During the last presidential election, my family consisted of me, my husband, my son (who was 3) and my daughter (who was 14 months). This time around, the older kids are 7 and 5 and the twins are now almost 17 months old. We live in a larger home on more land. Both of our dogs have passed on, but we now have an outdoor cat who hangs out around here. We’re driving a minivan most places instead of a compact car.
And my oldest child can read. Everything.
For this reason alone I am ready to call a media blackout in our house. We already skip news when the kids are around because so much of it would cause them anxiety. The kids beg us to change the radio from talk radio to music when we’re on the road. And now I’ve got to stop reading news online when my son is awake because he reads over my shoulder, the little stinker.
My reason for shielding him from most of this is that I still like his innocence. I still want him to experience the world as new and wonderful and full of possibility. I don’t want him to see the politics of the adult world just yet because it ain’t a pretty place right now.
Regardless of which political candidates you support, the campaigns this year have already cranked up the vitriol. And I’m just tired of it. I am convinced that I will lose friends this year over Facebook political rants even though I have taken a silent oath to NOT post my political opinions there. Because, really, all I want to know is that you are doing well and I want to see cute pictures of your kids. I don’t want to hear that by electing so-and-so, we will be plunging the world into 1000 years of darkness. I just don’t.
And I really don’t want my kid to hear it because it isn’t genuine political discourse. It isn’t weighing the validity of an argument using facts and proof. It isn’t deciding if the moral implications of a particular vote outweigh the practical aspects. It isn’t educational and it isn’t cooperative and it just doesn’t show my kid how to play nicely with people who have different ideas than he does.
And now that he can read, I’m ratcheting up the censor button – not because I’m scared that someone else’s opinion might make him think differently about a situation, but because the way it is stated is unproductive crankiness unbecoming of people who really want to make a difference in the outcome of the election. Because pointing fingers and blame and saying “nanny-nanny-boo-boo” isn’t going to make a difference at all.
I try to teach my kids that being right isn’t more important than finding a solution. I try to teach my kids that if someone has a different idea, it is a good thing because we don’t want everyone we know to think the same way. I try to teach my kids that the people running for president both want to make the USA better and stronger, they just have different plans to get that done. My kids understand this. They get that calling names and playing tricks and bending the words of another person are just not nice. They understand that even people who disagree about a lot of things can sometimes agree and that isn’t something to hide – finding common ground is something to celebrate.
My son asked me if the presidential candidates just have to say the opposite of what the other thinks even if they really don’t think that way. Truthfully, I told him that I sometimes think they do. And if my seven-year-old can figure this out, maybe there is some hope for the future after all…