If you've been reading for the last couple of months, you know that Elections matter in our house. We get really interested in them. Papa-Bug is a former Political Science major and at some point his interest and enthusiasm for political things rubbed off on me. Now we are rubbing that passion into our kids.
Election day dawns. We live in a Vote By Mail state, but our family fills out our ballots on Election Day. We drive to the County Election Office and the kids put the ballots in the ballot box.
At 9 days old, this was Baby-Bug's first trip into the outside world. He wore an Obama button on his tiny hat and slept through the whole thing.
After we vote we go out for brunch. Papa-Bug wears a stars-and-stripes tie. We listen to John Philip Sousa. We talk with the kids about how lucky we are to live in a time and place where voting is a right and privilege. We talk about how this was not always the case for everyone.
In our homeschooling, Election Day has had lots of different projects. We've learned vocabulary, geography, and lots of math. Brother-Bug adores the Electoral Map apps on the iPad and will sit up if he can't sleep, making predictions, reading op-ed pieces, and contemplating past electoral maps. He figured out point spread himself and talked rationally about if Hurricane Sandy would effect the election and did we think it might give Obama “a little bump”. Truly. The child's brain seems to be built for this.
So we made him an election. I solicited participants from my Facebook friends. Each “voter” was to send in a ballot (self-written) voting for their favorite of three candies – Halloween bringing candy to the forefront of our consciousness recently. Ballots were mailed in. We collected them in a ballot box we made. Yesterday, while Papa-Bug and I waited tensely for polls to close, we opened our candy ballots and counted them.
We counted each stack and made a simple bar graph to chart our progress.We gave Brother-Bug colored tiles in three colors and he made a stack for each kind of candy. We were voting between Skittles, Candy Corn, and M&Ms, each voter casting one ballot for their favorite.
It was a tight race. We almost had to recount, but in the end, M&Ms pulled out a narrow one vote victory.
It was a really fun project (and nicely diverting for tense parents). I think that it got the idea of voting and how that works in an effective way. A few ballots are still in the mail, so the lesson will go on as we talk about what happens if you don't vote on time!
But that was a prelude to Election Night. We ordered pizza and got root beer (a rare treat for our kids). We watched PBS, the live maps on Politico, Facebook, and Twitter. Brother-Bug had his own US map to color as states were called for each candidate. At first, as the certain and easy-to-count states were called and the middle of his map turned red, my little Democrat's ire began to rise. But we showed him the swing states and gave him a list of those to track which made him feel better. He celebrated hugely with each new blue state and enthusiastically swigged his root beer.
Sister-Bug and I dozed off earlier than Papa- & Brother-Bug. I raised my lids for Obama's acceptance speech, but Brother-Bug was awake for the whole thing. He used his blue marker to write VOTE up and down his arm. When President Obama thanked the volunteers and anyone else who helped in the campaign, Brother-Bug glowed with pride because of the $9 he donated.
I am deeply glad for many reasons this morning; there are more women in Congress than ever before; we have a President I believe will do the best job possible; local elections went well for my wishes. And most importantly Marriage Equality passed in three states and Minnesota defeated a definition of marriage measure,
And I am so glad that my little guy had such an empowering experience. Our system of democracy may have deep fissures and flaws, but it is by participation that we can make a difference. And people who feel good, who feel empowered, are more likely to raise their voice, or fill out a ballot, and make the changes happen. I'm deeply happy that Brother-Bug is joining the ranks of empowered citizens.