The last presidential election was indeed a time of firsts. Released with my newborn son from the hospital on election day, I barely recognized the world around me when I stepped out of that maternity ward after the most grueling week of my life.
On the one hand I was filled with incredible hope for the future, Matt driving me straight to the voting booth so I could cast my ballot for change before the next feeding. “I have a baby,” I wanted to scream aloud to the masses gathered in that school gym. “Your vote is going to affect my child.” So strange. My child.
On the other hand, I was utterly overwhelmed–in plenty of pain from an unplanned c-section after hours of labor, and wondering how it was legal to send an exhausted mother back into life when her infant still didn’t know how to feed. How many wet diapers is he supposed to have in a day? Fifteen minutes away from those all-knowing nurses and I had already forgotten everything.
Four years later I have adapted rather well to the motherhood thing, sleeping through the night on a regular basis again and worrying little about what the parenting books tell me to do.
And yet, at the same time, my hope for the future of America has waned as party politics become the ultimate reality television show with a winner who gets to gamble with the lives of all Americans.
Orwellian doublespeak rules the air waves in unprecedented ways. I struggle to keep the faith that any political candidate really cares about my children. As we draw red and blue battle lines, I can’t help but wonder how I will teach my children to be informed and think for themselves. How will they learn to separate fact from fiction in a crowdsurfing, technology-saturated culture of knee-jerk texts and tweets?
Lately, I have come to think that preschool lessons are the most profound. If I had to boil down the important issues for my almost-three and four-year-old on this election eve, here’s what I would say:
- If someone on the playground falls down and asks you to help them up, lend them a hand instead of assuming that they fell on purpose.
- If your teacher interrupts your game to enforce the rules, respect her by turning on your “listening ears.” Rules exist so everyone gets a turn and has fun playing the game.
- If the show you’re watching on tv is too scary–meaning that the people have very sharp teeth or talk too loud indoors using outside voices–then turn it off and ask your mom to read a book instead.
- Remember that God loves everyone–even the boy you don’t like who knocked you down and took your toy. So, turn off your “listening ears” for anyone who says that God is on their side and not yours.
- If you have a lot more toys than the other kids, you should share them. That means that you might have to give away five toys when your friend only has to give away one. Also, it doesn’t matter if your parents gave them to you or if you took them from another kid or if you earned the money to buy them yourself–sharing is good.
- It’s fun to drop pennies into the piggy bank at first. But then, after awhile, it’s better to snuggle with mommy, wrestle with daddy, or give check ups to all your stuffed animals. Pennies just aren’t that cuddly.
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