“Tati,” my 4-year-old daughter said, “I like your shoes.”
“I like your ideas,” I responded.
“No, it has to be about clothes,” Ravi replied.
As Ravi’s mom and I have been busy battling certain gender norms while succumbing to others (see pink “Frozen” winter boots for more), our country came pretty close to electing our first female president.
Ravi had been following the election closely. Well, not exactly, but she is a most astute sponge, soaking up everything and everyone that crosses her path. On Trump: “If you saw a video of Donald Trump, just forget about it. Just don’t watch it.” On Hillary: “I’ll be a Hillary when I grow up.” (We are still unsure as to what this means exactly.)
Ravi has just started imagining her future, and hearing her thoughts about what she might do and who she might become have allowed us peeks into her robust imagination.
Tuesday in the polling booth, Ravi asked, “Where is Donald Trump?” She then noticed a sign that read “Last names beginning with H” and asked, “Is this the Hillary Clinton side?” People around us laughed, but Ravi was serious. She genuinely seemed to expect to meet the presidential candidates there.
Yesterday, as my partner Yael explained the election’s outcome, she asked Ravi, “Are you surprised?”
“No,” Ravi said quickly, “I’m only surprised when someone says ‘boo’ to my face.”
“Donald Trump?” Ravi then asked curiously, without ending her question with “won” or anything else; her mentioning of his name seemed to be her trying to absorb our (and her) new reality.
Over breakfast I asked Ravi again what she might be when she gets older.
“A doctor, I think,” she said. “And a princess,” she added. “And president. I can be three things, Tati.”
“You can be anything you want,” I said.
I looked at her and her baby brother, Hillel, who turned 7 months the day Hillary lost. I marveled at all that has passed in his short life thus far. Terror in Nice, Orlando, Syria. His first election. When Ravi was just a couple of months old and the shooting in Sandy Hook Elementary took place, I penned her a letter, asking her what type of world we had welcomed her into. I ask that question often when I read news headlines these days, as I wonder what kind of world our children are inheriting.
Inheritance comes up in this week’s Torah portion, as luck would have it, as the herdsmen of Abraham and his nephew Lot argue and find themselves in conflict, desiring more spacious land for their families and cattle. Abraham famously says, “Let there be no strife, I pray thee, between me and you, and between my herdsmen and your herdsmen, for we are brothers.” But the translation doesn’t do the Hebrew justice. The Hebrew for “brothers” there is “anashim achim,” or “people brothers.” We’re human beings; we should be able to figure this out.
It strikes me that Ravi already understands this sentiment to some extent. Of course Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton should have been with her at the polls yesterday. They’re not mere fictional characters in her imagination but real human beings who have accompanied so much of her parent’s online surroundings over the past year, so why wouldn’t they be present in person on the day the votes are cast? (And she didn’t even know both of their election result parties were within two miles of the other last night in Manhattan).
As we pack up our election paraphernalia and slowly accept our new reality, I’ll keep turning to my children, my teachers, for some laughter, love, and occasional insight. And Ravi, I can’t wait for the day where you run for office as “princess doctor president.” You’ve got my vote.