Introducing Your Kids To Democracy

voteToday is a big day in California. It’s the Primary Election.

I walked over to the polling station down the street from me with my toddler in tow. I didn’t have to take him with me. Grandma is coming over later to babysit and I could have waited until then. I also could have gone later today when the Dude returned from work. But I didn’t want to do that. I wanted to bring my 2 year old with me because I want him to be a part of this day, even if he’s 16 years away from casting his first vote.

It’s not the Monkey’s first election. He was first introduced to the election process at 2 weeks old. I remember strolling him down the street to our local firehouse in downtown San Francisco. Sure, he slept through all of it but I was glad he was there with me while I performed my civic duty. I hope he is always with me on these important days.

I have great memories of going to the polls with my parents. We would walk down to a neighbor’s garage and I would go into the polling booth with one of my parents while they filled out their votes. I remember talking to them about their decisions and why they voted a certain way. I didn’t always agree with them (I still don’t!) but it always made for interesting conversations. I still enjoy talking to both of my parents about our elections, especially when we have differing points of view.

Shortly after I turned 18 in 1994, I once again walked down to a neighbor’s garage with my mother. But, this time, I got to cast my first vote.  It wasn’t a big Presidential election, but I was able to voice my opinions on a number of other issues and elections. I remember feeling really good after I left the polling booth. I felt like an adult and true citizen for the first time in my young life.

Not an election goes by that I do not vote. When I move, one of the first things on my to-do list is to register to vote. It’s sometimes a challenge to get to the polls, especially when we have kids in tow, but it’s something that can’t be be ignored. I was contemplating whether or not to register for a permanent vote-by-mail, just to make things easier, but the Dude had a good argument against it. It’s important to bring your kids to the polls. It’s important to introduce them to the democratic process, no matter how young. We may be frustrated if the line is long, but those minutes spent waiting to voice our political opinions are worth it. Children are never too young to witness the power of voting and democracy in action

Unlike so many other countries, we’re able to express our political opinions on a regular basis. We should never take that for granted. Don’t let your kids take it for granted, either. Take them to the polls and talk to them about the process. If they’re old enough to question your beliefs and votes, don’t hide from that conversation. Discuss, inform from all points of view, and then let make their own decisions. Modeling how to be a responsible citizen with an informed and educated opinion is one of the best gifts you can give to your children.