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Yesterday was your 11th birthday. You came out of your room took one look at me in my striped grey sweater, turned on your heels and returned wearing your own sweater that was almost identical. You said, “Mom, now we match!” Even though we were spending the day with your middle school friends, you weren’t embarrassed. You hugged me, and I knew this could be a last.
My mind went to earlier when you had come to me about the current election. You had begged me, “Please just tell me, who is our family for?” The growing pressure from classmates to “pick a team” had been mounting over the past several months and you were so frustrated with me and Daddy for not telling you which candidate we were for. I hope my answer will bring you clarity and although it might not be what you want to hear now, I trust one day you will understand and maybe even have some gratitude for the way your Dad and I have chosen to discuss politics with you.
My sweet girl, since the day you were born I have had so much respect for you. And by just 11 years old, I am certain that what is in your heart and your mind is so, so good. I trust that whatever is in there, will be nothing short of incredible, smart, and beautiful. I want nothing more than to give you the time and space to develop your own ideas about this world and to develop your own political opinions too. But when you have those, I want to be sure those are yours and yours alone. I don’t want them to be mine or Daddy’s or anyone else’s. It can be hard for children to sort through adult’s opinions, especially those of your parent’s. I believe you deserve parents that won’t put you in a place to sort through our opinions, in order to figure out your own. I look forward to the day you disagree with me in a political debate because I know it won’t be in spite of me or because of me. It will be all you and nothing more or less, and I will be so grateful, and I hope you will too.
I know right now it feels like everyone needs a “team” to root for. But this isn’t that trivial, and I won’t let you believe that it is. (So yes, you still have to root for the Warriors, because that’s what our family does). What’s in your mind and your heart, your thoughts, ideas, and opinions, that’s the most important thing you’ve got in this world. That is what makes you who you are. I know who I am, and I don’t need to know that you can be me. My job is to raise you to be you. The idea of not giving you the space to do that, the idea that I might not get to see the real you because of my own projections or a desire to have you on my “team”, that breaks my heart. I won’t do that to you, and to be honest, I’d be the one missing out.
This doesn’t mean there won’t be discussions about politics or government. Daddy and I will keep engaging you and we will answer your questions in a way that is age appropriate. We will always present ideas, on all sides, as neutrally as possible. We will outline campaigns and candidates with as many facts and as little opinion as we possibly can. We will encourage you to give yourself time to sit with all these ideas. Most importantly, we will challenge you to think critically and deeply. Sometimes it will be impossible to keep our opinions entirely from you, and sometimes sharing will make perfect sense or be appropriate. We will cross those bridges as they come, and give you as much time to sit with it and to have your own feelings, as we possibly can.
I know today you want to dress like me, and it makes me emotional to think about how much you want to be like me. Someday, if you choose to become a mom, you will know how overwhelming that feels, to hold your heart in mine. I know how easily I could have you rooting for whoever or whatever I might be. But just because I can, doesn’t mean it’s the right choice. I know it seems like everyone at school is, but just because everyone else does it, does not make it the right choice for us, and I am so sure that it is not. Every family makes different choices for their children and what is right for others, might not be right for our family and that is ok. What is important, is that there is mutual respect for those differences. What is right for us, doesn’t make it the right choice.
As you get older, you will start to have some strong opinions about this world. You will start to see things with a more fully developed brain and you will understand issues in a different way than you do right now. Someday, you will want to take a stand for something, and not because we are, but because somewhere deep inside you, it will feel like the only right thing to do and the idea of not taking a stand will feel utterly unbearable. I will be here for that. I’m going to listen to what is in your heart and I will want to know all about how you got there and what you want to do about it. Even if I don’t agree, I will be there. I am all in on you, no matter what.
There will be some ground rules around politics too. Just like everything, the way you are in this world matters. Our expectations will be no different here. We expect you to always behave in a way that is authentic, honest, loving, and respectful.
- You will not be allowed to make disparaging comments, generalizations, or references about people or groups of people based on their political party, political beliefs, or who or what they voted for.
- You will not be allowed to decide someone’s worthiness in this world based on their political opinions, thoughts or ideas. We don’t think less of people because of their politics.
- We will not choose to be friends with or not be friends with people based on their political beliefs.
- How you behave on the internet matters, who and what you support, like, heart, etc. matters. Don’t be reckless or careless.
- We will always give people the benefit of the doubt. We assume that people’s opinions, ideas, and thoughts are because they care deeply about our world and the people in it, even when we disagree.
- Hate is hate and it’s not welcome in this house. You can hate ideas, but never people or candidates. Try being curious instead.
I love you, more than you’ll ever know. Knowing you has been the greatest gift, and I get excited at the thought of witnessing who you will become. It’s the opportunity of a lifetime, being your mom. We don’t have to agree on everything or anything at all, because I will always be on your team.Published in