Friday, August 31, 2012
Politics and Kids
I like politics. I don't closely align myself with any particular party, having migrated from a die hard Democrat in my teens and twenties into a much more thoughtful Independent voter in my thirties. But regardless of how I vote, I have always, always loved voting. I registered to vote on my eighteenth birthday and haven't missed an election yet. Well, except for that one time when the kids were really sick and it was snowing. But mostly - I vote. I pay attention, I figure out my responses to ballot questions ahead of time, and one of my favorite things about Marc is that he's the only person with whom I can honestly debate and discuss politics. He's flat out brilliant and I love bouncing ideas and thoughts around with him. I tend to avoid a lot of political debate, mainly because it's so easy to get mad when you run into opposing thoughts and opinions. I avoid conflict, mostly, but with Marc - we can (and do) talk for hours about government philosophy.
My kids are thoughtful and intelligent (although I don't know many moms who would claim that their kids are careless idiots) and like to follow elections along with us. It may be that I used political talk shows to help put them to sleep as toddlers, or just that they're used to hearing Marc and I debate and discuss different candidates. But they both have strong opinions. In the past, Jessie voted mainly for the "girls." She was a huge Hillary fan, and also strongly supported Sarah Palin. In 2008, she was five. Voting for the girls, any girls, made sense to her. She hasn't made up her mind yet on this years election. I think that's progress, at least she's giving Scott Brown a chance, despite his double X chromosome. And Sam's opinion is that there is far too much change in the world. He's perfectly happy with whoever the incumbent happens to be, and has declared his steadfast support for Barack Obama, with the follow up that he'd then like Joe Biden to take over.
My grandfather was an enthusiastic voter as well, and always encouraged me to pay attention and get involved. But one thing he wasn't great at (the only thing - because otherwise he was absolutely wonderful), was explaining both sides of the issues. Because that's a tough thing to learn - that no one side has a monopoly on the truth, and that when you blindly follow along with one political party without really thinking about the issues and where you stand, it's just as bad as not getting involved at all. So I try to answer their questions fairly, explaining both sides and then explaining where I stand on it.
It's similar to my feelings on religion. I have a knee jerk tendency to want to not influence them too much, to let them make up their own minds, but have an equally strong desire to let them know why I feel the way I do, and to give them a strong moral foundation that they can use to make their own decision. Marc and I both try to balance those desires, to give them the information, let them know why we think the way we do, but also that it's their obligation to decide these issues for themselves when they're old enough. So in the same way that we teach them about the tenants of Judaism, not just because we're Jewish, but also because with a strong foundation, there's no telling how far they'll go. We teach them about paying attention to the government, having educated opinions and being able to back up those opinions with facts. We've had long, honest discussions about taxes and health care and abortion rights. Age appropriate, obviously, but I think kids understand a lot more than we give them credit for, and the more enthusiastic I can get them about being involved and excited voters, the better. We make a big production out of voting each time, waiting until we can all go together, and then going out for a special treat afterwards. Because it is a reason to celebrate - being able to have a voice in our government is a responsibility and an honor, and one I hope my kids never take for granted.