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Election Day Unease: Parents and Community Leaders Hopeful, Even as They Worry

Election 2016 has been the most brutal in recent history, and our children have noticed. On this final day, we reflect and plan

Published on: November 08, 2016

The night before Election Day, it felt like a season's worth of dead leaves had piled up in my brain. There was no more raking. Nothing could clear the space short of a mental leaf-blower and a fresh layer of new snow. Today, I hope, that metaphorical snow will come, white to remind us that 96 years ago women, through determination and danger, finally won the right to vote for their own representation. And now here we are, nearly a century passed, with at long last the choice of the first female president on the ballot before us.
I have two daughters, and while I have tried so hard to celebrate with them the things about this election season that are momentous, it's been difficult with all the ugliness. Last night, instead of cheerily baking red, white and blue cupcakes like I saw so many of my fellow parents on Facebook doing, I collapsed on the bed. Sensing the tension of Election Day eve, one daughter offered me a foot rub (she tried to charge me $8, too — savvy little capitalist) and the other daughter soothed me into an almost trance with her own invented-on-the-spot meditation program ($6.50, please). So desperate was I to slink away from the siege of politics and, let's not forget, sexism, I would have paid anything honestly.
Today I hope to find moments to celebrate, and to remind my children — who have up until now only ever seen a Black president elected, another barrier finally shattered — that girls and women can do anything. It will be a nail-biting day, not just as we wait out the results, but because we all know how much work there is to do after the ballots are counted. How divided we have become, and how dangerous it is if we don't find a way to start hearing one another. 
We reached out to local parents to see how they and their families are feeling and what they will be doing on Election Day. Here are some of their thoughts. Feel free to join the conversation with us on Facebook.
Even the kids are worried. Their inborn sense of justice and kindness are not being reflected in the politics they are seeing. To me, this election has driven home how important it is to teach civic skills, such as critical thinking, respectful and fact-based debate, nuanced articulation of belief, a willingness to consider opposing viewpoints and seek common ground, and an understanding and respect for civil rights. Forget the politicians: if the citizen response to this election had been governed by these skills, the whole tone and situation would be so different. 
Becca Hall, director of Frog Hollow School, a writing program for homeschoolers

Anxiety on lots of levels; for me the most specific effect has been the effort needed to ensure that people at work don’t inadvertently insult folks who might be on the other side of the political spectrum. With the general distaste for both candidates, that’s been a challenge!

Chuck MorrisonRed Cross Snohomish County

Today, I feel like I am holding my breath with my eyes closed. If feels like I am in slow motion, in a car about to be struck by a large truck knowing that things can end badly. I’m bracing myself for a very possible bad outcome and keeping my fingers crossed behind my back. I’m embarrassed and disappointed that our country has taken a turn for the worse when it comes to the election process and selecting a leader who represents us all.  
But in all the muck, I’ve tried to look for the silver lining in this big mess. For my family this election season was an opportunity to not only teach our children about our democracy, but also what it means to be a good person and a leader. We embraced the opportunities to talk with our children about character and what it means to be fair, use self control, as well as being respectful, caring and kind. There were a plethora of opportunities to share and point out how adults make mistakes and can act as bullies.  

Tomorrow I will be encouraging others to get out and vote and to take responsibility for the future by making the best choice possible for their country and their children. And as I watch the tallying over social media and television I will be saying a silent prayer for our people. 

Melissa Benaroya, LICSW Family Coaching and Education, Childproof Parenting
My husband and I have close friends and family on all four sides of this election. Way back at the beginning of the year we were talking about how this year would be horrible and how much we were dreading the 2016 election cycle. But unlike previous years, I decided that this year, I wanted us to do something that would help alleviate the anxiety and hate. Something that could bring our friends and family together and make them smile, instead of hate each other. That's why this year, our dog Thor Michaelson, is running for Pawcifer of Justice.

Thor is leading in the polls on a strictly Anti-Vacuum Cleaner ticket with a pro-Walkies stance. He’s also very big on turkey hot dogs. We’ve posted signs; almost all of which have been ‘rehomed’ so I made them available for download on Thor’s website, vacuumcleanerdefenseleague. And it’s working! People (and their pets) have been coming out in droves to support the VCDL. We even have a skunk supporting us. (That's not even a euphemism for anything. She's an actual skunk!) 

On the serious side, my husband and I have already voted by mail. When our ballots arrived, we sat down with our kids and showed them how to vote. We explained why we chose our candidates and why it’s important that they vote when they are old enough. So on election day, we are free to get out there and cheer people on. We'll be down there waving and encouraging everyone to get out and vote! vote! vote! They system only works if you participate. 

