As I mentioned in a post late last week, I took my daughter with me to cast my vote. Whereas I was raised in a "voting is private and personal, so we don't talk about who we're voting for" environment (I now believe my mom and stepdad may have held opposite political beliefs, which was the reason for this - my mom always discussed things like this with me), I firmly believe in discussing politics and what they mean for us with children, even my not quite three-year-old. Sure, there's a lot she can't understand yet, but you'd be surprised at what she is able to comprehend, and I like to appeal to her intelligence as a future voter.
Anyhow, during her bath the other night, I took the opportunity to talk to her a bit more about this landmark election, and what it means for us. Everyone is up in arms about it, and I thought she might want to know what we're all talking about.
Now I'll admit, I want nothing more than my daughter to grow up with the same political mindset as me. Not because my biggest fear is that she'll grow up to be a Republican (though it's close to the top of the list!), but because my politics reflect my values, and they are values I want to instill in her: fairness, equality, compassion, respect for others with differences, feminism - you name it. And, especially now, when so much is up for grabs that will effect her as she grows up into a woman who will need to make decisions regarding her health, and her body, and her civil and human rights, I feel this is such an important election to talk about. As such, we discussed a few hot button items, but in a way that would make sense to a two-year-old.
Here's how the conversation went:
Me: Remember how we went to vote the other day? And it was like mommy raising her hand to say who she wanted to make decisions for her?
Me: And remember the two men I talked about? And how mommy was raising her hand when asked if she wanted Barack Obama to be the President, which means the person who will get to be in charge of some big decisions for us?
Me: Do you want to know why I raise my hand for Obama, and not the other person?
A: Yes. (she's a shockingly agreeable two-year-old on this particular night)
Me: Well, President Obama and mommy agree on some important things. Like, for example, who Uncle B should be able to love. Do you think Uncle B and Uncle S should be able to be married, at a wedding, like mommy and daddy were this year?
Me: Do you think it's ok for a boy to marry another boy, instead of a girl?
A: *nods her head yes*
Me: Me too.
Sure, she doesn't have a deep moral understanding of the issue the way that political analysts claim to, but, um, isn't that the point? This is a matter of equality, and by God, I'm getting through to her. It DOESN'T MATTER who you marry, and what gender they are.
Me: A, can I ask you something? Do you think that it would be fair for someone else to tell you that you're not allowed to do certain things with your body? Would you want someone to say you weren't allowed to raise your left arm? Or shake your right foot?
A: *shakes head no, looking at me like I'm a nutcase*
Me: Me either. Some people think they should be able to tell others what they can and cannot do with their own bodies. That's silly, isn't it? It should be your decision, right, as long as you're not using your body to hurt yourself or anyone else.
While I'm not getting into a discussion about abortion and the complex women's rights struggle going on in the background of this election, it seems pretty elementary that our bodies? Our choice. If my two-year-old gets it, how do some of these major-ticket politicans not?
And, of course, what election discussion would be complete without touching on health care.
Me: Ava, when we went to the doctor the other day, did he help you and make you feel better with the medicine he gave you?
A: I don't want to go to the doctor.
Me: I know, honey, we don't have to. But when we're sick, are we glad he can make us get better?
Me: And if we didn't have the money to go to the doctor or the coverage to get medicine, would it be fair for us to have to get sicker and sicker and not feel better?
Amen, baby girl.
I know there is a fine line between discussing your politics with your children and swaying them politically. I know plenty of children being raised in politically conservative homes that will comment on a house with an Obama sign out front or on a car. But I attempt to act with a mindfulness of this difference, and am going to make every attempt at raising Ava with an understanding of the differences, rather than a bias toward a name or a party without reason.
How do you talk politics with your children? In what way, if any, do you involve them in the electoral process?