November 2008 remains one of the most significant periods of my life. On the eighth, my husband and I were painting our kitchen when we got a call we’d been waiting months for.
The social worker said, “You have a daughter. Pack your bags.”
We loaded up our car with not only our own luggage, but also items that were very new to us: a Pack n’ Play, bottles, diapers, and onesies. We drove four straight hours, our stomachs in knots, until we finally arrived at the foster mom’s home. We tentatively knocked on the door, frightened and anxious, and smiled at the woman who answered.
Moments later, that same woman handed us a 5 lbs. baby girl with chocolate-brown skin, coffee-colored eyes, and silky black hair. Our daughter.
And just like that, we were parents.
But that wasn’t the only life-changing moment that touched our lives that November.
Just four days earlier — the very same one our daughter was born — Barack Obama became the first black president of the United States. At the time, I of course understood the historical significance, but I didn’t really take hold of the magnitude. I wasn’t a politically savvy person and though I was aware of what was going on, I didn’t grasp it for myself.
Fast-forward to today: My husband and I now have four black children. And just yesterday, my now 8-year-old daughter said to me, “Do you know why I’m special?”
I smiled encouragingly at her before she continued.
“I was born when Barack Obama became our president,” she declared.
Over the past eight years, the Obamas have been there in big and small ways. As I was learning to become not only a mom, but a mom to children of color, the Obamas were there: on the television screen, in my social media feeds, on the radio. They were doing extraordinary things, and I was there to learn and listen and love.
Remember when President Obama let a 5-year-old boy touch his hair?
Or during the DNC last year when Michelle — her voice trembling with both conviction and emotion — said, “When they go low, we go high?”
Do you remember President Obama’s tearful address to the nation when he recalled the loss of life in Sandy Hook?
Remember when he withstood baseless accusations from those who claimed he wasn’t an American?
And when racists compared Michelle to a gorilla?
Remember how Michelle looked regal at every. single. event she attended?
And how we all watched in awe as Sasha and Malia grew up to be confident, beautiful, and smart young black women?
Remember when Michelle presented at the Black Girls Rock! event and gave one of the most inspirational speeches ever?
And how many times Barack and Michelle have proved they are #RelationshipGoals in every way possible?
These are the moments — and so many more — that I’ll never forget. The ones that helped me become a better mother to my children. The ones that gave me hope for our country.
As my own children face the struggles of growing up black in America — of already being labeled and pre-judged and yes, even called obscenities based on the color of their skin — I can point to the Obamas.
I can show my children what courage and conviction look like. Humility and confidence. Humor and dedication. Intelligence and authenticity. Class and grace. Strength and warmth.
To my family, the Obamas have embodied all this and more.
They’ve urged us all to look past the color of our skin and instead see the beauty in our character.
They’ve demonstrated an image of what my children should strive to be.
They’ve served as role models with a relentless commitment to their fellow human beings.
And they haven’t been afraid to call out the evil and acknowledge the good.
Come January 20, I will miss hearing President Obama say, “My fellow Americans … “, and I will miss Michelle’s inviting smile and powerfully passionate speeches as First Lady. And though their time is quickly coming to a close, I can’t help but be eternally grateful of the lasting impression they’ve left not only on my heart, but also on the hearts of my children, who now dream about futures far bigger and brighter than they might have before.