Parenting

How My Husband and I Are Talking to Our Kids About This Election

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Last night at dinner, the dinner conversation turned to politics, which is a new phenomenon since I’m apolitical. I don’t do politics. But I’ve somehow gone and married a man who is as political as I am not. He has views and strategies, agendas and plans, and he loves to talk about them. So I am learning. And now my dinner conversations involve names like Donald and Hillary.

The boys make bold statements about things they know very little about. Who is good, who is bad, whom they’d like for us to vote for based on whom we should be afraid of and why. They know just enough to be dangerous. Probably like most of us, I dare say.

Peter said, “Men, here is something that will be true at this dinner table: you can feel however you feel, and you’re welcome to any opinion. But you have to have a reason for it. You can’t just declare a viewpoint without knowing why you’ve made that decision. So if you make a statement about something you believe, I’m going to ask you to defend it.”

Tyler said he’d like for none of us to vote for Trump because if he becomes president, then one of his classmates is leaving the country. He’d like for his friend to stay in the United States, and preferably in his very own fourth grade classroom next year, so nobody is allowed to vote for Trump. And then he added, “And anyway, we should just vote for Hillary because she’s a girl, and that’s a whole new beginning. I mean, that’s history in the making, Mom. We should have a girl for president. That would be the first time.” All hail the beauty of raising boys who dig smart girls.

And then Tyler added, “Also, Trump wants to build a fence around our country to keep people out, and I think that’s a terrible thing.”

And Tuck said, “But also the Mexicans are sneaky and they try to get in and we should keep them out.”

And Tyler said, “They come for a month and they get their papers, but then they try to stay longer and it’s not fair or legal.”

Wow.  There’s a whole lot of half-information happening here.

Peter said, “Guys, let’s talk about this. Do you know what the word ‘immigration’ means?”

They heard the word “migration” in that bigger word, which reminds them of the stingrays in Finding Dory (which you should see because we gave it all the thumbs up), who taught us that “migration” means “going home.”

Peter said, “Yes, you’re right. And our country was founded by immigrants, people who came here from Europe because they wanted a better life than the one they had. And it has always been true that anyone from anywhere can come and live here, as long as they go about it the right way. They can come and apply for citizenship, and then they can live here if they are willing to pay taxes and follow the same rules that apply to all of us.”

Tyler said, “So, it’s kind of like getting on a cruise ship?”

We just got back from our honeymoon cruise, so discussions of cruises are all the rage at our house. The boys speak confidently, as if they themselves are Cruise People. Also, ever since our wedding reception, they have grown accustomed to raising their glasses and giving a toast. At nearly every meal, someone underage is giving a toast with his glass of milk, calling us all to raise our glasses in the name of families or for Peter or for all the dads in the world or ultimately for the good of mankind or for SpongeBob.

I couldn’t see how immigration issues are like a cruise ship, but I’ve learned to let him speak his analogies before I shut them down. “How is it like that?”

“Well, anybody’s allowed to take a cruise, but they have to get on the ship in the right way. They can’t just sneak on in somebody’s luggage. They have to have a passport and pay the money to be there, and they have to let the ship know they’re on board. And then they can enjoy everything about the vacation, just like everybody else. Right?”  I mean, he raises a strong point. Yes, it turns out, immigration is a lot like cruise ships.

Peter continued, “Yes, I can see some similarities. So, in lots of countries around the world, people have built a wall when they didn’t want to let the outsiders in. Trump is suggesting that we have a place where they can enter, so we know who’s coming in, how long they’re staying, and whether or not it’s legal for them to be here.”

Tuck said, “Well, suddenly it doesn’t sound like a bad idea.”

“That’s the thing. Sometimes a little more information can change the way you think.”

“I still think we should vote for Hillary,” says Tyler.

“Why?”

“Because she’s a girl, and she loves the children, and she just does a good job.”

“Those things might all be true, but a lot of people in this country have some questions about how honest she is. Some people asked her some important questions, and before she could give the answers, she was busy deleting her emails so nobody could know about her conversations.”

“That doesn’t seem honest.”

“Exactly.”

And then Tuck said, “Well, I think we just haven’t said enough about Bernie Sanders.”

“Let’s talk about him.”

“I don’t really know,” which are the winning words in a dialogue with my new husband. Just start with admitting you’re not sure before you spout off black and white facts, and you get miles more credibility. “I’d like to hear him speak. I’d like to know more about him.”

Again with the credibility. Say you’d like to learn more before you make up your mind, and you’ve just moved up a couple notches. So we talked about debates, how they’re meant to let us hear what the candidates have to say, but it’s really a contest about many other things that have little to do with political views.

“Mom, who are you voting for?”

I told them that I am as yet undecided, that I can’t bring myself to commit to anybody yet. I think Trump is absurd and Hillary raises some question marks. I told them that I’d really like for everyone to put all the pieces back in the box and start fresh, like getting new letters during your turn in a game of Scrabble.

But then I reminded them, “Guys, who’s ultimately in charge?”

“God.”

“Right. And he wants us to be smart, he wants us to be involved, and he wants us to make decisions that are important to us. But we can know that he won’t let anyone into office that he hasn’t approved himself.”

We taught them the word sovereignty, how this election may come and go and we will have no idea why God has allowed this or what he has in mind, but we can still trust him. And as long as we remember we can trust him, we don’t have to be afraid. Because above all else, long before and after any election, I want to empower my children to be thinkers, not followers. I want them to be men who lead, not men who are afraid. And this election is a time to show them: in this family, we are thinkers.

(Having said all of that, I really would be up for trading in all the game pieces and starting over again.)