Thursday, November 10, 2016

Spooky Bingo

On election night we played Bingo as a family. It took the edge off of whatever temporary crisis we were experiencing at the dinner table-- I think it was something about Vivian being too helpful and leaving Isaac, (bless his heart, our inclined family member), without a task to complete at dinner time. Never mind that usually it's like pulling teeth to get him to do his minimal chores-- it was the principal of the matter. Vivian overstepped her boundaries and Isaac would not suffer the indignity of being denied the privilege of wiping down the table. Rather he would suffer the indignity of tears in his spaghetti until distracted by a round of Halloween Bingo (those of you with small children can relate, right? Halloween extends a little bit into November-- far longer than it should. In this house the Fat Lady doesn't sing until the Jock-o-Lanterns have rotted sufficiently to fertilize next year's front yard crop and we have begun our Christmas decorating in earnest. Nowhere have I claimed to be the most On Top of Things parent).

Family Halloween Election Night Bingo went pretty well. We are working on taking turns, honing our "looking" skills, Isaac is learning to read and Viv is doing a bang-up job of identifying letters. We were swimming along, headed toward bedtime, after which I had a bottle of red waiting for me (only because wine doesn't come in blue) and I intended to positively gorge myself on election results. All. Damn. Night.

Now, I've mentioned that I went to an all girl's school in high school and an all women's college. My parents probably intended to raise a nice little democrat who knew when to keep her mouth shut, but ended up with a slightly more left, more vocal, and certainly more furious banshee of a feminist daughter. Which they're also fine with. So anyway, my emotional ass, you know I cried on and off on election day. I was elated. Elizabeth Cady Stanton was an early alum of what would become Emma Willard School, my alma matter. (She was racist, and problematic as hell and I bring her name up only to own the fact that I know that I come from a long line of flawed activists, trying to get things right, not always succeeding, but always moving forward). I was going to take my daughter to vote for a woman to be president. A woman I was not thrilled, mind you, to vote for, but a woman I was proud to vote for. A qualified, hard working, brilliant politician, who has accomplished so much. She was going to win the race. She was going to usher in a new era for us, I'd hoped. I considered driving to Susan B. Anthony's grave in Rochester, like so many other women were doing. I stopped short of buying a pantsuit for the occasion, but that's probably just because I was crunched for time. Democracy in action, folks! The unauthorized patriotic tears welled in my eyes the same way they do when some previously unknown American brings home a U-Haul of gold metals from the Olympics. USA!  USA! I didn't recognize myself, but I didn't care. First, women are Ghostbusters and the boy has to be the receptionist, and now this! Now Vivi can play President Ghostbuster and nobody can tell her she's reaching! I was going to take my son to participate in the democracy he'd been learning about, in the country he loves so much. His first memory of voting would be in an historic election! High as a damn kite on the elation of such dorky matters, I floated through much of the day. I finally got them to bed, found a news station without too much distracting coverage and settled in. I even made popcorn.

Guess what? As I'm sure you have guessed, I spilled red wine all over my couch (I tried to tell myself it was a good omen, siting menses as my reasoning). Trump was up, but not by much. When I dozed off, Florida was still in the balance and I didn't want to wait for the last county to report. I woke up at midnight to see that we didn't take Ohio, either, and that the dog was eating popcorn from the bowl. I went to bed in tears, mumbling something about "now we have to hear that rapist's voice for the next four years." At 4 am I checked my phone for the answer I knew would be there.  I rolled back over, desperate to get back to my dream.

Isaac woke up wanting to know if "Heroyree Cwinton" had gotten to 270. I didn't know how to tell him no. He had been so excited, wrapped up in the rush of patriotism, of choice, of democracy. He loves the United States of America (and math. The Electoral College, Redistricting, and Long Division haven't marred his innocence yet). I will not soon forget his face when I said that no, no we weren't going to be celebrating our first woman to head this country just yet. True disappointment.

Isaac did not win Family Election Night Halloween STFU Bingo even once. Everyone else did. Some twice. "We don't always win, buddy. Sometimes that's just what happens. Maybe you missed a few by not paying close attention. Perhaps you would have done better with a different Bingo board, " I told him. "Maybe it's just dumb luck, my kid"...But this is where I messed up. This is where I dropped that oh-so-heavy Parenting Ball, and let him play another round. Just one more game, with just one competitor: me. I let him win. I didn't have the energy for another cry-fest. It was bedtime, I'm tired, you're tired, what's one game, in the grand scheme of things?

For my part, I woke up the next morning not ready to accept my loss. Our loss. That morning there was no do-over, there was no one to gently let me win, just to ease the pain of watching everyone else around me yell "Bingo!" (We live in a red county. They're all yelling Bingo). SO, did I screw up this important parenting lesson? Or am I reaching for the symbolism? I don't know. It remains to be seen. I work hard every day to try to ensure that I am not raising children who feel entitled to The Win. I have tried to impress upon them that the various privileges of their birth are gifts that they should, no-- that they are obligated-- to share with those who are without. We donate to charity not because we have lots of money or lots of time, but because some people have less. When we can help, when we can improve something, we do. We are a family of problem solvers. The racist and sexist backlash I have already begun to see across the country are a huge problem. And here we are, every day, sending our children out into this environment. How do we, as a family, do our part to solve this?

I wish I could take back the fake win from my son. I vow, however, never to let myself slide like that again. Boy-o, the truth is, sometimes we don't win, no matter how long we played, how bad we wanted it or how much was at stake. But listen closely, my Pride and Joy, my Practice Kid, my Soul in Another's Body...sometimes we don't win. But there are far, far more people out there who lose much more, and much more frequently than you will. It's up to us to help them get the wins they deserve, even if it means packing up the game without one personal victory at all.