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Taking Children to the Polls

I'm proud to lead by example on Election Day.

 

Yesterday, on Election day, I had the privilege of participating in one my favorite voting activities, I took my 7-year-old son with me to the polls.

He's come with me to vote many times and we've fallen into a nice ritual that unfolds as we drive to our polling station. The conversation starts in the car and the questions come at me one after the other from the back seat. His young mind is so curious to know more about the adult world.

My hope is always to give him the most informed answers I can about the democratic process that America uses to elect representatives and make new laws. The night before an election, I find myself pounding away on my computer, refreshing my knowledge of American history so that I can give him an answer to every single question he asks.

This election day was no different. "When did we earn the right to vote again?" he asked first thing. This simple question opened a complicated conversation about the battles that were waged before us so that everyone could have the right to vote. 

The fight for suffrage is not easy to explain to a child, since they generally don't understand discrimination but he followed along pretty well, listening intently as I told him about some of the Patriots who worked so hard so that I could vote with so many others on election day.

We entered the elementary school gym where I am registered. We were holding hands. "Hello there!" a nice volunteer greeted my son as we walked in. I find that most people at the polls are more than happy to see a child there with their parents. We glanced around the room to see two other kids holding hands with their moms too. 

I felt pride as I filled out the registration form and my son leaned on the table, watching my every pen stroke as I wrote in all the requested information.  We glided together arm in arm as I stepped in front of the computer to vote. He stood quietly, just as I had instructed him to do while I voted.

His favorite part is when he is given the "Future Voter" sticker at the end. He peels the paper off the back and slaps it onto his shirt with a smile.

I find it a privilege to take him with me so that he can witness the process first hand. My hope is that by the time he is old enough to vote, it will seem as natural as breathing for him to go to the polls because of the trips he took there as a child. 

I hope that as he looks back over his childhood that he will remember me as a woman who loved her country and was always proud to vote with him by my side. I hope that as a man, he feels pride when he votes, too. 

As we walked back to the car, hand in hand once again, he looked up at me and said "Thank God for Susan B. Anthony and her friends, Mom. I'm so glad that you have the right to vote."

My job here is done.

Do you take your children with you to the polls? Do you think that it's important to talk them about the election? Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comments.

Leigh Hewett November 07, 2012 at 06:55 PM
What a cute way to get them involved.
Leigh Hewett November 07, 2012 at 06:55 PM
They look so proud and happy, Rebecca!
Kat November 08, 2012 at 12:28 PM
There are some solutions to the screaming baby. Absentee voting, babysitter or the parents could take turns. If any of you claim you wouldn't be bothered by the baby screaming for an hour, you're not telling the truth.
Rebecca McCarthy November 08, 2012 at 12:57 PM
Kat, no one plans to have a screaming baby. For us, a babysitter is $10 an hour, and maybe this family couldn't afford the two or so hours needed to get to the polling place and vote. It was cold in my town on Tuesday, so maybe the parents didn't want to be elsewhere, taking turns. Like many other parents, I have dealt with a baby who had lactose intolerance (and it wasn't diagnosed until she was two months old) who could scream the house down, so a baby crying for an hour wouldn't necessarily bother me. And I am telling the truth. I am glad this family endured the bother of getting to the polls to vote--moving little kids anywhere feels like decamping the Army of the Potomac but I'm sorry you were bothered by the baby. Glad you voted, too.
tiffanie November 08, 2012 at 10:03 PM
I voted early so that I wouldn't have to manage my 3 year old in line. She's not super easy to keep happy in these situations. My 6 year old, however, is very interested in the election, so my husband decided to take him with him to vote. When the 3 year old overheard this, she begged to go, too. We couldn't deny her this experience, so I ended up at the polls twice so I could be back up in case she flipped her lid and there was a line. There was no line, both kids were angels and my 6 year old got to learn that we do not, in fact, choose the president by "counting yard signs." :)

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