We knew we would be witnessing an unprecedented election result, regardless of who won the presidency. There were millions of Americans who believed they would be telling their daughters after this election, "See? You can be president, too."
Obviously, that's not the conversation we're having.
Instead, for those whose children have heard their president-elect talk about their ethnicity, religion or race in the worst possible way, the conversations are very hard. For parents who are teaching their children the importance of being kind, respectful and honest, we might be struggling for the words to explain how a candidate who embodied none of those traits won a contest to lead the country.
I know I'm not the only parent who saw fear in my children's faces and heard confusion in their voices on election night or in the aftermath. I watched them struggle to make sense of what they were seeing. If it is hard for us to process, it is even harder for them.
This is an important reality check moment for our country. And the takeaway for parents is that we will have to model the behavior and reactions we want our children to have.
We teach them to respond to bullying and name-calling by standing up for ourselves and our friends.
We teach them resilience by being stronger. We teach them how to cope with scary unknowns by being brave.
This is what parents have done in the darkest chapters of our country's history. We raise our heads. We draw our allies closer. We find ways to survive and protect the ones we love.
And we also level with our children -- no matter how much we want to shelter them from ugly truths.
It's OK to tell them there are still millions of sexist and racist people. And that many of our fellow countrymen still promote those ugly ideas. We have to be able to acknowledge and recognize the depth of our country's racism and sexism. It's okay to admit that you misjudged the character of the country. It's important to tell them that the best person for the job doesn't always get the job.
It doesn't mean we lose hope. The morning after the election, I hugged both my children very tightly before I sent them off to school. I asked them how they would respond to the talk in school. We discussed acceptable responses to what people might say. I told my daughter: "I love you, and you need to know that I will always do everything in my power to protect you, your brother and your father. I'm still the boss of this family."
She smiled and said, "Well, you can't really argue with that."
I wanted to see that smile despite the ache in my own heart. I wanted to reassure them despite my own uncertainty. I am heartbroken because a divisive message of hate and fear was more powerful than one of acceptance, respect, civility and love. I'm sad for our children and our country's future. But, I am not surprised. I saw how people changed once their worst impulses were validated. I read it in my emails, heard it in my voicemails and saw it in people's behavior.
I did not underestimate racism and sexism.
That said, I am not afraid.
I am an American Muslim woman living in a red state. The state can try to curtail my rights. The extreme right can try to threaten and intimidate me. The economy may tank, and we may see a lot more racist violence.
But I am in control of my own mind and heart and soul. And I refuse to live in fear in my own country.
I will work to make it a more just and compassionate place and do my best to protect my family. I will continue to believe in the goodness of the people I know and trust in a Greater Power to protect us all.
I reached out to my closest friends and said, "We are all in this together." And they responded, "Of course we are."
Millions of people worked hard for their vision of a united America, and millions will keep working toward it. Despite the election result, that work was not in vain. Nothing done from love is ever in vain.
Remember, light shines brightest in the darkness.