One day, early on in the presidential primary race, I was watching news coverage of the candidates on television when suddenly my son, who was three years old at the time, piped up, “Is that Barack Obama talking?”
I hadn’t realized before that moment that he was paying any attention to what I was watching, and I was quite surprised to learn he knew Barack Obama’s name.
“Yes, that’s Barack Obama,” I said. “He’s running for president. He’s a Senator.”
And then, my three-year-old proceeded to bombard me with a tumble of questions about the election. What is a president? How do we choose a president? How does a person vote? Who gets to vote? Why are so many people running? Why are they on T.V. all of the time?
I realized he must have been paying attention to news about the election for weeks. And somehow, he’d picked up on the fact that this subject was something that the grownups in his life considered to be incredibly important.
I’ve never wanted to be the sort of parent who indoctrinated a child into my own politics. I’d much rather raise my son to be an ethical, compassionate person and a critical thinker who thinks carefully about important issues and makes his own decisions than try to convince him to share every opinion of mine.
But, in watching my son’s response to this election, I’ve realized two important things: first, that even at a very young age, children can be incredibly perceptive about many issues we adults don’t expect them to be able to understand, and second, that even a very young child can benefit from watching adults deliberately engage with their community in a positive way.
I hope that what Isaac has learned from accompanying me to my local campaign office, to rallies and voter registration drives and volunteer events over the past several months is that, when people come together to work toward a common cause, they can achieve incredible things. I’m sure he won’t fully understand the historic nature or the global ramifications of this election for many years to come, but I hope that one day he will look back on this and think, my family never showed me what it was like NOT to care about my county and my community. I want him to feel that apathy is not an option when it comes to politics, no matter what his political views are when he is grown.
Incidentally, Isaac genuinely likes Barack Obama in an instinctive sort of way. He said, on that very first day that he and I talked about the election, that he thought Barack Obama should win because he was “the best one” and seemed “nicer” than any of the other candidates,
I think small children are actually pretty good at judging character.
Jaelithe Judy (mother of Issac)
Saint Louis, MO