Election season is upon us. No matter where you sit on the political spectrum, I hope that you agree that voicing your opinion by casting a vote is vital to protecting our freedoms and shaping our government.
Voting is the chief right and duty of all citizens. Our founding fathers granted a vote to white landowners at the founding of our nation. Later, after tremendous struggle, people of color, women, and other minority groups formerly excluded through acts of voter suppression rightfully claimed the vote for themselves. Suffragists acts of sacrifice and their willingness to put their lives on the line reminds us of the importance of this foundational civil right.
Our ballots arrived in the mail last week, and from that moment my boys were eager to vote. Their anticipation was so great, it was the first thing they asked my partner to do when he returned from a business trip. This came even before requests for bike riding and board game playing, as well as showing off their latest art projects. Even though my boys aren’t of voting age, they understood this was important and they were excited.
This presidential election cycle has had an extraordinary amount of inflammatory rhetoric. As such, I’ve sought to shelter my boys (and myself!) from a lot of it. That said, I love a good policy debate. I also spent a lot of time talking with my children about how our government functions on the Federal, State, and Local levels, as well as the issues we would be voting on in this particular election. Elections, even this one, are about so much more than one big race.
We did not vote the instant my husband returned. Instead, we sat down to vote as a family when we had a large chunk of time. We gave our boys the option of participating as much or as little as they liked.
While they both started out gathered around the table, my 3-year-old lost interest pretty quickly. He couldn’t comprehend much of the language on the ballot, and even our discussions largely passed over his head. He sometimes sat on my lap as we worked. But most of the time he sat on the floor nearby, working on his own projects as our voting discussion carried on in the background.
My 7-year-old, however, paid rapt attention throughout the entire process. He listened as we read through each one of the ballot measures, and we had a long ballot this year – with 9 state issues, 4 county issues, plus elections for all sorts of Federal, State, and Local officials. He paid attention as we expressed our opinions about how we should vote and the reasons why. He attended as we worked through arguments for and against various measures. While some of our selections were obvious and immediate, others took us a while to decide. He wanted to hear it all.
Not only that, my 7-year-old engaged with us in the deliberative process. He asked questions about language he didn’t understand (ballot measures are frequently convoluted). He voiced his opinions. He provided support for his reasoning. He debated with us.
By the end, we were all satisfied with our votes. He sealed up our envelopes, and went with me when I dropped them off at the County Clerk’s office.
This will likely be the first election my son remembers, as it’s the first one he’s truly engaged with. I hope that through it, I’ve helped to instill in him the importance of voting and given him a glimpse into the policy debates that shape our nation.
Whether or not you speak with your children specifically about the election, kids pick up a lot of information simply by living in the everyday world and hearing people’s conversations or hearing reports on the radio or television. I think it’s imperative for parents to talk with their kids and to help them to understand the electoral process and its significance.
After all, our children are future voters and decision makers. Let’s teach them that this is a vital responsibility. And let’s show them that a concerned group of citizens can make a difference. Even on the local level, perhaps especially on the local level, every vote is significant.
Have you voted yet?