Even now, days after the election, I’m struggling with what to tell you about Donald Trump.
We’ve talked about him before. We laughed at him at first; you thought his hair was funny. You thought the way he spoke was annoying and I agreed.
Then he became the Republican nominee and we started to talk about what he was saying. We talked about how he wants to build a wall to separate people. About how he thinks that only people who look and think exactly like him deserve to be treated with respect and equality.
We talked (without going into much detail, because you’re only six) about the things he said about women and the things he had done to them. Even then, I didn’t take him seriously.
I thought I was setting the groundwork for a lesson about how the bad guys, the ones who think and say these kinds of things, never win.
Mostly, we were just excited about the idea of a woman president. We looked at pictures of all the past presidents and agreed that it was past time for a woman to be among them. We talked about how other countries had woman leaders, so why not the United States? We listened to Beyonce sing about who run the world.
When it was time to vote, I brought you into the booth with me. You read Hillary Clinton’s name on the ballot and you helped me push the red button to vote for her. I can hardly describe the pride I felt at that moment. You were wearing your unicorn headband and tail, and a May The Force Be With You tee-shirt and I knew that I would never, ever forget that moment.
On election night, you had to go to bed before anything was decided. But I promised to wake you up to hear Hillary’s speech. When that didn’t happen, and when you bounded downstairs in the morning asking if Hillary had won, my heart broke in a way that I was not prepared for; in that moment, I knew I had failed you.
I’m still working through my feelings about the election and the “new normal” in which we find ourselves. But there is one thing I know with absolute certainty and it’s something that I find very hard to admit to you: The pride I felt that day in the voting booth was stolen.
Generations of women have fought for us to have that moment, but I had done nothing. Voting for Hillary was not enough. I didn’t go door to door and talk to people about her. I didn’t sit at a table and help people register to vote. I didn’t talk enough about why her policies and her ideas were the better ones. And I certainly didn’t speak up enough against Donald Trump and his campaign of hate. Instead,
I allowed other people to put themselves out there, to put in the work, while I sat around and dreamed of a female president and sang songs about girl power.
I’m ashamed. I failed you as a mom, and even worse, I failed you as a fellow woman. But no more.
This time around, Sophia, I promise you that I’m going to do everything I can to make sure that you grow up in a world where you are valued and where you have the same rights as your brother.
Where you won’t make less money than a man for the same work, where you’ll be able to make decisions about your own body, and marry whoever you fall in love with. Where you won’t have to worry about the safety of your classmates who aren’t white and where there will be no wall dividing you from anybody else.
And I’m not going to wait four years for the next election day; I’m going to start now.
I’m just one person, so I can’t promise you I’ll be able to change anything. But I’m damn well going to try. The next time we go to a voting booth together, I will push that button knowing that I have done everything I could to fight for that moment.
This time around, I’m going to put in the work.
I promise I will never fail you again.
Cory Putman Oakes is a mom of two from Austin, Texas. When she’s not actively “momming,” she writes books for kids and teens. You can find Cory on her website, Twitter, and Facebook.
Photo: NAGANO TOYOKAZU