That's a picture of my two adorable daughters: AB and AB2.
It's funny isn't it? You know, how impressionable our children are.
And how smart they are.
The other night I watched AB as she took the baby doll we got her when AB2 was born, and gently laid her in AB2's carseat. She said that "Molly" needed to go to sleep like AB2. She tucked her in with her blanket (a clean dish towel), and grabbed her whiteboard eraser and used that for Molly's pillow. And then she grabbed two of her stuffed animals and put them next to baby Molly.
You see, she had been watching everything we do with AB2. The way we swaddle her. How we gently lay her in her rock 'n play. AB2 sleeps with an owl that AB gave her as a present, so it's only natural that Molly gets to sleep with stuffed animals as well. And, this is the way that mommy does it so it's the way AB wants to do it.
Our children will look up to us, hopefully for as long as we live. And, as they age, hopefully there develops a mutual respect between child and parent — the understanding that we've hopefully equipped them with the tools for independent, reasoned thought — and the acceptance that, regardless if we agree or disagree on opinions (within reason), we love one another.
That has weighed heavily on me lately. The Trump campaign and and resulting electoral vote win did nothing to improve relationships I have with my parents... each of us starkly contrasting on our views. We have had hard, uncomfortable moments this year. Unfortunately for my parents, they raised a strong, independent woman who has gone on to live her life just the way she damn pleases, voicing her opinions along the way. Fortunately for me, despite how ugly our disagreements can get at times, I know they respect that. They respect my right to use my voice, even if it isn't echoing their own sentiments. I'm pretty sure that's the way it should be.
Parents are our leaders. Teachers are our leaders. Elected representatives are our leaders. In an ideal world, these are the people we look up to, seek guidance from and trust to protect our best interests.
As a woman, and as a mother to two daughters, the messages delivered to my children from society are ones I'm constantly aware of — on alert of. We have to defend our daughters when they love pink, and when they don't love pink. Our daughters are told they're pretty before they're told they're creative or brave. Our daughter's toys are baking sets and barbie dolls... at least in the mind of retailer toy sections. Society has a lot of work to do. We as parents, community leaders, teachers and beyond can help change that. We can change the message.
This past week has been an interesting reminder of that.
Last Thursday, board trustee Mike Dunn reached out to my employer in attempts to silence me. I wonder... would he have done this if I were a man? Would he have emailed the man directly? What is it about a woman who shares her opinion with confidence that grates on a man's nerves to such length that he threatens her employer, thereby hoping to threaten her employment?
It doesn't stop there.
Mike Dunn would go on to tell media that I was a "foot soldier" for my male boss. That I simply existed to "take orders" from him. Ah, yes. A woman certainly wouldn't be capable of voicing her own opinions now would she? Us women... we belong in the kitchen... making fudge (and yep, that's another comment a man has made to me.)
On a thread regarding this situation, a man, without having even seen my public comments postured that I must have been a loud mouth. Women are to be seen, not heard. Right?
And then, just yesterday, a man told me to tend to my child when he got agitated that I called him out on his behavior on my page. Then he adamantly declared he loves women, while commenting about how beautiful his wife is, while telling me to stop the feminist bullshit. Ah yes. Equality for women is a real pain in the balls, ain't it?
I've been wondering why exactly Mike Dunn chose to threaten me. I mean, I'm certainly not the first, nor only dissenter he's had. I mean, the alternative assignment policy garnered more than 3,000 signatures against its passing. But, I know "why me."
Mike Dunn believes I am a powerful woman, otherwise he wouldn't bother. And this infuriates him. And what do men like Mr. Dunn do to powerful women? They attempt to silence them because they're inconvenient for the unchallenged narrative they've pushed for so long.
I have to wonder, what do the students in our district think? Certainly they are older than my daughters, and while in some ways still impressionable, they're at the ages of developing their true independent thoughts and discovering who they are as young adults. They learn a lot during these transitional years as they prepare for adulthood. Is this the leadership our students deserve? When our students see and hear the actions of Mike Dunn, what do you think they're learning?
Are they learning to bully? Are they learning to disrespect women? Are they believing that women don't have the right to free speech? Are they learning that those in power can abuse their role without consequence? The board president, John Andersen, and board vice president, Sandee Everett, have been silent. I believe silence is complicity. What are we teaching our children? And this is important, because isn't that what we're all supposed to be talking about? What is best for the children? For their education?
Is this the best we have to offer them? If so, we're falling far short of "The Conejo Way."
I will spend every last breath of my body advocating for education and opportunities that teach my daughters the importance of civil rights, civil justice and equality. But above and beyond that, I will teach them the value of their voice.
May it be loud. May it be heard. May it never be silenced.