It’s been more than a week since I filled in the ovals, front and back, at the township hall, but the “I Voted!” sticker is still stuck on my jacket. It’s right where I put it last Tuesday, when I was so high on democracy that I grabbed the red, white, and blue badge, peeled off the backing, and pressed the sticker proudly to my chest.
“Elections have consequences,” the news pundits, with their wagging fingers, are fond of reminding us.
How true. That sticker is going to leave a permanent gummy mark on the nylon, I’m sure of it. Still, at least this time around, no one has demanded I account for my vote.
“Mom, what ARE we?” my youngest son asked, on the afternoon of the last presidential election.
There were a million and one answers I could have given him: We’re humans, we’re American, we’re Michiganders, we’re organic gardeners, we’re Detroit Lions fans, we’re dog lovers, we’re voracious readers, and we’re a family too busy to spend much time dusting the crystal.
Or dusting anything at all, for that matter.
All perfectly true answers, but unfortunately irrelevant ones. It was Election Day and my son wanted to know our family’s political affiliation.
“My friends want to know if we’re conservative,” he wondered, “or liberal?”
There is this piece of lofty parenting wisdom I’m fond of quoting when other parents ask me for advice: “Children only ask hard questions when they are ready to hear the answer.”
I don’t know who said that, but whoever they are, they should be voted out of office. My son might have been ready to hear the answer, but what if I wasn’t ready to have the conversation?
I’m an independent when it comes to making friends, and I wanted him to be, too. Life gets boring if you are constantly surrounded by people who look, act, and believe in exactly the same way that you do. I won’t let politics ruin personal relationships for me and I don’t want it to ruin them for him, either.
But, I have back up. When lofty parenting wisdom fails, I turn to my father’s practical, task-oriented methods instead – “Look it up!”
According to The American Heritage Dictionary, a conservative is, “traditional, moderate, cautious, tending to oppose change,” and a liberal is, “open-minded, generous, tolerant.”
“We’re a little of both,” I told my son.
Election Day lasted 24 hours; parenting is forever. And forever is going to take a little caution and a little generosity. These days, neither Republicans nor Democrats have much time to dust the crystal, and I’ll happily take tips on how to get that gummy mark off my jacket from either side.