kitchen with me leaning on the door frame, my daughter sitting cross-legged on the floor with the dog on her lap and my partner sitting across from her at the table.
“I learned today from my students that this teaching and writing and mentoring I do is more important now more than ever.” I said. My daughter nodded. I asked, “Are you scared?” She shrugged. “A little bit.” Then she looked at my partner and back at me. “But I know I have you.”
Indeed, she does.
– Vanessa Mártir is a New York City-based mama, writer and educator. She’s completing a memoir in essays called “Relentless” and working on another memoir, “A Dim Capacity for Wings.”
For over a year, parenting was about the inverse. I’d take a quote from Trump – let’s use “build that wall” – and explain a border’s purpose and then simply use Trump’s intentions as an example of the opposite of what we should strive to create in the world. When we talked about Hillary being the first woman to potentially become president, I highlighted the absurdity of the delay by chuckling deep in my throat. Thanks to Trump’s bigotry and emptied intellect, there was an endless cashe of examples to use to teach my kids about values, especially immigration, bullying, and bodily autonomy.
I live in Ohio and could feel the momentum rolling for Trump, signaling that it was a very real possibility that the dystopian nightmare could happen. Knowing this, I never guaranteed that he wouldn’t be president. Instead, I told my children, “That’s why it would be so dangerous if he became president.”
The morning after the election, however, there was no inverse to use. There was no savvy maneuver to show what was the matter with Trump, because the morning after the election, it wasn’t about him. It was about our country. It wasn’t just one man with perilous, unjust ideas. It was millions of people who agreed with him. I sat in an unlit corner of the bathroom and silently cried while I looked out the window into a sunless morning. It seemed appropriate that, suddenly, the air outside turned crisp and indifferent.
When Isaiah woke, I listened from the bathroom. I heard the familiar creak of his bed when my husband sat gingerly on it, “Trump won.” He began to cry. I heard them get up and shuffle outside into the hallway. His bare feet padded down the rug, passing me unseen in the dark bathroom. The tender resonance of his feet receded but suddenly an idea took hold of his sharp six year old brain; his voice grew more audible. Something just shy of determination that sounded more like a vow, “I’m going to start writing letters. I’m going to write Trump about the things I want to see changed when he is President. I want to write about nuclear weapons.”
It wasn’t in my plan to discuss how systems work with my children, but that’s my next car talking point to hold the discussions of racism and sexism. I never expected to introduce them to concepts of deconstruction before they were tall enough to ride a roller coaster. But then again, the next four years are going to be just as volatile, so why not?
– Lisa Factora-Borchers is a writer and editor of the anthology, Dear Sister: Letters from Survivors of Sexual Violence. She loves political parenting her two children–six year old Isaiah and 19 month old Rosario–in the swing state of Ohio.
On the morning of November 9th, my seven-year-old son’s first words were “Did Trump win?”
I had his clothes in one hand, and was stroking his leg with the other. He lay in his top bunk, squinting at me. I’d put him to bed late, when only a few dismal watch-party guests remained in our living room.
“I am so sorry,” I said. “But he did win.”
He didn’t say anything at first. He lay so still that I thought his mind might have wandered off to cheetahs, or galaxies, or one of his other favorite subjects to daydream about.
Finally, I said, “Mi amor, it’s breakfast time. Please come down and put on your uniform.”
“I’m not coming down,” he said.
I took a deep breath. My wife was in the next room, getting the children’s breakfast ready and simultaneously supervising our four-year-old daughter. I’d spent most of the night lying in the dark unable to sleep, the image of a huge U.S. map suspended before my eyes, glowing with too much red. In just a few hours, I was scheduled to present at a local university, and god knew what I would tell those undergraduates now. I needed my son to get dressed. But I also needed to be there for him, my Afro-Latino boy. In the next four years, this will be one of my most important jobs: shepherding my children—and other children in our communities—through these destructive times with as little trauma and as much loving empowerment as possible.
“Mi amor,” I said, “why aren’t you coming down?”
“I refuse to set foot in a land where Trump is President.”
I knew from the calm determination in his voice that this was not an act of fear, of being scared to set foot in such a land, but rather a boycott. If I refuse this, then somehow it will change. It came from an inner strength that I knew he’d need in the coming times, a rootedness in his own worth and the worth of so many whom Trump had disparaged. I took heart from it, from this expression of power. Eventually, after gentle explanations of how we were all going to work together to keep affirming our values of love and justice in this world, my son came down and got dressed. We hugged. He went out to embrace his day. We all did.
– Carolina De Robertis is the mother of two children, ages 7 and 4, and the author of three award-winning, internationally bestselling novels: The Invisible Mountain, Perla, and The Gods of Tango. She teaches creative writing at San Francisco State University.
At 2:30 am, I realized that I had 4 hours left to reassure my children (and myself) that everything would be okay.
Your father, grandmother, and I are deeply disappointed by the results of this election. But what happens in our house won’t change. You are always loved, cared for, and respected. You might see other people you’ve known for a long time change. That’s okay, it’s their right to change and believe what they believe as long as they don’t hurt you. Don’t argue with them. Don’t engage them. Bring those angry feelings to me or your Dad so we can talk about it. If you’re at school, walk away, and feel confident that you come from a family who rejects hatred and embraces love. While some people feel Trump is right for our country, your father and I don’t. For the next four years your father and I will do what we can to make sure that he doesn’t get a second term. But you don’t ever have to be nervous or afraid. We will answer all your questions at any time. And it will all be okay, we’ll be okay.
