It’s only January and already we are being bombarded with political ads and what-have-you. Election year brings out some of the worst in people. I am always surprised by what comes out the woodwork in an election year. I was raised in a very “southern” home. My parents NEVER discussed politics. I remember that one time I asked my mom who she voted for and she quickly replied, “it’s not polite to ask someone who they voted for”. My parents would never reveal their political affiliation, even when they were getting Christmas cards from certain presidential candidates. I thought it was ridiculous at the time, but as I’ve grown up I’ve made it a point to not discuss politics.
I don’t like to get caught up in political debates… and if my husband hadn’t intercepted my voter registration card at the mailbox, he wouldn’t even know my political affiliation. As a high school teacher, I would hear kids repeat political beliefs that they had heard from their parents. Some of which, I think their parents would be surprised and maybe a little embarrassed to hear coming out of their children’s mouths.
Now that I’m a mom, I think about what my kids are going to learn from their dad and me about politics. (Especially since I don’t really like to talk too much about it).
So here’s what I want them to know.
1. Voting is a right and a privilege.
Many people have fought and even given their lives so that we can vote and have our opinions heard. Is our system perfect? No. But is it a lot better than a lot of systems? Yes. One of the most important things about voting is that you don’t get to complain unless you’ve actually voted. So get out there, vote… tell your friends to vote… just make sure to be informed. Even Daniel Tiger says to “Stop, THINK, and choose”. You CAN make a difference. The decisions our government makes now will effect your life as you get out of college, start a career and a family. Be a part of system… VOTE!
2. We DO live in a great country.
If you watch the news, you would be aware of all the bad things happening in America. And there are a LOT of them. You would see people who are constantly trashing our country and saying that it’s going down hill. While I’m aware of what is happening in our country, and it’s easy to get caught up in the negativity of it all, and sometimes I wonder what it will be like for my kids growing up here, we still have it pretty good. People are still fighting and doing all they can to leave where they are and try to get here. We still live in a democracy with a lot of opportunities. I remember talking to a friend who was helping to assimilate immigrants into our culture. He took them to the DMV to get their paperwork done for their license. He told them to take a number and they would be called when it was their turn. They were SO surprised that it was as simple as taking a number and waiting! In their country there are bribes to be made and lengthy (read: Months or maybe even years) wait times. America isn’t perfect. But it’s pretty great. And we can either contribute to it being worse or contribute to it being better. Let’s make it better.
3. The government doesn’t dictate our beliefs.
This is a big one for me. It seems every election year, I hear Christians talking about how this is the most important election ever. Or what will happen if so-and-so is elected! They almost seem in fear of what might happen. Here’s what I want my kids to know. Just because someone gets elected, that doesn’t change who we are. In our family, we are Christ followers. We are trying to be Jesus to the world. Just because our government decides not to help someone, doesn’t mean that we can’t find a way to help them. Just because our government legalizes something that we don’t believe in doesn’t mean that we have to change our beliefs. We love people. That’s our plan in life no matter what the government decides. Our faith, beliefs, and goals are not dependent on what the government decides that it will be doing.
4. We will be respectful of the person in the office of president.
This is the one that gets me the most. I have seen so many respectable people post some of the most unloving stuff about the president in the past years. Disagreeing with the president is one thing. But you are attacking an actual person, and that is a totally different thing. I want my children to respect authority. I want my children to just respect people in general. I hope that we always choose our words wisely when speaking about politics in our house. I hope that we can have discussions that allow for free thinking and will allow for agreement or disagreement with the office of president. We will refer to the president as “Mr./Mrs. President” or “President (last name)” We will be respectful of the flag, the constitution, symbols of our country and our freedom. Men and women have fought and died for those things, my grandparents fought so that we could have the freedoms that we have now and we will respect their fight.
As this election season begins, please remember that you live with tiny little sponges. They are soaking up every thing you say. They are shaping their beliefs based on your beliefs. Help them shape their beliefs and help them to be people that make our country better. And remember to take your kids with you to the polls. While you might not discuss who you voted for, knowing that you took the time to vote is a valuable lesson for your kids.
Super Tuesday is fast approaching! The last day to register to vote in the primary is February 5th. Click here to fill out a voter registration form.