On This Inauguration Day and Every Day, Let’s Leave the Little Kids Out of It

So much hand-wringing these days on Facebook lately from parents about kids and the election.

What do I tell my kids? They ask.

How do I explain what’s happening? And then, What will he think when he’s older about the explanation I give?

Well, friends, I am not a parenting expert, but on this Inauguration Day, I am here to offer a novel idea.

Why don’t we, as parents of young kids (I’m not saying middle or high school or above. I’m talking young, curious toddlers and their ilk.) just leave them out of it?

I know it goes against a lot of parenting theories these days, when moms and dads are taught their kids should be reading at 4, perfecting Mandarin at 6, and be master of their own little emotional domains by 7. But when you think about it, it kinda makes sense.

See, here’s the deal. Toddlers and young kids really don’t know what’s going on at those raucous political rallies. They don’t understand what is happening when those men and women in suits are screaming at each other on Meet the Press. They have no idea what the slogans they’re so jauntily sporting on their little t-shirts or hats mean. And I promise you, they don’t have enough understanding of foreign policy or the economy to know, at this stage in their lives, whether or not they truly like that politician that you and your spouse so proudly support.

That’s kinda the beauty of being a kid.

So here’s my thought: Why don’t we stop taking our babies and toddlers to rallies? Stop forcing them to wear silly campaign hats? Stop passing them to politicians to be kissed? And just… wait for it… LET THEM BE KIDS?

I know, I know. It doesn’t make as impressive of a Facebook profile picture these days to have a non-partisan toddler. It’s not nearly as cute as having him or her wear a too-big campaign t-shirt while she’s perched warily on your shoulders at a rally. And it certainly won’t get you those coveted Likes on Facebook or Instagram.

But you know what it may do? Leave open space in their young and rapidly-forming minds to realize that one day, maybe they don’t have to believe what you do.

We teach them to walk, so we don’t have to hold their hands their whole lives. We teach them how to feed themselves, so we don’t have to spoon feed them. And we teach them to think on their own, so that they don’t feel beholden to live their lives according to our beliefs.

What if we don’t try to mold them into being Little Us-es, but rather encourage them to be Little Thems?

And what if, when they are old enough to ask what you think politically one day, and are old enough to understand, you say something like, This is how I feel and why, but you may someday feel differently?

This approach doesn’t flatter our parental egos as much, giving us the daily validation that so many parents need that we’re Doing It Right, but it does do right by them. It does teach them that their own life experiences and their own beliefs can shape their own eventual political leanings. And it teaches them that there is value in standing on one’s own, no matter how he or she grew up.

Strength, growth and hard-earned wisdom. On this Inauguration Day and every other day, what’s more American than that?

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