And if you have an extra turkey hot dog, I know a candidate that would love to shake your paw.

— Tiffany Pitts

I'm flying to #HERstory! On the plane to NYC with my daughter so we can watch the election returns with Hillary Clinton and tens of thousands of her supporters on Election Night! On this Election Eve as I'm heading to NYC, I'm beyond inspired by the work of MomsRising no matter the outcome. During this election, moms, dads, and people across the country fought hard for candidates and the media to cover the top policies that boost family economic security from the beginning through the end. MomsRising organized in early primary states, started local steering committees, held debate watch parties across the nation, placed billboards, tracked where the candidates stand on the issues that matter via the CLUE and BINGO cards, “bird dogged" the candidates in public and on social media, held house parties and events, and urged the media to treat the candidates equally.

Moms also got out the mom vote. Through #MomsVote, nearly a million letters to moms and also tens of thousands of hand written mom-to-mom reminder to vote postcards were sent. Treasure Boxes of kids activities were created to inspire families to come out to vote, early voting reminders were sent, voting parades complete with marching bands were organized, early voting parties were held, pledges/plans to vote were signed. It doesn't stop there ... #LatinaVotan helped get out the Latina vote online, on-the-ground, sharing videos from more than 60 Latina mom influencers about the importance of voting on election day, and so much more. All of this is just the tip of the iceberg of the highly effective, empowering, super inspiring work of #MomsVote this year.

Moms have been an incredible force this election. No matter the outcome: Thank you.

Kristin Rowe-FinkbeinerMomsRising founder and activist 

I'm feeling pretty anxious this election week. I consider myself to be fairly active in fighting for the rights of marginalized people, and I am beginning to fear all of those rights being taken away. While it's not necessarily possible to reverse all progressive legislation, I'm worried everything we have fought for will be removed by the time my son is of age to understand it.

There are many high-stake causes to pay attention to. And a lot of times I feel none of those interests are actively represented. I just want the president to be someone that my son can not only look up to but it intrust with his future.

I will be spending this election season waiting ... the race is so close at this point my husband and I are unsure what will happen so we're just waiting.

— Ambreia Meadows-Fernandez

I learned the importance of not saying things that would frighten the children even if they are true. Simply put, our family is Jewish and I am just as worried about Trump as I am his supporters. In the past, I had joked about moving the family to Australia if Trump won because I thought Canada was too close. That was before a KKK newspaper endorsed his candidacy and white supremacist groups announced online that if he got elected, they felt Trump would owe them something for helping deliver the vote. Having heard that, I felt that it would be time to seriously consider moving, but I kept it to myself. A little too late. Just the other day my 8-year-old son asked me, 'Daddy, if Donald Trump wins, are we going to have to move?'

— David Volk

On June 23, 2016, the day the Brexit vote took place, I was visiting my family in the U.K. I wasn't able to get to the town where I had last lived to cast my vote, and, to be honest, none of us really believed Brexit would happen. The morning of the results were like a smack in the face. People were dumbfounded and tearful in utter disbelief. As stories came out regarding the realities of the decision, even those who had voted for Brexit felt cheated and regretted their decision. I regret not changing plans and making the journey to cast my vote. It may not have made a difference, but at least my conscience would be clear.
I've lived here for four years but as a British citizen, I don't have a vote. Having lived through a shock announcement once already this year I am holding my breath and crossing my fingers that I won't have to experience that again. I urge everyone who has a vote to use it, even if you think it won't make a difference. I do not want my children to grow up in a world of hatred and intolerance. I am afraid of the world we now live in both here and at home and hope tomorrow will turn the tide.

Rachel McClary, play, early education and more.

My son was born on Election Day in 2005, and his birth completely rocked our world even though my husband lost his bid that night for a King County Council seat. This year, my son’s birthday falls on one of the most important election days of his lifetime and he worries it will be the worst birthday ever. I’ve been patiently reassuring him that we will indeed elect the first female president ever (even though I feel nervous and uncertain inside) and have explained that no matter what happens, it will be a historical moment.

My daughter’s eighth-grade class was asked to write a persuasive letter convincing someone to vote in this election. Hers was one of six chosen to be submitted to a contest in YES! Magazine. She had written a letter to a person of color, explaining very carefully the reasons it is so important to vote and that every voice makes a difference. She wrote: 'Another benefit of people of color voting could be that more people of color could be elected to positions of power, which would benefit our nation greatly ... more diverse groups of people lead to better ideas circulating … we will have better ideas of how to solve worldwide problems.'

