Two of my kids even went with me to the polling place and watched me cast my vote. One was about hip-high and couldn’t read, so I let her see the screen. But the other is nine, and I made him stand to the side, beyond the voting box, so he couldn’t see.
He’s been bugging me. He asks in increasing sly ways that he hopes will get me to answer. But I’m saying, “Not now.” Further down the road, when it’s not a hot topic, when other kids won’t judge him for the answer of whom his mom voted for, when the hate and anger isn’t so strong, I’ll tell him.
In recent weeks, he’s been bombarded by kids in his social circles, kids enthusiastically on the bandwagon for one particular candidate or another. And the rhetoric is very black and white, which kids naturally glom onto. The worst for him was when kids of faithful families gave ultimatums, “You can’t really be a Christian and want ________ to win!” And I’ve heard supporters of each candidate give the same judgement. My son is very confused by all this, yet lacks the maturity and level of thinking to really work through it.
Kids are kids. They don’t often even understand the issues, even if they can throw around terms like abortion or supreme court justice or the environment or the economy. They so easily absorb adult talk and repeat. I get that. And then it becomes a sort of play ground gang up against the kids who says his parents are voting differently. Kids easily create divisions; they seem to like to divide themselves in binary fashion, always looking for categories by which to do this. Glasses, style of clothes, weight, now parents’ politics.
My oldest became overwhelmed about how strident kids could be about politics, confused by the tidbits of dirt kids shared about one candidate or another. And when kids asked how his parents were voting, he just stood there and stuttered that he didn’t know. I told him that’s why I’m NOT telling him. So he can honestly say he doesn’t know and get back to playing basketball. Back to being a kid who doesn’t have to know what p**** is or partial-birth abortion or FBI investigations.
Let me be clear in saying, as a former kid myself and a teacher, this is normal–this phenomenon of kids repeating adult talk, taking on stances as identity even before they understand them. This is normal.
I guess I was just surprised at the level of emotion behind it. But then, if kids are reflections, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised they reflect the very strong emotions of adults around them in this very volatile election. (It was just really surprising because in places where I’d previously heard NO political talk among people I’ve known for years, suddenly it came out ferociously a couple weeks ago, and it was apparently all the preteen set could talk about.)
(For the record, as a parent and teacher, I also give grace and don’t judge parents by what a kid repeats necessarily. I’ve been embarrassed before when my kid heard part of something I said, misinterpreted it, then repeated his interpretation as gospel truth from the lips of Mom!)
My point is, I don’t want my kid to go to bat for MY political opinions. He shouldn’t be answering for his parents’ convictions, especially when he doesn’t even understand them. He’s a kid. I don’t want him saddled with labels that other kids bandy about, from both sides of the political spectrum.
Today my seven year old also came and asked, “Mom, who did you vote for? My friend wants to know.” I told him the same as his older brother. “I’m not telling you now.”
I also don’t want my kids to know and then likewise use that in their own social interaction to divide their friends into categories according to MY convictions.
Because my kid would be tempted. He’s at that age where social life is everything.
I never intentionally planned this, but it’s just that my husband and I didn’t share in a lot of political talk around the kids. My oldest did see commercials in the last week of the election, and THAT gave him an (unwanted) education of the unsavoriness that has characterized this election. THAT was more than I wanted him to be aware of at his age. It’s hard to explain moral right or wrong when the entire issue itself is of a maturity level my kids haven’t reached.
So while I didn’t plan to keep my vote o myself, I’m not glad I never had a chance to let it slip.
When he’s old enough to have his own convictions, he can stand up for them. But no need for him to defend his parents’ choices on the playground.
This is my first time having kids this age during a presidential election. I just didn’t see this coming. A bit blind-sided, really….
Were any other parents surprised by similar things? I’d love to hear others’ experiences and solutions.