One night while I was in the kitchen doing dishes and trying to figure out dinner, my 7-year-old was making the most annoying squawking noises. I’m only human, people, and annoying is annoying even if the cause of that annoyance came from my loins.
“Knock it off, already. You sound like Donald Duck, and I can’t take it anymore," I said to her. I wasn't ready for her reply.
“Donald Trump? I sound like Donald Trump,” she said.
As it turns out, she had no clue who Donald Duck was, but she is familiar with Donald Trump and looked rather confused that I would compare her to him. I don’t want my daughter to grow up with some kind of Donald Trump complex, so I told her that I would never compare her to Donald Trump.
For real, though, I have no problem comparing her to obnoxious animated fowl characters with a speech impediment, but the guy who celebrated Cinco de Mayo by eating a Trump Tower Grill taco bowl and saying that he loves Hispanics? NEVER! Just the thought of it makes me feel like a bad mom.
After I explained to her who Donald Duck was, we started talking about Donald Trump and how he's running for president. My daughter isn’t excited about the prospect of Donald Trump as commander-in-chief. (Hmm, I wonder where she gets that from?)
I don’t typically talk politics with my kids because they're still so young and I’m not into heavy indoctrination, BUT I am who I am and my husband is who he is, and we live in San Francisco, which is how it is. And it is inevitable that my children will be influenced by their surroundings, so in all honesty, it did not surprise me one bit that my daughter doesn’t much care for Donald Trump. What did surprise me, however, was what she said when she brought up Hillary Clinton.
She talked about how she thought it would be better if Hillary Clinton won, but then she lowered her head and said in a solemn voice, “I kind of don’t want her to win, though.”
Of course I wanted to know why, and I asked. She seemed to have a hard time formulating the words to tell me why she "kind of" didn’t want Clinton to win.
I waited as patiently as I could, wondering to myself if it was because of the email server situation, or does my daughter consider Clinton too much of an insider, or is she more of a Bernie Sanders supporter? Also, when did my daughter start having all these political opinions? Does she sneak out of bed at night to watch CNN?
Slowly, my daughter raised her head and looked me straight in the eyes as she said, “I don’t want her to win because I really want to be the first girl president.”
Awwww! My baby not only wants to be president but actually thinks she CAN be president. Do you realize what a big deal this is? No, you probably don’t because you don’t know the backstory, so let me tell you.
About a year before, my eldest daughter mentioned to me that she would someday like to be president, but then she followed it with a caveat: “but I can’t.” When I asked her why she couldn’t, I swear to you that I did not expect her to say, “because I’m a girl"—but that’s exactly what she said.
Her answer hit me right in the gut, and I wanted to collapse from disappointment and shame. How had I failed this incredible child of mine? How could she possibly feel that her gender put a limit on who or what she could become? This was not supposed to happen to my daughters.
Growing up Latina, I had to deal not only with gender-related limitations, but also culturally imposed limitations on who I could be or what I could do. I hated it. I wanted nothing to do with it, and more important, my gut told me not to believe the well-meaning relatives or anyone else when they told me what I could or should do as a girl.
My daughters were supposed to be spared from that nonsense. But clearly, I had failed because even though I never told my daughters that they were less than, I didn’t point out or explain the gender inequity that still exists in the world. I thought no explanation was necessary, but I was wrong. I didn’t explain, so my eldest daughter came up with her own explanation.
Damnit, this parenting stuff is hard. Fortunately, children are resilient and many parenting mistakes can be fixed. I took a deep breath and asked her why she thought a “girl” couldn’t be president, and she said because "the presidents are all men. Maybe I could be mayor or governor.”
And this is why representation matters, especially with children: If you don’t see yourself or someone like you represented in positions of power, how do you even begin to see yourself there? I explained to her that just because a woman has never been president doesn’t mean that a woman can’t do the job. I also explained to her that the world is not fair, but that shouldn’t stop her from working toward the things she wants.
So this is why my daughter saying she "kind of didn't want Hillary Clinton to win" matters. It means that the conversation I had with her made a difference. It means that, hopefully, she will no longer impose limits on her dreams because of her gender. It means I’m not a failure. Phew.
By the time both of my daughters are adults, I want the streets of this country to be paved and sparkling with every last bit of shattered glass ceiling. I want the generation that comes after my children to have a hard time believing that anyone ever thought gender could determine what they could achieve.