Future Tense

Ringing in the new year, not knowing what lies ahead.

In case you’ve been living under a rock (or a keg — no judgment), know that on January 20, Donald J. Trump will become the 45th president of the United States. I have spent the weeks since the election wrapping my head around that fact and figuring out what it means for my family.

On November 7, I had looked nervously but eagerly ahead to celebrating the shattering of the ultimate glass ceiling with my girls, 1-year-old Maxine and 3-year-old Edie. On November 9, I had to explain why Mommy was crying. On November 10, I decided that I would channel my energy to do good where I can — and that I’d bring my children along for the ride.

Later that month, I took the girls to a march protesting the culture and apparent acceptability of violence against women. Maxine and Edie are, thankfully, too young to understand that nearly half of America’s voters overlooked Trump’s boasts of assaulting women and the many testimonies of those who claim to be his victims.

But, to paraphrase Portland feminist and founder of No! To Rape Culture Stacey Spencer, we cannot accept this as normal and must fight it every step of the way.

So march we did, along with a few hundred others, through downtown Portland. It was the first time I’d joined a protest since the Second Iraq War began; it was my girls’ first.

When we arrived, Edie was scared. She looked around at the shouting women and reached for me. Maxine seemed content to take in the scene, with its flags and waving signs.

Together, the group of us marched to Pioneer Square. I’m not much of a chanter, but the gathering made me feel part of something bigger. As tourists and shoppers looked on, Portland’s living room filled with our voices.

And then one more small voice joined in: Edie’s.

“This is what the future looks like,” I heard her say, quietly at first. As a group of children gathered at the front of the crowd, Edie’s voice grew stronger. “This is what the future looks like!”

We ended up leaving the protest a little early: I was wearing both the girls, and their combined 50-plus pounds was making me lose feeling in one arm. But we left knowing that we added our voices to the resistance.

Since then, I have struggled to talk about our small acts of political action in ways the pre-preschool set can understand. When I began explaining the protest, Edie interrupted me: “Want to play Cinderella, Mama?” I had to correct my sister when she called Trump a “bad man,” explaining that we don’t call people “bad” at home. Edie signed her and her sister’s names on a card as part of the “postcard avalanche” to oppose the appointment of white supremacist Stephen Bannon as a chief strategist; I ended up saying that we were telling the president-elect not to listen to a man who didn’t treat people equally.

The electoral college and misogyny and white nationalism are all pretty abstract concepts to a kid who still calls breakfast “dinner.” But I’m trying my best to walk the line between educating her and protecting her from a world that wants to pay her less, take away her health care, further marginalize her friends’ same-sex parents and teach her that her skin color makes her superior to children of other hues.

The other day, I saw that at least some of this is sinking in.

“Let’s play March,” Edie suggested. I followed her lead as she high-stepped around the basement, pumping one fist in the air. “This is what the future looks like!” she chanted.

And although the New Year is starting on a bleak note, if Edie and Maxine represent the future, I eagerly await what is to come. 

 

Catherine Ryan Gregory

Catherine Ryan Gregory

Catherine Ryan Gregory is a Portland writer and mother to 1-year-old Maxine and 3-year-old Edie. She hikes with the kids rain or shine, can't keep the house clean and blogs about trying to be a good—or good enough—mother at TenThousandHourMama.com.
Catherine Ryan Gregory

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