Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Parenting + Politics (results may vary)

The 2008 presidential election caused a firestorm of dissention in the Wright household, leaving the elder Wrights sadly shaking their heads. After all, we brought it upon ourselves.

“This is what happens when parents get their children involved in politics so early,” a friend lamented as I regaled her with our latest and very heated dinner discussion details. “What did you expect?”

Okay. Guilty as charged. I fully admit to schlepping my seven children into legislators’ offices – some before they were out of diapers. I concede to dressing my children in candidate’s t-shirts and marching them in parades all over the state. I confess that my children have rung more doorbells in more counties than perhaps Chris Gregoire and Dino Rossi put together. I’ve taught my children that every person in our country deserves to have a voice, and encouraged them to find their own voices. What did I expect, indeed?

I didn’t expect my oldest daughter, back in middle school, to recruit her friends and launch a letter-writing campaign against a practice she felt was unconscionable. It wasn’t just a phase, either. Today, as a high school senior, she remains an outspoken advocate for her cause and has chosen a career path that honors her belief.

I didn’t expect that my grade-school daughter would speak out against an assignment which required students to announce and defend their vote in the class’s mock election in front of the whole class. “I wrote in my journal to my teacher that in America, we have the right to vote without telling anyone who we vote for,” she reported. I have to admit, after years of vocalizing the virtues of democracy in the United States, I was one proud mama.

Call me na├»ve, but I really never expected that my children’s political views would or could be terribly different from mine and my husband’s. We raised them and guided them with the principles and values that we hold, right? This year’s election provided me with an unexpected reality check, when dinnertimes turned into debates, and family talks bordered dangerously close to family feuds.

We became a family divided, and I couldn’t help but wonder how we got there. The answer came to me one evening as five of our children loudly debated the environment, abortion and foreign policies: Our children found their voices. It didn’t matter if they weren’t agreeing with each other – or with their parents. They had strong opinions, and the courage to express them and make a stand. Isn’t that really what we’ve been teaching them, all along?

I must confess I was dying to know who our oldest daughter voted for on her first ballot. “Do you embrace the anonymity of your vote, or are you willing to share?” I fished. She smiled, but didn’t reveal her choice. That’s okay. She doesn’t have to.

Even grade-schoolers know that.

An expanded version of this story appears in Volume 6, Issue 1 of Reality Mom. Buy your copy today!

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