Bedtime for Democracy

So, yesterday was Election Day. Here in Pennsylvania, we got to pick our local State Assembly representative, U.S. Congressman (I can say that because both candidates were male), and governor. Fortunately for us, our polling place is just down the road from our house, so this year I decided to take the girls for the first time.

In the past, it’s been too difficult to go to the polls with the kids. Going with a double stroller was hard to manage or, if they were out of the stroller, they had the potential to get bored and restless if things took too long. However, it was a midterm-election year, and there were only three races and no referendums on the ballot. I figured that, at ages 3 and 4, they would be old enough that I could manage it on my own.

I tried to come up with a way to explain to them what we were doing:

“Today, you’re going to come with me to the polls and vote!” (I was prepared for the word “polls” to throw them–I remember as a kid thinking “I don’t see any poles…”)
“What’s that?” asked Daughter #1.
“Well, when you vote, we pick the people who are going to lead.”
Blank stares.
“Okay, you know how Mommy and I are in charge of our house? Well, we’re picking the people who will be in charge of Pennsylvania.”
Daughter #1thought about this for a moment, and then said “Oh! So are we voting for you?”
“No, sweetie. We’re voting for the governor. He’ll be in charge of running things in Pennsylvania.”
Daughter #2 then asked “Who are we voting for?”
“Well, there’s Tom Corbett and Tom Wolf.”
A big smile spread across her face. “Tom Wolf gave us the soap at the water slide place!” (She was confusing him for the Wolf at Great Wolf Lodge) “I’m gonna vote like Daddy!”
“And I’m gonna vote for my dolls!” added Daughter #1, who then proceeded to arrange her dolls for “voting.”

I figured this was as much as I was going to get them to understand, so I decided to quit while I was ahead.

At the polls, a campaign worker asked Daughter #1 who she was voting for. “Daddy!” she replied happily. She then told the Pennsylvania GOP folks about her pink outfit, and how pink was her favorite color, and how she had glittery nail polish on her fingers. After we went inside, she said the same thing to the poll workers. At last, I received my ballot and cast my vote, greasing the wheels of democracy for one more year. This was followed by a trip to the playground so the girls could burn off the crazies.

When she saw my wife last night, Daughter #1 told her what we did that day, and added “I’m gonna vote for Miss Becky for governor!” (Miss Becky is a colleague of my wife’s who is much beloved by the girls). When asked what the governor does, she answered that he or she “plans the events and affairs of Pennsylvania.”  Even though I know she’s just repeating something Daddy told her, I would like to think she learned something from this whole exercise. It will be interesting what she thinks when we go to the polls in two years. And it will be interesting to hear what she tells the poll workers, as well.

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