I love taking my kids to vote with me. It’s the time in my life when I feel most American — when I’m a small but possibly significant cog in the slow-turning wheel of democracy. And I want to share that feeling of historic significance with my kids.
These days, my kids get to vote, too. Their votes don’t count, of course, but it’s always good to start practicing early (some things, at least). Think of it this way — this may be the only time you get to choose who your kids vote for. Particularly when they’re too young to read the Kids Voting ballot.
Although my kids can read the ballot now, my oldest always votes the party line — she votes for whomever her parents are voting for. But you never know with our younger kid. He might decide to vote for the other guys and gals, just because. That kid’s a maverick.
To put it into perspective, this is the kid who, every baseball season, figures out which team will be his sister’s favorite team’s biggest rival and roots for them. Throughout the recent World Series, he’s taunted her by whispering, “Tampa Bay, Tampa Bay,” then denies he’s said a word. Can you blame her for wanting to pinch the heck out of him every once in a while?
Although I’m the oldest kid in my family of origin, I bucked the oldest-as-most-conservative trend. I seem to be the maverick in that group. (OK, I promise I stop using that word, but only after Sarah Palin stops using it.)
I’m probably the only registered independent in my family (don’t pigeonhole me), and I may be the only one who has voted for a Democrat in each of the past six presidential elections. (I can’t believe I’ve voted in SIX. Damn, I’m old). My extended clan consists of a few holdout Democrats, but most of my family, like most of the South, migrated to the Republican Party the moment Carter lost to Reagan in 1980.
I often feel longing when I hang out with Enviro-spouse’s family, because they’re all pretty much on the same political page. I think, “Wow, they all believe in the same things. How weird is that?” They’re not having shouting matches over the phone or hurriedly changing the subject while trying to ignore the hand grenade someone’s dropped on the middle of the dinner table. Of course, like all families, they have their own hand grenades, but politics isn’t the most explosive one.
Of course, blood is thicker than political persuasion, and it runs both blue and red. I don’t remember talking about politics with my immediate family when I was a kid, but I do remember stuffing local candidate fliers in mailboxes with my grandmother, an old-school Southern Democrat. I think that’s illegal now. It was probably illegal then, but she didn’t care. I must’ve been about 10.
My grandmother would drive, and I’d lean out the window of her Ford Pinto (yes, the cars that could explode into fireballs when rear-ended). She owned another car, but reserved the Pinto for carting around the dogs and the grandchildren. The car smelled like burnt jungle animal after an ill-fated trip to Lion Country Safari, where a lion rubbed up against the front grille and got most of its tail fur sucked into the car’s engine. At least it didn’t cause the car to catch on fire.
The Pinto also smelled like cigarette smoke. I doubt that either of my grandparents could drive without smoking. There were burn marks all over the floor mats where ash would drop from the end of my grandmother’s cig, and one of us would stomp it out as soon as we smelled charring carpet fibers.
Anyway, my grandmother would roll up to a mailbox and brake suddenly, throwing me against the side mirror as I leaned out of the car. If I couldn’t reach the mailbox, she’d let off the brake and roll a few inches until slamming it again when she thought I was close enough. Other times, she wouldn’t brake at all, and I’d have to open the mailbox and cram the flier in on the move, then duck back into the Pinto so I wouldn’t be bashed against the next mailbox or the speed limit sign. It was the most fun I’ve ever had with politics.
Unlike a lot of my friends in Asheville, I haven’t taken my kids to political rallies or parties or canvassing in the hood. Mostly because I’m lazy, and I’d rather not deal with my whiny kids while attempting to talk to people about politics.
But I’ll always take my kids to vote with me. It may not be as fun as the stuff-the-mailbox-on-the-fly-without-losing-an-arm game that I used to play with my grandmother, but it’s as much fun as they’ll get with politics. For now.
Anne Fitten “Edgy Mama” Glenn writes about a number of subjects, including parenting, at www.edgymama.com.