26 October 2008
mini-me not required
Recently there has been some discussion on a local message board in my town that Republican children (can children already be Republicans?) have been feeling uncomfortable with the overwhelmingly Democratic vibe at schools. OK - not cool. But I know also that I have had to do damage control when my kids have come home with some crazy misunderstandings - like when a local (Republican) family discussed with my children how Saddam planned to blow up America so we had to go to war. That was certainly a teachable moment.
When I was growing up, my recollection is that my dad didn't believe in revealing political affiliation. I assumed it was because he was conservative (being a proud former-Marine and all) - he would play devil's advocate a lot with me. We discussed the news, I was expected to read the paper, and much to my dismay, NPR played throughout our house on an intercom (along with Paul "Good Day" Harvey). In looking back, I think my dad was pretty moderate, though he has evolved into a raging liberal, as has my mom, and he actually carries his ACLU card just so that he can call himself a "card carrying liberal". But as a kid I was encouraged to pick my own candidate. I still remember feeling disbelief that my best school friend in forth grade, Corky Dodge, could be for Ford instead of Carter. Somehow I identified as a Democrat early on even without a firm pronouncement from my parents.
I don't provide a non-biased household - my kids know who I'm voting for and ride around in a car bearing a sticker and magnets that tell the world. They live in a house sporting a few signs. They get taken to voting booths with us. And yes, NPR is on a lot. But if anything, I wish my kids cared a bit more - they are not super interested in politics at this point. Perhaps if the candidates were skate boarders...
Hopefully many of us, as parents, do go out of our way to encourage our children NOT to simply adopt our political views and certainly not be disrespectful. I recall 4 years ago, we then lived on a main street that was heavily traveled by high school kids and general traffic & our Kerry/Edwards sign was knocked down a few times...we picked it back up. When we found our next door neighbor's Bush sign on the ground, in the busy street, we picked it up for them. My oldest son, only 6 or 7 then, asked why we should since it's for the guys "we" don't like & I got to have a nice teachable moment. I got to tell him that having signs for different candidates next door to each other and supporting our neighbor's ability to express his view is one of the very good things about America, and it's also just better karma. I got to tell him that the sign was mine - it could be his too, but it didn't have to be. He also wanted to be George Bush for Halloween at some point & we had a talk about how, given his intentions/reasoning, this was disrespectful & inappropriate (at least for us).
I think it's important for kids to think for themselves, as annoying as it feels sometimes! I have one son, 7, who is extremely interested in the military right now. This scares the hell out of me, being the mother of three sons. But I buy him the books he asks for while I also write letters of complaint to the local theaters for playing military propaganda music videos during preview time at movies rated appropriate for kids and as I build their conscientious objector files just in case they want or need them.
When my oldest had to do a report on why he was supporting a candidate, he looked at the candidate's websites. But yes, he wrote about Obama. And yes, if my youngest wants to make me smile and laugh, he sings the Obama chant* he made up. I believe we can let our kids know what we believe in without making them feel they MUST have the same beliefs. But I also understand that kids want to please us, at least when they are little. And I know that it takes effort and restraint to make sure to use those teachable moments when they present themselves.
For more on kids & politics, check out a recent Nick News/Linda Ellerbee story, Kids Pick The President, on kids working for the candidate of their choice...these kids (though especially the kids for Obama, IMO) were thoughtful, fair-minded and respectful. The Obama piece was filmed in my town. These kids for Obama are as amazing in person as they appear in the program.