We’ve watched all the debates together and the kids have seen for themselves what these two candidates represent. They don’t need my husband or I to explain our voting choices. They can see for themselves the compelling evidence right in front of them.

Elizabeth Ralston, nonprofit leader

I have explained the Electoral College to the kids before, but on Election Day eve, we got down to brass tacks. Got out the map. Showed them, and they were fascinated. Explained the weird situation in Maine and Nebraska. They were clicking on the map like crazy. My number-obsessed 10-year-old was entranced — I think he was thinking, 'Why didn't I know about this earlier??' I'm reading to my youngest in the other room, and I can hear the 10-year-old shouting, 'The map is changing, Mom. The polls are changing. I love the polls!' Pretty cool civics moment, but I can't say I agree that I love the polls ...
We are all feeling uneasy and nervous about today. I am feeling somewhat optimistic and excited to watch the results roll in with the kids tonight, but my husband does not want to get sucked into all the coverage when the results are unknown. He will work late, go to the gym, and then join me watching the coverage. I am not going to watch during the day, however. My daughter is wearing her "I would have been a suffragette" shirt, and we are trying to be hopeful. I have attempted to prepare my kids for the possibility that their hopes will be dashed and reminded them that we don't meet hate with hate, no matter what.
Brooke Graham Doyle, nonprofit leader
With this election, the stakes seem higher than ever before. As a parent, it's been tricky to navigate and difficult to hide my anger, frustration and fear. I have a 14-year-old-who will vote in four years and who is now acutely aware of just how divided we are as a country — and the ugliness that goes along with that. I also have a 10-year-old who, in her paraphrased words, sees a bully getting away with behavior that is not acceptable even for a child. Today's results define the kind of country we live in going forward. We will be spending the evening in the company of friends who want for their children what we want for ours.

— Erin Baebler, co-author of Moms Mean Business: A Guide to Creating a Successful Company and Happy Life as a Mom Entrepreneur

Sitting around the dinner table, my 5-year-old son takes a bite of a chicken finger and says, "I hope she wins," then locks eyes with me. A flush of panic spreads across his face, co-mingling with the smears of ketchup on his cheeks. My 10-year-old daughter chimes in, "By my next horseback riding lesson, we'll know who's president." She rests back into her chair and lets out a sigh of relief. It's obvious that they are stressed by this election. It presses down on their little shoulders in a way politics never did when I was a child.

My kids are mixed-race and just beginning to understand the term racism. Some of their most beloved family members are voting for Trump. Thanksgiving will be interesting this year, all of us sitting around the table, in a mess of confusion, love and diversity. I'll attempt to politely steer the conversation away from anger and towards discourse. The kids will absorb it all. They'll participate with their own opinions, in a way I never did when I was a child.

On one end of the table there will be me, the liberal, college-educated, white, middle class woman who eight years ago, was proud to publicly breastfeed in the polling station while voting for Obama. Next to me, my liberal, college-educated, middle class, Japanese-American husband, who four years ago, bought a pink dress shirt to match his son wearing a pink 'Baby Got Barack' hand-me-down t-shirt and hoped it didn't matter the color of their skin or the color of their shirts. 

On the other end of the table, doting Trump-supporting grandparents will fondly praise our one-year-old daughter as she climbs into her seat at the family table. I'll wonder how many female presidents she'll see in her lifetime. When she's an adult, hosting Thanksgiving dinner in her home, what will be the state of sexism, misogyny and reproductive rights in America? Will she still be tolerating the intolerable?
— Jennifer Kakutani, Bainbridge Island writer and mom to three,
I voted for the first time when I was 25. Not out of laziness, but because I'd just gotten my citizenship four months earlier. Casting that initial ballot felt incredible. My boys are 5 and 1, too little to understand this Clinton v. Trump business. But just by being born here (specifically, Swedish Ballard), they will get to choose their president when they turn 18. Voting is a gift. I hope my kids will never take it for granted.

JiaYing Grygiel, photographer

These elections have meant more for my family than elections in my own home country of Singapore. As immigrants, my husband and I have both been affected by the negative rhetoric around immigration that was spread by one particular candidate.

But more importantly, my son — the only American citizen in our family — was born this year. The outcomes of this election will have a longstanding impact on our family, including whether we would want to raise our son here in 2017 and beyond. We are anxiously awaiting the results – despite not being able to vote. Will our country be led by a politically-astute, globally-minded woman? Or by the type of man who is the living embodiment of everything we wouldn't want our son to become?

— Ruchika Tulshyan, author


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