Mamas, it has been a year. Our world is in a pandemic, and our country is pretty damn fractured, as evidenced by our most recent election results.
If your social media feed looks anything like mine, things are tense and fraught. (I’ve never been so happy that I stopped arguing with people on the internet.) I don’t need to go on ad nauseum about all the ways 2020 has been a challenge. You get it.
As we turn the page on another year, the idea of a fresh start sounds even more appealing. But this new year ahead is more complicated than planning out resolutions and purchasing a new planner. Regardless of how you voted, I hope we can all agree that we need some healing. Better yet, we probably could all use a time out.
I have always believed that it’s harder to hate when you step out from behind your keyboard and get to know people. It’s easy to stay siloed in our camps and echo chambers where we only interact with people who look, act and vote as we do. It’s far more challenging and vulnerable to reach out. I’ve been guilty of this, so I’m taking my own medicine here, friends.
It’s time to behave like the grown-ups. It’s time to do the same things we attempt to impart to our children. They are watching us, after all. Moms are the best equipped to lead, so let’s take a page out of our playbook and get to work.
- Do unto others. I don’t care what Democrats did in 2008 or Republicans did in 2016. There has been a long-set precedent in our country of behaving badly and then weaponizing that past hurt back at the other side once there is a power shift. Let’s stop. We require some marriage counseling, folks. If we want to move ahead, we’ve got to stop bringing up what we’ve done to hurt each other in the past and start the reconciliation TODAY.
- Stop with the stereotypes and name-calling. I try to teach my son not to lump groups of people together. Ex: All girls like pink. All boys play sports. All grown-ups are obsessed with bedtime (okay, maybe that one’s true). Here’s the truth: not all conservatives are deplorable, and not all liberals are socialist snowflakes. Let’s stop saying these things to each other. We each have individual lived experiences that shape our perspectives and values. We all see ourselves as the heroes in our own life story. We all wake up thinking we’re on the side of right. We may be opponents on policy, but that doesn’t have to make us enemies.
- Be humble in our wins and graceful in our defeats. Does anyone like an obnoxious winner? If you wouldn’t let your 6-year-old run around the bases after a tee-ball game yelling “IN YOUR FACE, LOSERS!” you probably shouldn’t exhibit that same behavior after an election win. Celebrate? Yes! Text all your friends in exuberance? Of course. But remember what it feels like to be on the side of defeat. And before you say, “But they were terrible four years ago,” see the first bullet again. As parents, we also teach our children to be graceful in defeat. We have them high-five and say “good game” after a loss. This may seem like a bridge too far in light of the divisiveness of 2020, so if you’re unable to muster a “good game,” perhaps gratitude for freedom and democracy and an “if you can’t say anything nice” attitude will suffice.
- Try it, try it, you may like it. I’m not suggesting you switch your party affiliation but give your newly elected officials a chance, even if you didn’t vote for them. Watch how they lead and govern before deciding it is all going to hell in a handbasket. Just like trying the vegetables on your plate before deciding they aren’t your cup of tea, let’s show our kiddos that we will reserve judgment on our leaders until we allow them to lead.
- Turn off the screens and get outside. Sometimes, even at 41-years-old, I could use a mother to come over, tell me to put down my phone and get outdoors for some fresh air. Not only will the break from our social streams and the outrage devices in our hands do us some good, but being out in the real world, amongst real people, is healthy too. When I moved into my neighborhood this year, I noticed several of my neighbors had signs and flags for a candidate in their yards. Not knowing my new neighbors yet, but seeing their political affiliation, I made some uninformed assessments (see bullet 2… I’m working on it!). A couple of weeks before the election, I got outside for a walk and found two of my neighbors (an older couple) trying to load some boxes onto a trailer, and I stopped to introduce myself and offer to help. They were the most delightful people. We traded pleasantries, and I introduced myself, and I felt some chagrin for having assumed they wouldn’t be lovely based upon their lawn accouterments. I like to think that they may have had a different perspective of their new neighbor with her own opposing lawn signs, too. 😊
Moms, can we commit to doing these things for ourselves and our children? WE can lead the movement to de-escalate the fervor in our country. WE can be examples for our communities.
I’m not naïve enough to believe that doing these things will mean we’re in for one big Kumbaya moment, but it may be enough to bring us back from the brink and back to a posture of collaboration that makes our democracy genuinely great.
Moms are the traditional fixers. We tend to boo-boos. We repair the broken toys. Who better to start the movement to mend our country?
Who’s with me? Republican, Democrat, Independent, Libertarian, or Green, we all share wanting a brighter future for our children. Let’s follow the rules we’ve laid out for them and make some progress.