M is eight. She’s bright, curious and loves to read, and has followed this year’s election with a newfound fascination. Parts of it I could have lived without, such as explaining words in headlines like “lewd” or why some of Trump’s words had stars in the middle. But overwhelmingly it’s been a positive experience, because it’s given us a platform to discuss social issues, as well as the value of being a citizen and using your voting privilege. She watched me fill out the ballot, and we discussed why I chose to vote on the amendments the way I did.
There’s something else, too, something far more important that I didn’t even see until this weekend.
This weekend, I had lunch with my aunt and uncle. As we were talking, we were discussing how the world has changed over the decades. For all that the world looks like it’s burning sometimes, so many strides have been made. When I was a child, my classes in school were white until I was in high school. M started preschool with children of many nationalities and religions, and she doesn’t see anything unusual about it. I never knew anyone who wasn’t Christian or Jewish until college; M has friends from all major religions. When I was young, I didn’t know anyone who was gay. M has been to a gay wedding and was able to see the law become more accepting, more equal. Not perfect, but better. I had teachers who openly favored boys and in doing so, told girls their opinions were worthless. We work to stop that now. Again, not perfect, but we’re aware. M is able to have experiences and learn acceptance of others far before I could, and it’s wonderful.
M has the privilege of growing up surrounded by all types of women–homemakers, teachers, scientists, doctors, lawyers, artists–she’s never known anything different. In talking to my aunt, I was discussing how when I was a child, many of the women I knew were housewives and secretaries, and when I was little I believed at that time that a secretary or teacher was a job for a woman because she couldn’t have the jobs that were “for men.” People told me I could be anything, but that wasn’t often reflected in the world around me until I was in my teens.
This weekend, I said this at lunch: “So, when I saw those women, and they were mostly homemakers or secretaries–”
M: “Secretary? Secretary of State! Like Hillary Clinton, who’s running for president! She’s a secretary!”
I suddenly saw it through her eyes. To M, a secretary isn’t what I thought of as a child. A secretary is a job for a person who can next be president. And especially important for a M, knowing that a woman can be president. Whether Secretary Clinton wins or loses today, she showed M that there are no limits.
My aunt mentioned when she was little, she was told that women couldn’t be scientists. M replied, “If anyone tells me I can’t be a scientist, I’m going to ignore them and be a scientist anyway.”
Later, I found M googling what the Secretary of State does. “Maybe I could be Secretary of State,” she mused. “Or president.”
“I think you can be anything you want.”
“Maybe I could build my own army of robots too.”
Aim high, M.
No matter what happens today, this election changed things. Clinton showed M in a very public way that she can aspire to anything. She showed her that she, too, can be the change she wants to see.
(Comments are disabled on this post, because I’m not here to discuss who you think should win or how you feel about the candidates. There are plenty of places for that.)