Wednesday, November 5th, 2008
Discuss: Children and Election Night
Did you involve your child(ren) in the elections yesterday?
Our 4-year-old daughter watched TV for the first time last night, staying up an hour past bedtime (we’re in California) to watch John McCain and Barack Obama give their speeches.
We haven’t discussed politics with her. We own no toddler campaign shirts. But she knows I work on a local initiative or candidacy every election cycle and she has accompanied us to our polling place for the last few elections. She knows how our leaders are chosen and that they make rules everyone must follow.
So, during the speeches, I explained why these two men were talking to us, and I reworded some of what they were saying. Mostly, she was entranced by the crowds of cheering and crying people.
Mom and Dad were telling her this amorphous, intangible thing was important, but wow, look at all those people. It must be important.
I had her watching because she’s 4-years-old and has the potential to remember the first black president being elected. Regardless of political viewpoint, it’s an historic moment, a teaching moment.
Sure, people choosing a new leader is important enough, but should I explain more? What followed was a kludgy, unscripted exchange wherein I explained how America was started by white people who took black people from Africa, threw them on boats, treated them like something to be owned, made them work, broke up families and were “mean.”
She didn’t ask any questions, but acknowledged understanding. Toddlers seem to assimilate such information without concern. Bad stuff happened a long time ago? Oh. Okay. Thanks for sharing. Wait, what, you say there’s a monster under my bed right now? Papa!!!
There were two moments when she felt connected to the evening. First, when Obama’s two daughters were on screen. And second, when she asked where Obama was and my wife said, “In Chicago, which is near the Great Lakes.” My daughter responded with, “Oh, where Paddle-to-the-Sea was.”
Wow, I read her that book 8 months ago (in a subtle attempt to persuade my wife that Holling would be a good name for our unborn son — the author’s name is Holling C. Holling). Anyhow, it’s a story thick with history and verbiage better suited to fifth graders. If she’s recalling geography from that book, she might remember last night years from now.
Hey, so, where is your family at? Do you take your toddler to the polls? Ever tried explaining voting? Attend a rally? Watch TV together last night?
P.S. I’ve sat on a parenting link because I said I wouldn’t write another political post, but here I am, so hey, photos of Obama’s family.