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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.

Linda Labbo November 07, 2012 at 01:16 PM
I never took my kids to vote when they were growing up. They were always in school but I think doing so is a fantastic idea! Whether you believe in the results of an election or not, the important lesson you give your son is it's important to vote; it's important to remember history and be thankful for those who paid the price for voting; and voting is a duty! Well done!
Maureen Ruiz November 07, 2012 at 01:40 PM
A friend of mine told me the positive experience her two little girls had last week when she took the with her to vote. I thought it was wonderful until I heard another thought on the subject on BYUserius radio. Two men were talking about the merits of giving children this great expeience, one man pointed out a negative: this isn't a field trip, this is an adult privilege, children are not always well behaved and can annoy lots of people standing in line. Children should not be a distraction to you while you are voting. Leave the children home. Just another perspective on the subject. As for me, sometimes you just need to take children with you and have fun doing it.
Leigh Hewett November 07, 2012 at 02:19 PM
That is an interesting perspective and something to mull over before taking your children with you. I think that you have to know your child's limitations and ability to behave. Notice in my article that I did not take my 3 year-old with me. That would be a nightmare. I think that older kids who can respect that it's an adult place where they have to show restraint can get a lot from the experience.
Becky November 07, 2012 at 02:24 PM
Well done an well said. Given the many options for voting now, I would think children disturbing others is not an issue. Children imitate what they see their parents doing, so if it is important to you, you must include your child.
Rebecca McCarthy (Editor) November 07, 2012 at 02:42 PM
Here's my response: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=4862070877467&set=a.1079437313992.79272.1468069653&type=1&theater
Kat November 07, 2012 at 03:03 PM
I was voting in Duluth yesterday and a mother and father with their 5 children were in front of me. All very small, with the youngest in a carrier on the father's chest. The baby screamed loudly during the hour it took to get to vote. The other 4 were fairly quiet. I agree it can be a learning experience for an older child, but a whole troup and a screaming baby is a bit rude.
Crystal Huskey (Editor) November 07, 2012 at 03:52 PM
I took my kids. The day before, I made the election into a story about a king, and told them how we choose which king we want to lead us. They were so excited about voting. They were, of course, split over which one I should vote for. I showed them pictures of Obama and Romney, the White House (AKA castle), and kiddified some of the major issues. It went over really well. (They're 3 and 4.)
Eve November 07, 2012 at 05:19 PM
Why on earth would it be anything but a good thing to take your kids to the polls? It's an opportunity to teach them about the political process and get them involved and paying attention. Why would this even be controversial?
Linda Labbo November 07, 2012 at 06:37 PM
I wonder if we start having the litmus test of what is "annoying" to some people in line as who should and shouldn't vote, or be present during voting, if we could include the elderly folks who use walkers? They are slower than most of the rest of us and might need some assistance. Is being slower and potentially annoying a new criteria? How about a single mom who has the right to vote and no one to watch the kids? Should she be disenfranchised because someone might be annoyed while waiting in line? Sounds like a strange and not so brave new world we are living in within our democracy where every registered voter should have the right to vote.. whether they are annoying or not.
Mr. B November 07, 2012 at 06:50 PM
That's amazing, Kat. An entire family? With parents caring for their own kids? Were the day cares close yesterday? Three cheers for rudeness!
Leigh Hewett November 07, 2012 at 06:55 PM
Well said, Eve.
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 (Editor) 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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