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November 06, 2008

Why I Won't Tell My Kids Who I Voted For

J0304687 "Mommy, who are you going to vote for?" I've been dodging this question for two months, mostly with a quiet "I'm not sure yet" and an occasional, "Who do you think I should vote for?" This morning, they asked again who I voted for yesterday, and I told them I'm not going to tell them. I may not ever tell them who I voted for in this election.

I am sure some of you are incredulous. Why wouldn't I tell them? Am I ashamed? On the contrary, I am quite proud of who I voted for, certain that the man has a bright future ahead of him. But I am not in the business of breeding mini-mes; that isn't my job. My job IS, however, to raise my kids with the tools they need to be part of an educated, responsible citizenry.

I grew up in a house with rather extreme political views on one side. Everyone who was a decent person was one of US, and everyone who was on the other side was a vile, evil, nasty piss-poor excuse for an American, indeed, a human. It was assumed that every member of the family and anyone that any of us associated with shared the same views. There was no allowance for anyone who thought differently.

There was also no reconciling how someone could have voted the other way and be a good person, and that's an awfully confusing thing for a child. My teacher voted for the other side, and I like my teacher, she's a good person, so does that make me an evil non-human?

I learned quickly to keep my mouth shut and my views to myself. But I vowed then that I would create an environment more conducive to open discourse with my children, and that's what I've done. When we saw candidate commercials on TV, we discussed them. I explained that both sides were trying to make their candidate look fantastic and the other side's candidate look as unappealing as possible. When my nine year old said she'd vote for a candidate based on what she heard from a commercial about the other side's health care plan, we got online to research each side's position independently. I showed my older kids the website for the League of Women Voters, and taught them that there are good sources of nonpartisan, non-biased information. I taught them to always, always ask questions, that if something doesn't seem logical, there's probably a good reason why, and that some piece of critical information is missing. I asked them what they'd been hearing, and like Devra, I corrected misinformation.

I also taught them that you can't believe everything you see, read, or hear, on TV or on the radio or online or in newspapers. I taught them that even if someone who is close to you tells you something, they may not be the best source of information, and it's okay to disagree with them, as long as you educate yourself about the issue before weighing in. I hope I'm teaching them that it's okay to disagree with me. I am not going to think they are vile, or evil, or stupid, or ignorant if they come down on the other side of an issue that they've educated themselves about. I won't disown them if they make a different choice than I did. No matter what choice they make, I hope they will feel comfortable talking to me about it, that we can agree to disagree.

So I'll keep my big secret about who I voted for until they are old enough and educated enough to hold their own, and help teach them just how to do that.

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Original DC Metro Moms post. When she's not dodging questions about the election, Mary/FishyGirl blogs about her family life, but not politics, over at The Fish Pond.

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