My daughters are three and six years old, and today I had to face them. Last night, while they were splashing around in the bathtub, we talked about Election Day and what it means. My three-year-old is so young that she barely knows her elbow from her ear, but my six-year-old is at that age where she’s starting to peer beyond the bubble of early childhood and tune into the world around her.
She may not know much about what a president does. But she does know that the current president is Barack Obama, and that he looks as though he could be the dad of many of the kids in her kindergarten class. She has learned that girls and women were not always given the same opportunities as boys and men. That people are sometimes treated differently depending on the color of their skin, their gender, the way they look, or the language that they speak. She knows that there has never been a woman president. She knows my husband and I voted for Hillary Clinton, but she also knows that many people voted for the other candidate. When she asked why we didn’t plan to vote for Trump, I tried to explain it gently: “He has not acted very nicely toward other people.”
Because here’s what she doesn’t know. She doesn’t know that Trump has crowed he will throw Hillary Clinton in jail. That he has promised to round up immigrants like herds of cattle. That he has gloated about sexually assaulting women. That he has earned the endorsement of violent racists. That he has called people pigs, and mocked decorated veterans and those with disabilities. That he believes cities like the one we live in are terrible places and our neighbors thugs and criminals.
But she will. My relatively innocent six-year-old will be 10 by the time the next election rolls around. She will learn to read as President Trump’s hateful words continue to fill headlines—and no, I don’t believe that he will soften his rhetoric, chastened, after reaping this reward. She will inch toward puberty under a president who has telegraphed that women are nothing but pussies to be grabbed. She will learn from him that she—a girl, a mixed-race child, the granddaughter of immigrants—is worthless, inferior. It will be up to me and my husband to show her that she is so much more than that.
When I went in to wake her this morning, her eyes were already open and shining, a huge grin spread across her face. “Is it true? Do we have a girl president?,” she asked. My heart broke. “No,” I said. “We don’t.” Then it shattered as she patted my arm. “Don’t worry, mommy. We can vote for the girl again next time.”