My son was born four years ago, a month before the presidential election. With him in an Ergo, I took the sleeping baby with me to vote.
A few times since, I have taken him with me to vote in more local elections, though it’s less exciting with the new technology in my district: no fun knobs to turn. My husband and I are interested in politics but rarely, if ever, discuss it in front of our children.
You can imagine our surprise, however, when my son suddenly asked one night, at dinner, if he could vote. I told him, while trying to mask my astonishment, that he wouldn’t be able to vote in elections for people in office until he was 18 but that he could go with us to vote on Election Day, which was soon and he’d have off from school. He said he would like to go (Seriously?! You would?! Great!). My husband asked him if he votes for things in his class at preschool and he sort of said they did but didn’t seem so sure. I was pretty sure that they had voted on the names of the class guinea pigs.
But, my husband and I tried to figure out, what had possessed him to ask such a question? From time to time, we have occasionally mentioned that we vote at the local public school up the street. Some of his friends have ended up at that preschool; perhaps he just wants to visit his friends’ school and he knows that this is how we do it.
It can’t possibly be that it’s already time to talk to him about real voting, is it? My son is happy unpacking groceries, playing with his friends at school, and seeing how much he weighs at his four year check-up; he doesn’t need to know about the economics behind how the groceries got there or the educational and healthcare policies that create his world. I’ve tried to remember when I learned about politics: I remember being aware of Geraldine Ferraro in the 1984 campaign because she was the first woman to be a vice presidential candidate; I was 8. But I don’t think I knew about the actual issues then.
However, as my husband and I watched the debates and discussed the voting demographics in play, it occurred to me that this next generation, the “youth vote”…that’s going to be my kids one day. Right now, he doesn’t need to know about the issues but the actual practice is important. Maybe we could even do some ballot voting around the house: what to have for dinner or where to go on a Saturday; it would still be learning about democracy.
In many ways, it makes sense that my son asked to go vote since he’s at that stage where he does want a “vote” or a voice on things that go on in our lives and our house. What he may not realize is that my 19-month-old daughter will go with us on Election Day, too; the real lesson for him–he’s not the only one learning to vote.
You can find information about voting in New York City here.
You can find general information about voting here.