When I was 8 years old, my mother dragged my twin brother and me to our polling station. It was 1988, Dukakis vs. Bush. I remember standing in the church hallway watching the rain pour down through the windows. I stood bored out of my mind, wishing I could get back home to read The Baby-Sitters Club. My older brothers couldn't watch us and my dad was stuck at work until late, so there we all stood. Normally, as a grown adult, I wouldn't remember this mundane moment. I mean, nothing really happened. But it was the act of my mom voting that will always stay with me, which is why I strive to take my kids to the polls with me, too.
My own kids are 6 and 8 now, and they've each already been to the voting booth with me for presidential and local elections. I think it's vital they see the value I place on my vote so that when they grow up, they'll appreciate their right to vote, too. During the 2016 election for Trump vs. Clinton, I dragged them to the polls, and they were only 2 and 4.
That year, the lines snaked around the school auditorium. You could feel the tension in the air. No one spoke. Other adults probably thought I was nuts to bring kids that young to the polls, but I knew I wanted to make this practice part of their growing up and memory. So, I came prepared . . . with lollipops. Unfortunately, I forgot that both kids don't lick their lollipops, they bite and crunch them. They didn't last long enough. Over the hour we were there, my son ended up writhing around on the ground pretending to be different animals (he even mooed at one point), and I had to carry my 2-year-old daughter the whole time.
I grew nervous that one of them would bust into a full-blown tantrum, but we made it. And since that day, my son asks, "Mom, can we go with you to vote this time?" Look, I don't always enjoy taking them to the polls, but I know it's important to do. I want my kids to value their right to vote, educate themselves on candidates and issues, and recognize the importance of standing up for what they believe in. I believe part of raising children is to raise civilians and teach them how to fulfill one of their most important civic duties.
Now that my kids are a tad older, I also try to slowly introduce them into politics. No, I don't go deep. As an educator myself, I know it's important to just present some age-appropriate issues. Because it's easy for kids to understand people's feelings, I try to put social issues into an easy context for them to understand. I also don't turn off the news in the morning. It's a great opportunity for them to ask me questions so I can follow their lead. While everything they see right now isn't pretty, it prepares them for when I do take them to the voting polls.
Who knows what the 2020 polls will look like this year with COVID-19. But even if we vote from home by filling out an absentee ballot, that will be a teaching moment for them, too. They'll remember that one time during the pandemic when Mom made them learn about voting when you can't physically go to the polls.
I'm thankful for that one rainy evening in 1988 when my mom dragged me to the polls, because it's a memory that made a giant impact on me. And I hope my kids will remember crunching through those lollipops waiting for Mom to vote, too.