Last Wednesday I did something that I don’t usually do. As my family sat down to dinner I placed my laptop on the kitchen counter so we could watch the debates while we ate our meatloaf. Of all the debates so far, I felt that this was the most important. So we sat and watched and discussed. What was interesting was that this was the first time our kids had really been part of the conversation.
The whole thing intrigued my five year old, and since his Kindergarten class is talking about “good citizens” they’ve been reading about Abraham Lincoln. I found it amazing that my son is being taught that the most basic and important qualification of working “in the government” (as my son said) is to be a good citizen. It occurred to me how simple, yet how true that was.
I watched the rest of the debate with that picture in my mind. I asked my son what it means to be a good citizen. He said, “you tell the truth, you help people, and your nice.” How can you argue with that?
Isn’t being a good citizen what working for the government is all about? Whether it’s the clerk in the mayor’s office, to the feds in Washington, on up to the President of the United States. With all the issues that are so heated right now, and all the things at stake in the coming election I was curious to see who my little five-year-old son thought should be the next president. So I asked him.
“Whoever is the best citizen.” Was his answer.
I think he’s got the right idea. The conversation and his answer got me thinking. He’s five, how do I start teaching him about politics and government now? I guess maybe the whole idea of being a good citizen is the right place to start. But what other ways can I raise my son to be socially aware?
By omitting all of my own personal political views and explaining to him that both John McCain and Barack Obama are good citizens who want to be even better citizens. And they want to help all of us be better citizens too. I can make sure he knows that they both went to school, studied hard, and dedicated their lives to helping people.
I can show him by setting a good example of what it means to be a good American. He sees me volunteer with the PTA, and wear his school t-shirts on spirit day. It may seem silly to some, but I think it’s vital. I’m showing him what community is all about. That we are all part of something bigger, and it’s our duty to take an active part.
I vote absentee, but during the primaries I held on to my ballot and hand delivered to my local polling place. Why? So I could take my son and show him. I also had him sit with me while I read up on all the propositions and issues that I was going to be voting on. So he could see that I took the time to make an informed decision. That I took the time to vote at all.
I only hope that he is as passionate and taken by the American government and politics as I was as a kid. That love and passion has made me a better person, a better parent, and a better citizen. And it will do the same for him too.