“Who are you going to vote for, Mom?”
I suspected that my nine-year-old daughter, Maddie, would ask me this question sooner
or later. I was just hoping it would be later. But then again I should have expected
it. Maddie has always been one of those kids who asks
“Why?” when I wish she didn’t, and never has accepted things “just because”
or “because I said so.”
So I told her who I was planning to vote for and my reasons for that decision. But
then I turned the tables.
“Who would you vote for if you could?” I asked. “And why?”
The ensuing conversation was both enlightening and disheartening. I was amazed by
her grasp of some of the issues, but disheartened at some of the things she told
me she had heard from classmates.
After a lengthy discussion, I came away with a reminder to jump at these teaching
moments as they come up, because if my husband, Mark, and I don’t, someone else will.
And as much as we don’t like to admit it—at least in front of our kids—Mark and I
don’t have all the answers. We’re always open to any help we can get from grandparents,
brothers and sisters, friends or professionals. The key, then, is to take that advice
and funnel it in a way that we think is best for our kids.
When it comes to the topic of politics and religion, we are grateful to have some
help from the U.S. bishops. Every four years they try to take some of the pressure
off us by preparing a document addressing some of the moral issues involved in political
choices. This document looks at many of the issues facing voters, in light of our
faith, to consider before we step into the voting booth next month. What it does not do
is tell people who to vote for.
The bonus is that it also helps Mark and me prepare for casting our own votes.
With the election coming up, here are some things to think about:
Take a look. Read over Faithful Citizenship. It’s available at www.faithfulcitizenship.org.
This site also has ideas for ways that families and other groups can use and discuss
You might consider convening a group of friends, parishioners, etc., to discuss
the document and bounce questions off each other. Invite your parish priest. And
remember to establish from the beginning that this is an informative session, not
Listen. My youngest daughter, Riley, hates to be wrong. She gets embarrassed
and angry. Sometimes she’ll cover her eyes or stubbornly cross her arms and loudly
say, “Don’t say that.” My point is, no one likes to be called on the carpet or told
they’re wrong. And so we tend to lash out, dig our heels in the sand or refuse to
Considering other points of view doesn’t mean you will change your mind, but it
could offer you a different perspective.
Be nice. How often do we say this to our kids when they’re playing together?
But how often do we follow our own advice? For instance, shortly after the funeral
of NBC’s Tim Russert, I heard people on several news programs lament how nasty and
divisive all political coverage had become. Unfortunately, the cease-fire that resulted
lasted only about a week, and then it was back to business as usual.
As most of us know, the two things people become most passionate about are politics
and religion. If we could remember to be nice to one another, perhaps we could have
more productive discussions.
Talk, talk, talk. I can remember sitting at our kitchen table with my dad,
asking him questions about all things political. One thing I’m amazed by as I look
back was his ability to lay out the issues without simply reciting his take on things.
Sure, he offered his opinion when I asked, but he strongly encouraged me to look
at issues from all angles and then come to my own conclusion. Talk to your kids about
the election and the issues surrounding it. What do they think? What concerns them?
What is their take on certain issues?
Vote. The best thing we can all do in order to be heard is to get out and