My 92 year old mother is up late since I am watching the election returns. Obama has won and is about to speak.
“Look, Mom,”I say. “That’s the new president of our country.”
I’m never sure she hears me and/or understands. But this time she looks hard at the television screen, taking in the crowds, the shouting, the man.
“Is he black?” she asks.
“Yes,” I answer, explaining (now that she seems to be paying attention) that his mother was white and his father was black, and he is now the president of the United States.
She continues to look intently at the television screen as Obama begins his acceptance speech.
“Can you make it louder?” she asks and moves to a chair nearer the tv, where she sits and listens and watches until he’s done.
I’m not sure what it all meant to her, but I sure know what it all means to me. We have a truly democratic leader as president.
On my daughter’s blog, she reflects on her feelings about the election and tells of how this election has been a unique “teachable moment” for my grandson:
This morning I explained to my son why this is so historical. Why it’s a big deal that an African American could be President. To do so, I had to introduce slavery as part of our history (mind you, he’s only 6 and in first grade)…he askes SO many questions. “Why did men take them from their homes?” “What do you mean, can you explain more about how they were treated badly?”
And as I explained the best I could in appropriate terms for a 6 year old, but also without sugar-coating the truth, I saw tears fought back in his eyes. Our SIX YEAR OLD felt the injustice those men and women must have felt. Our child felt the horror and sadness of it. “Just because of the color of their skin?!”
He was aghast and stymied. Disgusted and outraged.
The only way I could make him feel better was to assure him that in the end, other men felt the way he just did. Which led to teaching him a bit about the civil war, Abe Lincoln and Harriet Tubman. It helped a bit, but there was no totally shaking him from the sadness he felt to learn how human beings had been treated.
I told him I was proud that he cared. Proud that it mattered to him. And that in the end, that is why it was historical today.
Don’t tell me kids can’t get it. And don’t tell me a kid can’t help direct his learning. Homeschooling rocks!
And my son b!X parties in Portland, missing his Dad, who would have been overcome with joy at the reality of President Obama.
Yes, mom. He’s black and he’s our president.