Our mother-daughter and father-son split Saturday morning was one of necessity. We had to solve for multiple events happening at the same time.
Mama and daughter were up early that day of the Women’s March, packing snacks and deciding what to wear. Mama had furiously knit three of the famous “pussyhats” out of pink yarn — for friends and for my daughter. She’s now making three more for friends as far away as England while my daughter continues proudly wearing hers to school all week.
As they left the house for the train station that morning, my son was putting on his Cub Scout uniform and I was trying to find the neckerchief slide that was not on its usual hanger.
My son’s Pinewood Derby car would win no trophies that day. But we had already spent, probably more time than was justified working on a block of wood with wheels for a 1st grader. We’d gone to the Scout Store to have it cut because, frankly, I’m not the dad who has a lot of hand tools. We’d sat through a 45-minute presentation by a guy who’s been doing Pinewood Derby for 50 years to learn how to make his car speedy. This would not be that car. We would, however, go to the craft store and buy paint and weights. My son did the color and I did the horrible insertion of wheels. Confession: I had to keep them from falling off by screwing the weight over top of the axles.
As my son and I drove to our elementary school for the race, we saw groups of teen girls walking toward the train station ready with their hand-made signs for the march. Mama and daughter had picked up a “We The People” sign from the home of a local mom the night before to go with their “Defend Dignity” poster with the flower-in-her-hair woman.
We made final preparations when we arrived and turned in the Pinewood Derby car. It would run six heats before awards could be given. It was a long wait between each heat and during this time I felt guilty for not being out in the warm sun of a rare beautiful January day in Chicago. I felt guilty for not being there to support the women in my life, my morning Pinewood Derby wait punctuated by text messages that my 5-year-old daughter was disappointed that due to enormous crowd she may not get to march. My girl refused to leave, Mama wrote, until she got to walk holding her sign.
Women’s March affected more than moms
But then I saw all the moms at the Pinewood Derby supporting their sons. And I read social media posts from dads who were at the Women’s March supporting their wives, mothers, aunts and sisters. I’d have been there with a pink hat on if I could have, but my son needed me, too. I had to be there to say something when the look of disappointment came that his car was slower. To coach him on improvements for next year. To see him cheer so loudly for his friends — that made me proud of him the most. I wondered if the Pinewood Derby moms also would have rather been at the march.
The more I reflected on that family divide we’d made, I felt like maybe it reflected the reason for marching in the first place. Families get done what they need to get done and make the difficult decisions that have to be made. It happened to be that we’d split up, boys and girls going separate ways, but for other families the support took different forms. And that ability to figure out what works for your family and do it is the reason the women in my life, who I am so proud of, were doing what they were doing. Some families do not have the same opportunities and ability. That must end.
My favorite part of Saturday, Jan. 21, 2017, was coming home. We took turns hearing each others’ accounts of their day and everybody in the family listened. Excitement swelled in their voices when they thought of a new thing to remember. If there was ever a thing to defend, that’s it to me.
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