In the car this morning my kids and I were once again talking about politics (for the record, they are the ones who always bring it up, not me!). Fiona saw a “Montgomery County for Mitt Romney” sign, and was amazed that someone who supported Mr. Romney had climbed a telephone poll to hang it up high. Fiona said, “Wouldn’t it be nice if both candidates had each other’s best qualities, and we could vote for both of them?”
After which Ella replied, “I don’t like Mitt Romney.”
We are an awkward two-party household. My husband is pro-Romney, I’m an Obama mama. So political discussions are tricky, at our house. (I take solace in the fact that my husband is not an American citizen so doesn’t have a vote.) (-:
What seems to have nudged my children over the edge and into the Obama camp were Romney’s comments about getting rid of Big Bird, which appalled them. (I had nothing to do with it!)
So a friend of mine who volunteers for the Obama campaign came by the house while my husband was at work, ahem, to plant an Obama sign on our front lawn.
My husband came home that night and said, “Why’d you lock the house? Were you afraid all the Romney supporters in the neighborhood were going to come up here with pitchforks?” We laughed and laughed. There are no other signs in our neighborhood which is mostly all pro-Romney, and the fact that no one is really comfortable in this year discussing which candidate they’re rooting for kind of disturbs me.
My husband and I had a “how would you feel if I put a Romney sign up on the lawn” discussion, which was awkward because I had to acknowledge that if I’m as open as I like to imagine myself to be, then he can put a Romney sign on the right side of the driveway, beside my Obama sign. It would mean that all the neighbors can yuk it up and joke about how the Shwarzeneggers used to have the Republican/Democrat signs on their driveway, too, and look how that turned out.
I concluded that I would be okay with him planting a Romney sign on our front lawn, too, but I don’t think he has enough time in his busy schedule to find out where to get a sign, pay for it, and so on – so, unless he’s going to pilfer one from someone else’s front lawn I don’t think Mitt will be making an appearance any time soon at our house.
The other night at the costume store, I saw a Mitt Romney mask and wondered aloud if we should get one for Daddy for Halloween. Ella replied, quite loudly, “No! I don’t like Mitt Romney. Get him a Big Bird mask.” Fiona and I shushed her because we were out in public and Ella tends to say things – provocative things – quite loudly, when we’re out in public. So we reminded her to keep her voice down, because other people might like Mr. Romney and we didn’t want to offend them. Just then, a Hispanic boy of about six passed by Ella and said conspiratorially, “I don’t like Romney, either.” And I swear to God – the two youngsters exchanged a knowing political glance – kind of like, “We’re in it for the big yellow bird.”
I’m telling you – I’m shocked at the level of interest in politics kids are showing nowadays. I had no idea about politics when I was that little. Is it because of the Big Bird debacle? It seems like all the kids are talking politics these days – from Ella’s class on up to Fi’s, they are debating it and discussing the candidates, interested in the election – really getting into it. Wow.
So this morning, after we saw the Romney sign, and Ella said, “I don’t like Mitt Romney,” I got on my soap box.
I told them that it’s wonderful for them to have and to express their political opinions so long as they are not just copying mommy’s opinion, or daddy’s opinion. I said it is really, really important for them to learn about the facts from all sides of the campaign, to think about these facts as they pertain to the things they are interested in, like the environment, or the deficit, education, healthcare, wars, taxes, immigration, women’s rights – and come to their own conclusion.
I really do not want them parroting my opinions, I said.
I explained how when I was growing up we were not really allowed to have our own political opinions. My parents were staunchly right-wing Republicans, clones of Ron and Nancy Reagan. I knew from a young age not to share my opinions with them. If I did, my opinions were poo-poo’d, minimized, and even ridiculed. So in our house we were not able to have balanced, fact-based discussions about politics – everything was charged, emotional, and there were no facts – so I just stopped sharing my opinions with them.
Then, when I turned 18, I ran to the polls to cast my vote. My problem was, though, that in all my exuberance of youth I wasn’t really voting based on facts – I was voting to rebel against my parents. And this, I said, wasn’t informed voting. It was just childish.
After I told them this story, I was fully expecting Fiona to say what she had said after our last political discussion: “Mommy, those three minutes you talked about politics were the longest three minutes of my life.”
Instead, she said something that surprised and touched me. She said,
“The bad parenting you got when you were growing up has made you into a really good parent, Mommy.”