Election Day was yesterday (I know… Halloween, Daylight Savings and Election Day all in one week. That’s pretty cruel, right?).
I’ll admit it: I often feel insignificant when it comes to the powers that be. Whether it’s on a small, community scale or the grander national or worldwide ones, I can easily feel overwhelmed and as though I can’t possibly be part of change in government or society.
If I feel this way as a grown woman, how much more do our children?
I’ve seen many times, manifested in a number of different ways, how powerless my kids feel to change the things that are bigger than them. Whether it’s being carted around, unwillingly, from store to store during errands or having little say over what to put on their bodies (Sorry, toddler son, you do have to wear a jacket in the winter!), it can be frustrating.
Because of this, I try to give my kids as much autonomy and decision-making ability as I can, within reason, of course. It’s hard to be a kid in a grown up’s world. It’s hard to feel impotent, moved by the tides.
This is why I vote, and this is why I take my kids with me to vote.
I bring my kids to the polls because it’s important for them to see words and convictions put into action. I am intentional about instilling kindness, compassion, and a sense of justice in my kids every single day. Our job is to make the world a better place. On Election Day, we are able to show them one of the most important ways we fight for these values, and when they’re with me at our community center voting, they’re seeing lines of people doing that exact thing, too; not just their mom.
I have also learned by now that children learn best both by example, and by doing (I also, to this day, remember going with my own parents to vote). My hope is that they’ll have a lifetime of memories of voting with my husband and I, so that when they’re able to do so themselves it’s a non-issue: of course they’ll show up. They have seen and heard about the importance of exercising this right their whole lives.
Not only that, but when we vote in midterm elections, we’re voting for our kids. Lawmakers and elected officials, as well as various amendments, directly affect their schools, education, parks, and so much more. I want them to know that they are important to me in that way, too. That I’ll make moves for them.
The conversations I’ve had with my oldest daughter over the past couple of years surrounding voting and our elected officials are fascinating. Kids are able to process way more than we give them credit for. If we take the time to explain the way the wheel turns, it’s very likely that they’ll feel empowered, rather than powerless.
I get that taking kids to stand in long lines can be a parents’ worst nightmare. If you happened to not take your kids with you yesterday, I understand. If you change your mind for future elections, maybe we can share the Hotwheels cars and crayons I stuffed in my purse to make this teaching moment more bearable!
Rachel is a wife and mother living in Raleigh, North Carolina. She’s a fan of good coffee, wearer of gray t-shirts, and is constantly starting books she will never finish. Her family is her joy, and she loves to engage with other moms and dads on matters of parenting. Her blog posts have also been featured on the Today Show Parenting Blog and Scary Mommy.