Every night for a week now I’ve sat down at this screen and tried to put this into words. And every night for a week I’ve stared and edited and reworded and mumbled under my breath — and ultimately given up.
What I can’t seem to put into words is the frustration I feel as a parent in this mess of an election.
Yes, as a parent. This election has been trying on many different groups of people, and I’d like to add ‘Parents of Curious Children’ to the list. It’s on TV, it’s in social conversation, it’s on yard signs on the way to school — the election is an unavoidable part of our lives. And the perpetual round of 20 Questions we all know as ‘Parenting’ has never been trickier.
“Mommy, what’s the difference between Democrats and Republicans?”
“Mommy, when you voted I saw more than two choices. Who are the other people?”
“What happens if there’s a tie?”
“Mommy, how do you decide who to vote for?”
I do my best to answer his questions, I really do. And the whole time, in the back of my mind I’m screaming, “Don’t be like us, kid! Grownups have completely messed things up! We don’t know which way is up anymore! DO BETTER THAN THIS.”
Because every dramatic statement I’ve heard on the news about the divisiveness is TRUE. Fragmented, broken, split down the middle. We are an ‘us vs. them’ society. Red or blue — pick a side. And stay there.
And I don’t want that for my kid.
I don’t want him growing up in a red bubble or a blue bubble and surrounding himself with like-minded people who never challenge him. I don’t want him to grow up believing that differences of opinion are a nuisance to be hidden from his Facebook feed. I don’t want him to inherit my opinions and ideas, just because he grew up in my house. The issues facing the country when he’s old enough to vote will look different than the issues of today, so spoon-feeding him my politics and teaching him to parrot the way I vote won’t help him. (I certainly hope) teaching him to be curious and diligent and thoughtful — will help him.
The way I see it, the electoral map may be a checkerboard of red and blue pockets — but the real, messy, imperfect world is bright, bold PURPLE.
And gray. And green. And brown. And a hundred other colors my kid will only know exist if I show him.
And if I raise my child in a red bubble, or a blue bubble – the purple reality of the world will overwhelm him and another generation will be paralyzed by discord.
So I’m frustrated that teaching my kid to be inclusive and curious is already HARD, and this election is trying to make it impossible. I’m frustrated that I don’t have better examples of collaboration and unity and acceptance when he asks hard questions.
We are more than a collection of (stubborn) people who live in red and blue pockets on a map. We do not have to let the divisiveness make us bitter and jaded and disengaged. We do not have to let differences of opinion breed hate and end friendships.
Because our kids are watching, fellow parents. The citizens and voters of tomorrow are watching. And they learn by example.