I hate politics. I teach Social Studies, and I really do want my students to have interesting discussions about relevant current topics, but when seventh graders start talking politics, I’m done. It’s too depressing to hear twelve and thirteen-year-olds, who most likely lack the maturity to formulate their own political beliefs, make bold declarations, repeating with absolute conviction what they read on Facebook or heard at the dinner table. If you’re going to argue about politics, I tell them, check your sources. Make sure you have credible information. Don’t believe everything you hear.
I hate politics because it is a source of division and anger; I seek cohesion and avoid conflict. I hate politics because so many people are so fanatical about it, whereas my nature is to find the kernel of truth and reason on both sides of an issue rather than to claim categorically that my side is “right”. Most of all, I hate it because it has turned me cynical. Who can feel good about showing up at the polls to vote for what they see as the lesser of two evils? There’s something terribly wrong with the position in which the current political system has placed moderate voters like me.
But what does any of this have to do with parenting?
As a mother, I think frequently about the type of world I want my daughters to inhabit, the types of experiences I want them to have, the type of people I want them to be. Since becoming a parent, my politics have changed. What I want for my children doesn’t fit onto one side of a political T-chart.
I hope they will be compassionate and without judgment toward others who need assistance with food, shelter, or employment. I hope that they will tread softly on our earth and seek ways to protect it. As Christians, I hope that they will show kindness and acceptance to all people. I hope that they will spend their money responsibly, never taking on debt that they will have to struggle to repay. I pray that, whoever my precious girls become, their country will continue to protect their pursuit of happiness.
I am trying my hardest to teach my children to listen more than they talk and value compromise over being “right”. I want them to know that changing their position on an issue is not a sign of weakness, provided that their change of heart is genuine and based on careful examination of different points of view. I want them to speak up in the face of injustice, even if it makes them unpopular. In short, I want them to be the kind of people who I could vote for with a little bit of idealism in my heart that maybe, just maybe, the future really is going to be brighter.