For our 14-year-old daughter I added:
There are going to be people who will want to debate with you and engage you in ways that are reprehensible. They will be ignorant. They will be filled with rhetoric from a racist, mysognistic, ignoramus with a two-dollar toupee. You may not be able to walk away from these confrontations. Fight their ignorance with your knowledge. Make sure that the ideas and facts we and your grandparents have taught you can roll off your tongue and you can spit fire. Make sure you read, analyze, and watch in ways you haven’t before. Listen carefully! People love to talk, listen closely. When you know who a person is, you can defeat them easily in any arena. Four years will go by faster than you think. Be the change you want for your country in that time, and yes, this is YOUR country too. Don’t sit idle and wait for others to fix it. When they tell you America isn’t yours, you can tell them about the generations of your people from Mississippi, Georgia, Tennessee, and South Carolina that built this country and gave you the right to stand in your space.
Your Dad and I love you guys.
– Erica Woods Tucker is a writer, mom, wife and transplanted New Yorker, who currently lives in Raleigh, NC. Her husband Milt, and their 3 kids, Lauryn (14), Nathaniel (11), and Vanessa (9), give her plenty of material for essays and short stories.
When I pick Avi up from school that day, I come bearing sweets. Frozen yogurt topped with gummy bears, M&M’s, chocolate rocks. I’ve never done this before. As we drive, I turn down the music. “Did you talk about the election today?” I try to sound casual.
“Yes,” he mumbles.
“Were people upset?”
“I DON’T KNOW!” he shrieks. I am stunned. “What do you want?” he goes on, in tears now. “You want me to go around and interview every single person in my class? Are you upset? Are you upset?”
Clearly, he is upset. And of course I shouldn’t have asked him if his classmates were upset. It contradicted everything I’d been telling him—that we’d be all right, that he’d have nothing to worry about. I am confusing him. And things for Avi, for many children, process silently. He might be talking about basketball, but behind the chatter, darker material churns: the sadness in our home that day; the peculiar silence in the streets; the instinctual knowledge that something that wasn’t supposed to happen did happen. He must wonder why, if the next four years are going to be just fine, nobody can stop talking about them.”
Excerpted from “Every Victory“
– Shanthi Sekaran teaches writing at California College of the Arts and is a member of the SAN Francisco Writers Grotto. Lucky Boy, her new novel about motherhood, detention and immigration, comes out in January 2017. Excerpted from “Every Victory”
On Election Day, my seven-year-old daughter, Amelie, had her last soccer practice of the fall season. Her team named themselves the Hillarys and the two coaches the Trumps for their last scrimmage of the evening. According to my husband, Matt, the girls felt joyous: they were ready to see the first girl president of the United States.
“There have already been forty-four men!” my daughter pointed out to me many times, “It is time for Hillary!” She created signs with her oil pastels and markers all weekend. Her friends wore all white like suffragettes for Election Day. We attended an election watch party that evening, debating how late we could stay out with the kids on a school night, but also acknowledging that this could be a historic event.
It turned out nothing like we’d hoped. Amelie went to bed that evening still hoping that I’d jump onto her bed the next morning with the news that Hillary had won. Instead, I comforted my little girl, both of us crying, trying to understand how this country could elect a man who, in her mind was the biggest bully she’d ever seen.
She is frightened, for her Muslim and Mexican friends, for the same-sex parents of her friends, for so many people she loves and considers part of their community. Amelie is scared for herself and her brother, because her mother is Vietnamese and her father is white, and will she now be seen and treated differently?
Amelie is also going to miss Hillary. After reading Hillary’s biography at the library and learning about her work for children and families, she is scared that Hillary will disappear, that there will be no one to fight Trump and protect the children and refugees. I told her that Hillary would not go away. That it is still possible to do good in the world without being president. I pointed out that a president was only one person, albeit a powerful person, but not the only individual who can change the world. We have smart senators and congressmen and justices and many many others who can stop him. I hope that they can. I also told her that she can change the world, and that this was the opportunity to become more prepared.
We have the privilege of living in the Bay area bubble, where my children are encouraged to speak with an open, compassionate mind, and to strive for an inclusive, diverse community. My husband believes that we are witnessing the birth of a new hippie generation. We will raise a household of protesters. With Trump’s victory, we’ve been issued a great challenge. The next four years will be the ultimate string of teachable moments. Our children can rise up and learn so much from this. It is not the outcome we wanted, but I believe our children are stronger than Trump, and can prevail. That morning, Amelie decided to dress up as a suffragette, wearing the words of Malcolm X. Her brother looked on with pride and wonder, as he often does with his big sister. I believe in them. I know they can do it.
– Aimee Phan is the author of two books of fiction: We Should Never Meet and The Reeducation of Cherry Truong. She lives in Berkeley with her partner Matt Shears and two children, Amelie (7) and ZZ (4.)
And what did you tell your kids? Share your stories in the comments. Solidarity, and love, to you and your family – MUTHA