I started my day in line at the Town Hall. It’s election day, and I knew I had more time before work than after, so I was there when the polls opened at 7:00 a.m. I was surprised to find a line already, but even so, I was in and out in 15 minutes.
I have voted in every state and federal election since the 1984 presidential election, and I am pretty diligent about voting in all the local elections, too. (Although I have to confess, when everyone on the ballot is running unopposed, I have skipped a few.)
I love seeing my social media feeds fill up with “I voted” posts from friends and colleagues (regardless of their political leaning). As someone who taught 5th grade American History for 18 years, I am especially proud to see my former students post that they have voted.
I was reminded last night of a conversation I had with S when she was in 2nd grade, during the primary election to determine who would be the presidential candidates in 2008.
She had not been feeling well, so I was taking her to the doctor, and during the car ride she was telling me about the upcoming mock election in her classroom, and she said, “I’m going to vote for Hillary Clinton.”
I asked her why, and she said, “Because she’s a girl.”
Now, there is a fine line between mom and teacher, and I can never resist the teachable moment, especially when I have just one kid in the car, so I had to pursue the conversation.
Me: Honey, we don’t chose candidates because they are men or women.
S: Hmm, well then I guess I’ll vote for Barack Obama.
S: Because he’s young.
Me: Honey, we don’t chose candidates because they are young or old.
S: Then how do you pick them?
Me: You listen to what they say, and you decide who you agree with most, and you vote for that person.
S: How do you know who’s telling the truth? (What’s the old saying? Out of the mouths of babes. ;) )
Me: That’s a good question. You have to hear what they say, and look at what they do, and then decide.
Later that night she and I sat down and looked at a couple of kid-friendly articles on the candidates, and she had tons of other questions.
When the November election rolled around, her school, like many others, held a mock election.
Now, it would’ve been easy for me to tell her how I believe politically and to let MY opinion be the opinion she put on her ballot, but I wanted her to be able to form opinions on her own and be able to support them. So, the teacher beat out the mom, and we sat down to look at some kid friendly sites, starting with Time for Kids. I had her write the names of both major party candidates (McCain and Obama) on note cards, and then we went through the information provided.
I was in teacher mode at this point, so I read each statement, making sure she understood what the issue meant, and then I read what each candidate had answered to that issue. If she liked what she heard, she put a tally mark on that candidate’s note card. Sometimes she liked what both said, so she put a tally mark on each. Sometimes she didn’t like what either had said, so she didn’t put any marks down. When we were done, she counted up the tally marks and decided who to vote for, and when I asked her why, she could explain it to me.
This morning as I was leaving, C asked me who I was going to vote for, and I wouldn’t tell him. Instead I explained about secret ballots and that while I was glad to share that I was voting, I really never shared who I cast my vote for. Then I said, “So, if you could vote, who would you vote for?”
I loved his reply: “I don’t know. I don’t have enough information about the candidates to make a decision.”
That is what I want for both S and C. I want them to be able to not only make decisions but to support those choices, and to realize that you have to do a little research to make up your mind.
They won’t always agree with me, and I’m okay with that.