The other day, I was out and about knocking out errands right and left when I remembered that early voting was taking place in polling locations all over town, including a library directly next to me! I was a weeeee bit nervous about having Ava in tow, since she is definitely going through the torrential, terrible and tear-filled threes, but I believe in the power of leading by demonstration and want to teach her the power of the political process, so in we went.
Between the time I decided that I would vote that day and arriving at the voting location, I took a few minutes to explain in two-year-old terms what exactly we were going to do. It went a little something like this:
A: "Where we going, mommy?"
Me: "We're going to the library, honey, but not just for books. Today is a special day. Today mommy is going to vote, and you can help me!"
A: "What vote mean?" (she can't quite add "does" to her vocab for some reason...)
Me: "Well, sweetie, there are two men in our country currently who want to be our leader. One's name is President Obama, and the other's name is Senator Romney. When we vote, it's like raising our hand to tell the country who we want to be in charge. Mommy wants Obama to be in charge for a lot of reasons, some of which revolve around protecting your future and your rights and the rights of your Uncles.
A: "Is the other man a bad man?"
Me: "No, honey. He's not a bad guy like Jafar or Gaston. He's just not the person we want making our decisions for us and who we want to get to decide what we can and cannot do with our bodies, or in our homes, or who we are allowed to love."
A: "Bama a nice man?"
Me: "I think so, honey, yes."
A: "Bama, baby!"
Ha - not quite sure where she came up with that last chant (maybe we've watched a few too many football games in her life?!), but she was cracking me up while saying, "Bama, baby!" repeatedly when we were waiting at the polling location. There was no secret who we were there to vote for, and I surely did let Ava hit the "enter" button while casting my ballot :)
I know I talk to Ava like a much older child sometimes. Sure, most of what I said may have sailed right over her head. Sometimes D comes in and I'll be explaining something to her or defining something and I can hear him just snickering. But I firmly believe in the importance of never underestimating our children's intelligence and treating children with respect and like the little citizens they are and who we want them to grow up to be. I was treated as a member of a team growing up in my family, as opposed to a powerless child who had no say. Sure, there are some things I had no say in. Some decisions are for adults alone, obviously. But in growing up with the general feeling that my opinion mattered, and that somehow, I could change the way that things were? The value of that just cannot be stressed enough, and has become a defining way in which I choose to parent Ava. I don't want her to ever remember a time when she did not believe that things could change; a time when she didn't have faith that the world could improve and that we are not helpless and powerless to help it to do so. Shouldn't all women have such a belief instilled in them from a young age? Wouldn't so many great things happened if women grew up feeling empowered?
No matter what she took from today, I hope that when she's old enough to do her civic duty and vote, she remember the importance of the act and know that she, in fact, can change the world.