This article by Paul Banas, founder of GreatDad.com, appeared in the Bay Area Parent in August 2008.
As this interminable 2008 election whimpers on into the fall, our family has at least used it to teach a few civics lessons to our two young children.
The success of the first viable female and African-American candidates, of course, has been much bally-hooed for their significance. As adults, we appreciate what paradigm shifting events mean within the context of history.
Four years ago, when my daughter was only four, I asked her if she wanted to be President one day. She immediately responded, “That’s silly, daddy. Girls can’t be President.” It’s not that she isn’t exposed to strong women, but, on a media-savvy world, she had yet to see a woman running for President on TV or YouTube. For a parent, hearing your kids already slamming doors to possibilities at such an early age is an extremely painful thing. I immediately told her that everything was possible, though felt my arguments were weakened by the lack of empirical evidence that would convince a small child. We’ve talked a lot more since then about strong women leaders. We never miss the chance to point out a woman in a position of power.
As a consequence, I’ve been dealing with my daughter’s undying support of Hillary. If she were a bit older, she would be writing vicious letters to the editor complaining about the loss of her “girl-power” candidate. Like some other Democrat hold-outs, she still hasn’t decided whether she can let go of her passionate support for the “girl candidate” and shift her allegiance to Mr. Obama.
In our house, we’re addicted to political news and our kids know who we consider “idiots” and “bozos.” I’m very proud they can recognize several world leaders even in editorial page caricatures. They tend to remember the ones we mock and decry them most, however. A good resolution for us will be to teach them to recognize also the heroes in world affairs.
We all vote together as a family and this Election Day will be no different. In California, as in most states, you can take your kids right into the polling booth with you and they can see up close what citizenship is really like. I remember, as a child, thinking that voting would be one of the coolest things about being an adult. This wasn’t out of some precocious understanding of the workings of democracy. I had some notion that the big booth with the huge lever and sliding curtain was some kind of Rube Goldberg-style pinball machine and that there must be some mighty fine entertainment within the confines of that little room.
Voting in San Francisco is a bit more pedestrian: no booth and giant lever, but just an ordinary felt pen and long text paragraphs of indecipherable resolutions. Still, I bring the kids in with me and I’ll hoist the four year old on my shoulders so he can watch what I’m doing. He won’t understand too much of it, but that’s okay. Like a lot of parenting, the lesson will be in the doing. Good habits start young, and I’d like to believe that my kids, like me, will have a hard time skipping out on the joys of citizenship, like the simple act of voting.
Email Feedback on This Article
I guess there is no question where your political leanings are. Of course, you have not allowed your children to examine all candidates and their viewpoints without interjecting such terminology as “idiots” or “bozos.” It seems to me that parents such as you are creating yet another generation of lemmings who are incapable of independent thought. But I guess because of my criticism of your parenting style, I will also be lumped into the lofty category of “idiot” or “bozo.” I take this as a compliment considering the source.