Mourn, take up the collar, and move forward.

My daughter feels very deeply. She always has.

Yesterday morning, September 19th, Natalie found me in the kitchen making tea. Generally, when we see each other, she begins with a story, a story in which she is the leading character. This morning, however, she began with, “Mom, how are you?”, and I must have looked surprised or worried or something because that was quickly followed by, “…you know, about Ruth Bader Ginsberg…”

It was at that moment that I realized she was looking to me to understand how exactly she should feel. Natalie is extremely opinionated. She often holds deep-rooted opinions and swaying her is almost impossible. But, in this moment, in this very scary moment, she was looking to me to understand how she should feel or how she DID feel. I’m not sure which.

Our daughters AND our sons are looking to us for guidance every day, whether they are young adults, children, parents themselves, they still seek to understand themselves in the context of the world around them. And, this is a place where parents (and many other adults) are uniquely qualified to provide that context. As our children grow out from us, we model even as we are often following.

In all honestly, I was devastated yesterday morning, fearful for my daughter, my sons, my nieces and nephews and great nieces and nephews and my future grandchildren. The steps taken just in my lifetime, though definitely not enough, have meant more women have more choices, more people can choose who they love without absolute fear of retribution (though it still thrives in all the nooks and crannies of this country), determinants based on color and faith, though still incredible prevalent, are less accepted in large swathes of our society. These are things that matter. These, and many others, are things over which other folks want control, perhaps in order to salvage some bizarre and twisted version of the sanctity of their own lives. I’ve never understood that, but I fear it. I fear its small-mindedness.

So, yesterday morning, what I said was, “Yesterday I was devastated, but today, I feel we need to move forward, face the obstacles, continue to move walls even as they are erected in front of us.” And isn’t that exactly what Justice Ginsberg did throughout her whole life? At every turn, she was faced with a wall, and she never backed down. She forged ahead, found common ground, used her many talents to change minds and laws, and still remained human, multi-faceted and thoughtful. I think she was at heart an optimist, as I believe change can only be made with optimism or pessimism, and why on earth would one choose the latter?

This whole thing, this strange world in which we currently live, is far bigger than one person, one idea. It’s really not about each of us, but about all of us. And this is what I think Ruth Bader Ginsberg knew. What is good for all of us will be good for each of us. Fear is unfounded if what you’re doing is right. In her life, she was brave, compassionate and incomparably strong, and this is what I want my daughter to know, to see, and to remember as she moves forward.

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