Political commentators who were clearly aligned “With Her” Tuesday night bemoaned the difficult task that faced parents the morning after the election, when they’d have to face their children at the breakfast table. I didn’t have that luxury.
When you have young adult kids who vote and routinely stay up late, you have to sound wise and comforting on the fly as projections are coming in, which is exactly how I didn’t sound as I responded to texts from one despondent first-time Hillary Clinton supporter at college, and “Omigod” (repeatedly) from another folded up in the fetal position on the couch.
By morning I had coffee and clarity, and I asked for a second chance to say what I wanted to say to them. For what it’s worth, here are my thoughts in no particular order:
First, kids, winning is fun. Losing is not fun. But we must in life practice, and model, losing with grace. That means saying we tried our darnedest but it wasn’t enough and we wish the victors well. Consider, even, inviting one among them out for coffee.
We must resist the temptation to point fingers because such behavior makes us small, and it traps us in a cycle of forever blaming that professor or boss or coach or partner.
On the other hand, don’t retreat in defeat. All that good energy you put into the fight? Build on it. There’s nothing quite like losing to motivate a person to jump into activism (once we arise from the fetal position).
So, what matters to you, kids? Is it shattering, finally, the glass ceiling or fighting climate change? Smoothing the lack of civility online or on your own campus? Creating a safe environment for friends who are marginalized or bullied?
There’s a club for that. Join it. You will feel much better, I promise.
Share your voice beyond club involvement. Create your own blog or write a letter to the editor. (That’s a person who works for something called a newspaper. Look it up).
Juanita Ortiz has seen the power of such an action. A Latino culture teacher at Phalen Lake Hmong Studies Magnet in St. Paul, Ortiz helped her fourth- and fifth-graders combat hate speech this year with something far mightier: thoughtful speech. The class wrote letters to President Obama, Donald Trump and Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn. They said:
I want hate speech to end.
My family works hard.
We go to school.
We’re not illegals.
Back up our dream.
The students are still waiting for responses, but the outcome was quickly evident. “They went from feeling helpless and confused to feeling powerful,” Ortiz said. “Words gave them power.”
What powerful words do you want to send out into the world?
Next, I want you to feel deeply, but I don’t want you to be pulled under by heavy emotions. Anger? Tears? Understandable.
Amy Hewett-Olatunde, 2015 Minnesota teacher of the year, told me that she’s felt all that and more in recent days.
She teaches writing and English to the all-immigrant student population at LEAP High School in St. Paul. Some of them did not come to class on Wednesday out of fear. She comes home to her two precious biracial children.
While Hewett-Olatunde has every right to feel angry, she instead tells her children at work and at home “that anger is not going to come from me. I’m going to figure out a way to take my emotions and put a positive spin on them.”
So, take a few more days to feel miserable, if you need to. Then move into a new day ready to face whatever challenges are coming at you.
Next, keep in mind all that you have control over.
“At the end of the day, the president is really far removed from our daily lives,” noted Rebeka Ndosi, a Minneapolis-based yoga and meditation instructor who works with youths on probation. “Communities, neighborhoods, families — and how we treat other people — that’s where we can control our experiences every day. Once we do that, we can rebuild a lot faster.”
Finally, kids (and I know you really aren’t kids anymore), please know that you are loved. You probably think that’s a dumb thing for me to say. I’m saying it anyway because, right now, for you, I’m guessing that the world might feel pretty disconnected and scary.
I’m here for you. Many, many people are here for you, all of us eager to back up your dreams.