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Moms Talk: The Politics of Parenting

How much do your kids need to know about your political views?

My daughter just LOVES President Obama.

This is based on next-to-nothing. He is “her” president, in that he’s been president since she learned what that was in kindergarten. About the only two things that she knows about him is that he’s multiracial like her (the same reason she roots for Apollo Ohno on Dancing With The Stars) and that one of his daughters has the same name as her mom.

Oh, and that one of her grandpas doesn’t like him very much.

When she goes on about her love for him, one of her parents smiles fondly, mentally egging her on. The smile of the other is more strained, as that parent is internally comparing her naivety to that of the electorate. 

My daughter knows that her father and I disagree about the president. But she does not know which smile is which. And I don’t think that she needs to.

How exposed is your child to politics? Tell us in the comments section.

I’m not saying that we keep our child ignorant of politics. She knows that there is an election coming up, and some of what that means. She’s marinated in the things her parents agree on: with many openly gay family members and friends in her life there is no question of our stance on Referendum 74, for example.  And she has learned about some of the issues in school, and others by exposure to that one grandpa’s love of Fox News.

But since we don’t watch the news in front of her, she hasn’t yet been steeped in the roiling boil of hatred that is modern politics. She’s seen only a very clean and sanitized version.

I personally think that’s a good thing. She’s eight. She doesn’t need the sex and violence of politics. (My heart goes out to all of those who raised pre-teens and teens during the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal.)

As parents, my husband and I are dedicated to teaching our daughter how to think, rather than what to think. Because of this, I enjoy her being exposed to beliefs of all different flavors, be that political, religious, philosophical, or otherwise. And learning to agree to disagree is also important to me. 

So I would never try to keep from her that many people disagree with her beloved president about many things. But does she need to know that some people think he wasn’t born in Hawai’i or that they compare him to Hitler? She doesn’t even know who Hitler is yet.

When she’s older, she will be more involved. Next election cycle she will be 10, and 12 for the next presidential. She’ll care more, and have her own opinions. Will I then more want to let her know where I stand? I don’t know yet, but I think so.

I look forward to hearing about the age that you readers think is the right one for full frontal political exposure. But right now I see young kids on both sides with signs supporting arguments they couldn’t possibly understand, and I just cringe.

For us, for now, it’s the process that is important. My girl watches her parents vote at home, with voter information pamphlets in hand and web browsers open. She knows that we sometimes argue and sometimes vote for different people. And she goes with us to drive to drop off the ballots in the drop box at City Hall and cheer at doing our civic duty.

But which boxes got checked by which parent? It’s just none of her business yet.

Of course, if you think I’m wrong, we can agree to disagree about that.  

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