I couldn't let an election day pass without a post, despite the fact Ethan and I voted early on October 21st. I've been trying to bite my tongue because -- let's just say I don't really ever make lots of new friends during an election.
Still, I knew I wanted to bring Ethan with me to vote so that he could understand, from a young age, the importance of voting and making your voice heard. Because Ethan is only three, it would have undoubtedly been easier to leave him at home while I ran to go vote. If I left him at home, I wouldn't have to explain why I was voting for each person or amendment I was voting for as I went. I wouldn't have to lose my place in line to take a super-important-right-away potty break before hitting the polls. I wouldn't have to explain to him how to properly pencil in little bubbles on pretend voting ballots (Lincoln vs. Washington, of course) as if this was the most pressing part of the day. It's easier to say "he's young, he won't understand" -- but it's not fair to continually write off children in that manner. They understand more than we give them credit for. I was initially worried as to how bringing a toddler into the voting area could be received, but to my surprise the poll workers were very supportive. They helped make the experience even more exciting for Ethan who had already rehearsed the names of his preferred candidates on the car ride over. We took some time introducing ourselves to the volunteers holding signs in favor of our candidates and to let them know they had our vote. This helped make the experience even more real for Ethan.
Election time is a great opportunity to talk to your kids. I'm continually impressed by how perceptive Ethan is and the depths of really intricate things that he's capable of understanding. There are some "but why?" questions he asks that I don't know how to answer. Why can someone else's religion dictate whether or not people that he loves can marry or not? Why do some people (looking at you, Pam Bondi) devote their lives to hurting other people? Why do these people have ugly, hard hearts? I don't know how to answer these questions but, as his parent, I can help him learn that we can fight back. We can vote them out and we can let the love in our own hearts shine. We can stand next to those people we love because there is strength in numbers and in love. Ethan can grow to be a man who fights for women, not against. He can grow up with enough respect for his mother, aunt, grandmother, friends, fellow humankind to trust in their ability to properly care for their own bodies. And, really, discussing medical marijuana with a three year old isn't nearly as complicated as people think. "Some people need this to get better, mommy, like you put medicine on my bug bites when I need to get those better." A three year old gets it.
I also really wanted Ethan to understand the importance of voting for our city commissioners. His future elementary school is one of two elementary schools in the city without full-time resource officers on the premises. I bring this up to other parents and am met with "oh, that's because the neighborhoods are the safest and there's no need for them." That doesn't fly over here.
"If we need police officers at the school, we vote for Melamed," my three year old will tell you. This morning at Starbucks, I overheard two grown men talking to one another in line. "Are you voting?" One asked. "I don't know. Who is running? Who are you voting for? I'll vote for them too," replied the other. Let that sink in for a minute.
So go vote. Vote with our children in mind, with their future in mind, with their education in mind. Vote for the people who have been robbed of their rights and for those whose rights are still being threatened to be stolen away. Vote. Take your children to the polls. Teach them the importance of standing up for what is right in a world that sometimes feels very, very wrong. Do your part to raise a child that won't be 40 years old and standing in a Starbucks line apathetically asking someone else who is running.