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Little People & Politics

I am a single mom with two little girls (ages 6 1/2 and 8). With the elections coming up, we watched bits and pieces of the presidential debate. This prompted a lot of questions which makes my little political mama's heart race with joy: Finally; they're old enough.

We started talking politics 4 years ago, but they were so young. We talked about how there's a president and a little bit about his role, but there's only so much a 2 and 4 year old can "get". This time though, I think they're starting to get it. With the debate running in the background, we discussed government and the various levels. We talked about voting and how/ why it's important. All of this lead into a discussion about women's suffrage and how women used to be viewed as less important than men. Oh the shock! Here I have spent all of their childhoods talking about how people are equal and we should treat everyone the same (no matter sex, race or the sandwich in their lunchbox). My girls were dumbfounded to find out that the rest of the world doesn't and hasn't always felt the same way.  

Albeit a rather hasty and muddled conversation, something registered with them- they have both commented on our talk since that night and even still will randomly ask questions about women & their rights.

We live in a country where - in spite of all of it's flaws - we have the right to vote. Women have a voice and they are booming... if we let them. 

A friend recently emailed and said that I had to watch the OPB special "Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity" (based on the book by New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn). One night, after I tucked my girls into bed, I cozied up under the quilt and got lost in the stories of women and girls around the world. Every story was full of tragedy and loss and yet each one was flanked with a gutsy heroine that was bringing hope to these cities and villages while fighting an uphill battle against the community and traditions.

It hasn't been all that long that American women have had the right to vote or demand that their voice be heard. I'm curious, how are you handling these delicate issues with your girls? Do you talk about how their counterparts in other countries are growing up, how some of our own relatives and predecessors have suffered real, blatant barriers because of gender?  And for those of you rearing little men, how do you talk to them about women's rights?

Comments

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Zzzz. Omg are you kidding me right now? Not only would I like to spare my kids the political crap as long as possible, but it's boring as all get out. Zzzzz.

Ok Cranky-pants, I disagree. I think our kids need to know some of what is going on, enough so that if other kids discuss stuff in the playground, they won't say something offensive based on things they have overheard us say to our like-minded friends! I am reallly hoping to pass my values along to my daughter, and these are the formative years. If I wait too long, she will learn her values from others when I'm not around. And I don't always agree with others. I want to discuss things with her so she understands where I come from, and she can form her own opinion from the things she experiences in life on her own (this is why it is good that kids can't vote until they are 18...the frontal lobe doesn't even finish developing until the late-20's, so I think a lot of things should be delayed as long as possible until one can say they have a fully grown brain!).

Our kids are not shielded from politics. Isn't it better that they hear about these things from us before they hear it from some other kid's parent during a play date (which they will, so at least they can see there are 2 sides, or more, to these things)? Especially if said parent has different views than you?

Oh, and in answering the question of the OP, there IS a war on women right now, and we need to raise strong daughters who can stand up for their rights when it is their time. I think it is honorable to teach our daughters about the women who paved the way. Let them have heros (heroines??).

These are not "delicate" issues! And why ON EARTH would how my elementary-aged kids and I talk -- and the content of that discussion -- depend on their gender???!!! That raises my eyebrows and hackles. With regards to women's rights and suffrage: We went headlong into it with the "Little House" books when the oldest kid -- a BOY -- was four years old. It's easy! "Oh, wow, Laura doesn't want to wear her bonnet. Her mom is talking about being a proper lady. can you imagine that girls weren't supposed to...what would that feel like/what "supposed tos" are there for girls/boys now etc" And then, current events/life: he's older, and 'Yes, honey, I vote. I love voting. Yes, Dad votes, too" may be the first time we talk about suffrage, but then "Did you know that until pretty recently women couldn't vote..." etc etc.

So far, any feelings/emotions/thoughts about The Past that my kids have had after "discussions" with me or DH have led only to renewing their passions about saving the world (from whatever; and, yes, I know, there are downsides to kids being idealistic; that's for teenage disillusionment years). It hasn't lead to guilty feelings, moping, depression, fear, confusion. We don't overload them, parents talk to each other so we know who has said what ("hey hon, by the way, went OFF on a rant about Indian schools this evening; heads' up; might hear something about this").

Although, re-reading the OP, I realize something: we DON'T sugar-coat the "everyone's equally deserving of your respect regardless of sandwich" issue: quietly, when the time is right, we will add "and not everyone believes that/does that/not everyone gets the same opportunities/whatever the issue." GREAT opportunities for discussion come from that! When the kid is ready (internally), the kid'll respond, "what??why??? you're kidding" and you're off!!!

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We talk about it all the time, always have. Of course we're VERY political in my house (like MSNBC, especially now, is my default afternoon viewing), so my daughter is now kinda bored with the whole thing....but we discuss this and sexism/racism in general a LOT.

Also, kids are exposed and understand the basics at an early age: during the 2004 election, my daughter's preschool had an "election" between red and black spiders.

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