How much do you involve your kids in your politics?
As a new presidential election cycle gets underway, let’s talk about how politics factors into your parenting.
In the family I grew up in, which included some who served in elected office, I couldn’t avoid becoming politically aware at a young age.
My parents involved me in their political lives actively, including me in their discussions of news and issues of the day.
My father voraciously read the newspapers, and encouraged me to do the same. The hum of political talk shows was the soundtrack of my weekend mornings.
But as passionate as my parents were about their politics, they never suggested I jump on their campaign wagons.
They were equally passionate that I learn to think for myself, become informed about the candidates and issues, develop my own views, and be able to defend them.
I think that came back to haunt my father in my teenaged years.
Although it will probably be equally as tough for me, I am following a similar path with my own kids.
At their young ages, we simply communicate the importance, and celebrate the privilege and excitement of having the right to vote.
We take our kids with us when we visit the ballot box, where we the parents get excited about getting a sticker for a change, proudly wearing our “I Voted” stickers all day.
That level of involvement feels appropriate to us at this stage of their lives. They also hear us discuss politics, and see us reading our ballots to one another as we hash out how we want to vote on election days.
But, that's as far as it goes for us right now.
If we choose to show up for a cause that concerns us, we choose to do so without our children in tow.
From time to time, I see parents seemingly using their kids as political props, and it doesn't sit well with me.
It actually bugs me when I see infants and toddlers wearing onesies featuring political messages; or holding protest signs supporting positions they don’t yet have the knowledge and experience to truly make a judgment about; or dressed up in gimmicky costumes that makes for cute photo-ops, often sure to lure a reporter at a demonstration.
I worry about the safety of the children included in the various “Occupy” demonstrations around the country.
In another hotly debated recent example, a YouTube video of a young boy, confronting then Republican presidential candidate, Michele Bachmann, about her opposition to same-sex marriage went viral on the Internet.
The video showed the 8-year-old boy, Elijah, who is being raised by two women, shyly delivering his message to Bachmann, who had to lean in extra close to have him repeat it, in order to hear him.
The issue for me wasn’t the view he expressed, but the obvious discomfort he displayed delivering it.
I don’t doubt that he probably whole-heartedly believes in what he said, but did he come up with the idea to stand in line to zing a political candidate at a book signing and broadcast it to millions?
His mother defended her decision to "let" her son confront the candidate by saying that it was his idea to deliver the message when she herself became too nervous in line to do so.
That seems suspect to me.
Either way, as a parent, I simply would not put my kids in the position to speak for my politics.
What’s your take on including kids in your political life? What do you think is appropriate? Should young kids be included in political activism?