Just about any parent can tell you that there are times when their child sets such an example before them that it simply takes their breath away. My six year old son did just that recently.
Tucker is a quickly maturing first grader. The changes in him just since the school year began are amazing. He is more outgoing and forming his own opinions of the world around him. But with all of this comes a heavier parenting responsibility. The world is full of good and bad, and it is up to us to pay close attention to the effects those things are having on our kids.
For months every newspaper, television station and dinner table conversation was saturated by politics and even six-year-olds took notice. Being so easily influenced by what they hear at home, I want my kids to learn to think for themselves. But considering the sensitive nature of some of the campaign topics, we were cautious in the discussions that took place in front of them. Simply by virtue of being children, they deserve to be sheltered from the worries of terrorism, recession, and all things that strike fear into the hearts of even their own parents.
Tucker came home one day a couple of weeks before the elections and proudly announced that his class had held their own election and he had voted for Obama. We were curious as to how he had made his choice and he told us that it was through some of the things he and his classmates had discussed. Then he piped up and asked “Obama is the one with the white hair, right?” When we told him no, that was McCain, he said “Oh. That’s the one I voted for.” I smiled. How cool was it that hair color was the biggest difference that Tucker saw between the candidates? Just another small triumph for us as parents.
Look at the world through Tucker’s eyes and consider the possibilities. Obviously he made his choice based on the simple issues he was capable of understanding. He didn’t see black and white, or consider which he wanted to see in the history books first: a black president or a female vice president. He just looked at what the candidates had to say about whichever issues he understood and he made a choice. These early lessons are helping to form a responsible, well informed adult who will someday take the privilege of voting very seriously.
I believe that children, when given the chance to form their own ideas and opinions about the world around them, will end up making better choices than those of us with a few more years and a lot more cynicism under our belts. I truly believe that each new generation is a little wiser and a little more tolerant than the one before. I hope that Tucker and his classmates can somehow manage to hold on to the lessons they learned during this election and that by the time they are old enough to really cast their votes, they are still capable of seeing beyond those things that have become stumbling blocks for so many of the rest of us.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.