child politicsThis weekend, my state’s Democratic candidates for Senator and Governor will be throwing a small meet and greet in my city. It will be at a park a couple blocks away from the early voting site. They’ll have coffee and donuts, but no big speeches or crazy pep rallies. Just a small drive to get out the vote and meet some constituents. My husband and I are planning on attending, casting our early ballots, and bringing along our 4-year-old daughter.

I have to admit, I’m a little leery of getting children involved in politics. I think kids are exploited by plenty of people when it comes to elections. I don’t really want to set my child up to be indoctrinated in a certain cause or party. I would rather wait until she’s older and then help her research and think critically about both political parties and every issue in between them. So at first, I was concerned about the idea of taking her to a Democratic meet and greet. I was even concerned about taking her to vote with me, where she’ll see exactly where mom’s loyalties lie.

But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that it’s impossible to show my daughter the political process without admitting that there are opposing sides and viewpoints. That doesn’t mean that I should shield her from politics all together. It just means that I need to be thoughtful and give plenty of fair and balanced explanations throughout the process. And there’s no reason we can’t start that process right away. Even better, why not do so on a weekend when we can take our time and she won’t make things more hectic for adults who are trying to get in and out of the polling places on their lunch hour?

I believe that politics are important. I think participating in the electoral process, voting, and supporting candidates you believe in are all essential tasks for engaged citizens. I wouldn’t feel qualified to ever complain about politicians if I didn’t make the time to vote on who represents me. And I’ve voted every since I turned 18. I want to pass this engagement on to my daughter, and the best way to do that is to show her why it’s important, no matter which side of the aisle you fall on.

That’s why I decided that this year, I’m taking her with me to vote. I’m letting her meet people who are campaigning to run our state, or represent us in the Senate. Whether these candidates win the election or not, my little girl will see what our politics look like, how they play out. It seems like a big lesson for a couple hours on a Saturday morning, but I think getting out there is the best way to show her. Children absorb so much of what they see and do. Why not let her see this aspect of our culture?

As the years go on, my daughter and I will start to discuss actual political positions. Not only will I share my own beliefs with her, I’ll take her to hear speakers who have opposing views. I’ll  make sure she sees that most people are just trying to do what they think is best for the country. But more than anything, I’ll want her to know how important it is to get involved. The best way to do that is to let her see that politics are important to her parents.

(Photo: Courtnee Mulroy/Shutterstock)