My Hardest Election Night Choice Was What To Tell My Son
I picked up my three year old son Brody from daycare Tuesday afternoon and headed to the polls before dinner. On the ride home, I explained to him that before we go in the house, that he and Daddy were going to stop and vote. Easy for me, the polling place is literally a tenth of mile from where I live so that was very convenient. Now came the hard part; explaining why we were doing it. How do you explain 'voting' to a toddler?
My little buddy was excited to be hanging with Daddy but he didn't quite know what we were doing. Brody, 3, is very curious and asks a lot of questions.
'Daddy, what's voting?' he asked as we walked to the polling station. I thought about what my answer would be for what seemed like an eternity. Then it dawned on me! He loves American flags so perhaps I could try and make a connection there. It was the best I could come up with on the spot.
'You know how you point out the American flag to daddy every time you see it?' I inquired. 'Yep I love the Ah-merkin flag!' he acknowledged.
Sweet, I'm getting somewhere, I thought.
'Well' I continued, 'The American flag which we love very, very much, is important because it keeps us safe, allows us to do fun things, and let's us be super happy and free! And the people who who keep the flag safe, need to be put there to protect it, and protect all of us too'
At this point, I'm thinking there's a better chance of me hitting Powerball than getting my 3 year old to understand my 'random stream of consciousness about flags, safety, and fun'. But I was going for it.
'We're going to go inside this building, and decide who the best people to protect the flag are! It's exciting, and we're very lucky to be able to do it' I went on to tell him.
In the cutest little voice he says 'Are you excited to do it Daddy?' I almost teared up. 'Yessir, I can't wait!' I told him.
Once inside the building, his attention was diverted to unfamiliar people pointing, strangers standing up at desks completely blocked, and others taking large pieces of paper and inserting them in machines. For Brody, this was all one great big first.
As he watched me make my selections and then complete the voting process, he stood by my side and grabbed onto my leg. This was a first for me and my boy and no matter how much information he did or didn't retain in terms of the reason why we were, I sensed that he understood the magnitude of the moment. I knew that Brody realized that something important was happening, even if he didn't know exactly what that thing was.
When we were all done I thanked him and told him one day, when he's older, he'll be able to do what Daddy just did. He seemed to like that.
As we walked hand in hand back to the house, I thought about my explanation to him and wondered if it made any sense at all. I replayed it over and over in my head:
'The flag keeps up safe and happy and certain people have to keep the flag safe and we get to choose those people. That's what 'voting' is. Choosing those people'
Kind of hard to expect a 3 year old to understand it, when sometimes it feels like the politicians themselves don't always get it. But at the end of the day, he saw his Daddy do something that someday, he'll be able to do with his kids for the first time.
I'm sure his explanation to that little boy or girl will be much better than mine.