I’ve never been active in politics beyond the local level. However this year, knowing all that is at stake for our country, I’ve felt increasingly drawn to share information, donate money, post yard signs, and make phone calls. And yet, with election day approaching, I felt like I haven’t done enough.
We were sitting at dinner last Tuesday night, talking about the upcoming weekend, tossing around ideas about how to fill some unplanned hours on Saturday. “It would be kind of cool to go to New Hampshire and canvass for Hillary Clinton,” I said casually, not even sure if I wanted to go.
But as soon as the words passed my lips, there was no going back. From across the table, my eight-year-old son Gabriel chirped, “We’re going to New Hampshire? Where in New Hampshire? When are we going? What are we doing there?” And without even pausing for a response, he darted into the living room. He returned moments later, his arms laden with local maps, travel guides, and his trusty world atlas. For the next few days, we spent every night at bedtime talking about our trip to NH. We pored over maps, especially the electoral map where—in contrast to the blue states around it, New Hampshire was a stark shade of silver.
A few days later, we were heading to a private home in Nashua, NH to meet up with other canvassers.
We had an amazing experience. The field office was incredibly well organized. In less than twenty minutes, they had armed us with a map of our “turf” and a list of the houses we were to canvass. The people on our list were registered Democrats who hadn’t turned out reliably to the last few elections. Our mission was to confirm their support for Hillary, and make sure they had a plan for getting to the polls on Tuesday.
At first, I felt nervous about canvassing. I didn’t know who we would encounter, and I wasn’t sure I would know what to say. My fears ended up being unfounded. We met some great people. A young man who was a firefighter and was planning to work at the polls all day on Tuesday. A young woman, holding her baby girl, got a little teary as she told us she was planning to vote on the way to daycare on Tuesday. An elderly gentleman told us he’d voted in too many elections to count, but this was by far the most important ballot he would cast in his lifetime.
As we plotted our course through the neighborhood, we passed many yards displaying Hillary Clinton signs. However, we passed just as many Donald Trump signs, including an enormous sign proclaiming “Drain the Swamp” in bright yellow letters, next to an ominous looking eagle. Passing all of those Trump signs reinforced for me how divided the state is, and how important for the Hillary campaign to come out in large numbers to demonstrate support for our candidate.
As a parent, I’ve found this election season to be troubling on so many levels. I want to inspire my children to be informed and active citizens, to care about our country and the people who live in our great nation. I want to share with them how passionately I feel about the outcome of this particular election, but shield them from the fear, sadness and anxiety that I’m feeling. I am the proud mom of a beautiful, intelligent, spunky eleven-year-old daughter. I’m also the proud mom of a handsome, creative, caring, eight-year-old autistic son. I shudder with revulsion when I think of the disrespect that Donald Trump has displayed towards women. It pains me to recall the dismissiveness and downright lack of humanity that Donald Trump has displayed towards people with disabilities. I don’t want either of my children growing up in a country that is governed by Donald Trump.
I found our journey up to New Hampshire this weekend to be just the remedy I needed. The hours I spent with my son, walking around a sunny New Hampshire neighborhood were fun and invigorating. He used the map of our “turf” to locate our houses, rang doorbells, and hung signs on doorknobs.
Right now, I feel I’ve struck that balance of sharing my passion about this election with my kids while holding back the true fear over what a Trump presidency would actually mean for our country. If I spoke candidly with my kids about my fears about our rights, our values, our environment and our global safety, they wouldn’t sleep for a month.
As a parent, I want to protect my son from the pain our nation is suffering. This election will be decided on Tuesday, and whatever the outcome, we will move forward. But right now we are at a crossroads.
When we watch the results come in on Tuesday night, I hope with all my might that New Hampshire will turn from silver to blue. If that happens, I’ll point it out to Gabriel, and I’ll tell him, “We did that. We helped make that happen.” I will feel empowered and proud, and I hope he will too.
No matter what the outcome of the election on Tuesday, our nation has the hard work of healing ahead of us. I hope my son and I can find a way to participate in that work as well.