"Mom, what's the difference between Republicans and Democrats?" my younger daughter asked me the other day out of the blue.
Wow, I thought. If ever there was a teachable moment of diplomatic importance, this was it.
I did the best I could in 10-year-old language to explain the differences without judgment. But then I added what I thought was the most important take-away from our conversation.
"Frankly, sweetie, when you grow up and are old enough to vote, your beliefs may not exactly fit one party or the other. So, you just have to make the best choices possible. But the important thing is to think for yourself. You get to decide what you believe. You don't have to believe something just because Daddy or I do."
"Really?" she replied, apparently stunned at my offer of political independence.
"Really. When you're an adult you get to decide what you believe. Sure, we might help guide you, but I will never tell you what you should think."
As a parent, there are, of course, truisms we teach our children that are not up for negotiation: Be kind, don't lie, work hard, don't cheat. But I think when it comes to things like politics and religion, we ultimately have to leave it up to them.
Clearly, many, if not most, children will choose the religious tradition they were raised in, and may even choose to follow their parents' political ideals, but they are not our mirror images. They must, at some point, be free to think for themselves.
I heard a great quote the other day on the radio from an author who said "sometimes belief is a form of intellectual surrender," meaning I stop questioning and thinking for myself and simply follow another's lead.
I always want my children to think for themselves, and I will always respect their beliefs even if they differ from my own. Because, in the end, this is part of the wonder of parenting. I can't wait to see who they will become ...
Amanda is the mom of two, a reporter for WRAL-TV and the author of several books including three on motherhood. Find her here on Mondays.