“Mom, I can’t wait for this election to be over. I’m so tired of everyone fighting about it,” my 9-year-old said to me the other day.
“You’re nine,” I replied with exasperation. “You can’t even vote!”
Apparently, she has been hearing dueling heated political viewpoints from some of her fourth grade classmates. Always the diplomat, she refuses to tip her hand as to what she thinks because she does not want to offend, and instead, urges her classmates to make peace. Agree to disagree she pleads. Or, at least, wait until after school to argue.
It’s no wonder children are becoming political beings at such a young age with the amount of passion this year’s presidential election has inspired. Don’t get me wrong, being passionate about your views is a good thing as long as the discourse doesn’t turn ugly, which unfortunately it clearly has in some forums.
Teaching our children about the electoral process is very important. But, as a parent, I believe we have a responsibility to shield them from political vitriol in the same way we wouldn’t let them watch an R-rated movie.
Not unlike most of my friends, I grew up in a household where my parents had very specific and passionate views about politics. But one thing I will always remember is the reverence my parents taught me for the office of the president.
Regardless of their political affiliation, I was taught that the president of the United States is someone to be respected. I’m pretty sure as a child I wrote to every sitting president and received a letter and signed photograph in return. My parents, in turn, framed them, all of them.
As a journalist, I have had the opportunity to interview almost every sitting president either in office, or on the campaign trail. And let me be clear, the shear awe of interviewing the president of the United States, no matter what his party affiliation, is something that has little comparison in my professional life.
Clearly, I have been fortunate to have a career where diplomacy is my touchstone. Because I have to employ it every single day in my work, I have, in turn, become committed to teaching it to my children. I will not ever disrespect a sitting president, regardless of whether or not I agree with him (or her) in my children’s presence. They will have enough time to make their own decisions about politics when they become adults.
My daughter decided to hold a mock household election for president and vice president this past weekend. On the ballot - all of the members of our household, including the dog. She won’t announce the results until election day, but I’m pretty sure the dog is in the lead …