Yesterday, Talia asked “Mommy, how long until we get to vote?” to which I replied “Only two more days and I’m sooo excited”. Or course my kids don’t actually vote, but I’ve always included them in the process ever since they were three months old when I loaded them in the double-stroller and proudly walked us to our local polling place. Being a new (exhausted) mom, I could easily vote by absentee ballot, but I needed the exercise and excuse to get out of the house, plus I have a much grander purpose. I want them to grow up voting with me so the idea would be ingrained – you vote when it’s time to vote. No excuses. It’s something that makes you proud and you must honor that hard fought right. Oh, and, it’s fun and exciting. They've worn "I voted" stickers from every election since then.
I make a point to never discuss the specific issues or candidates in front of them. Right now, they don’t need to know about why the world is a scary place, why we are all worried, and who we think/hope/pray will best lead us toward positive change. I don’t want them to be concerned about the current screwed up wars, rising unemployment, financial market instability, threat of higher taxes and less services (more cuts to their already lean public school budget), people losing their homes in droves to foreclosure, etc.. They are too young to be scared about that - let them keep building forts and drawing rainbows for now. I do want them to know that I am voting for a new president of the United States, a very important job that’s like the principal of their school, only on a much larger scale – bigger than the mayor and even the governor of California.
As I take them to vote with me through the coming years, the elections will take on new meaning for us. They will express more curiosity and questions. I’ll be able to discuss more details about the issues and encourage them to develop their own opinions about the issues. I don’t necessarily want them to believe my same political/social views (one can only hope), but I just want them to appreciate the democratic process and the importance of voting. I think about the fact that in 1918 when my late grandmother Ruth was born, women were not allowed to vote (that came 2 years later). I cannot imagine my husband being allowed to vote but not me or any fellow moms, my male co-workers voicing their will for our future but not me or my female co-workers, or the naive 18 year-old male high school graduate casting his vote but not me with all my 37 years of wisdom.
Ya, so, my kids don’t remember strolling up to the voting booth with me as newborns. But, that less than five minute act of inking the election ballot is significant and important. It was the first “small” step in a series of ever growing bigger and bigger steps toward their enthusiastic participation in our country’s democracy and future. My grandma Ruth would be so proud of me.