White Knuckle Parenting, Election Edition: Raising Purple Kids

My husband and I cancel out each other's votes in many elections, but the effect on our kids is a good one.

Today is election day, also known as The Day All the Horrible Phone Calls and Political Ads End. It is a good day. The problem for my family, however, is that my husband and I are on opposite ends of the political spectrum and today is the day that an icy silence descends over my house.

Remember those long days of hanging chads after the 2000 election? My husband and I didn't speak for probably two weeks. It got ugly.

Now, of course, we have children to consider, forcing us to remain at least outwardly civil, regardless of whom edges out ahead in what is sure to be a nail-biter presidential election. Because one of us is a blue voter and one is a red voter, I'm assuming this makes my kids purple, which I actually think is a really cool thing for them.

I think that most kids grow up believing what their parents believe. I know this was the case with me. It took me a while living on my own before I felt that I had really come to my own conclusions and beliefs. It's perfectly natural to follow your parents' political inclinations and it's perfectly okay, but I like the idea that my kids will have to actually discover their beliefs themselves from the start. 

Hopefully they will come down blue, which, for the record, is the correct side.

To both of our credits, my husband and I are very careful to not try to brainwash our kids to our side. We may be partisan jerks with each other, but in front of our kids, we make a strong effort to present both sides of most issues. Fortunately, there are some crucial issues that we agree on, making our home life tolerable (and allowing us to brainwash our kids just a smidge). We're able to work across the aisle every once in a while.

I've watched my oldest son turn into what can only be described as a bleeding-heart liberal, which makes me so very proud. I told him that I thought he fit the profile of an Obama voter, which led him to ask about the difference between the two sides. I tried to think about how to describe the difference between Democrats and Republicans and all I could come up with was that Democrats care about and want to help people and Republicans want to step on the little guy, but that seemed unfair so I just decided to keep my mouth shut. I think I came up with something a little more levelheaded in the moment.

My husband has since told me that "wanting to step on the little guy" is very much not what Republicans are all about, but I'm not sure I believe him. Also, he wasn't willing to give me a better answer. Frankly, I'm not sure that I can believe anything he says. When I met him in college, he was a long-haired neo-hippie. Just like a conservative—deceptive from the start.

Regardless, I'm glad that he shares his opinions with our children, because as wrong as I think many conservative ideals are, I want my kids to learn to critically listen to both sides of issues. I want to raise them to make up their own minds. My kids get to hear smart, informed opinions on both sides of the spectrum from people who are willing to still love someone who respectfully disagrees with them.

I think it might be an advantage for them to grow up in a purple house.

More than anything else, I want to raise my kids to be thoughtful voters and thinkers, who learn about the issues and listen to their brains and hearts. I think we have a good start.

Jean, a.k.a. Stimey, is a freelance writer who writes a personal blog at Stimeyland and runs an autism-events website for Montgomery County, Maryland, at AutMont. You can find her on Twitter as @Stimey and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/Stimeyland.

Amanda Guyton November 06, 2012 at 07:07 PM
Being Dem or Rep is about a basic difference in the understanding of what government is for. Dems believe government is about creating and maintaining community at all levels, so that every's basic needs are met and everyone can then move forward to consider other things. Reps seem to focus on government as a financial entity charged with basic business infrastructure (roads, water, communications) and defense (in the raw, keep-out-others sense). Everything else is every man for himself.
Bill Hussein O'Stalin November 06, 2012 at 08:13 PM
If someone is sincere in their beliefs, political or otherwise, then they don't need to fear or condemn other's beliefs. Sincere beliefs do not lead to silence. I would never defraud my children by letting them believe the government is more important than the individual. Ironically, children are smarter than many believe and they see right through the political hypocrisy.
Elaine November 06, 2012 at 09:07 PM
Bah. I'm happy to brainwash. If only so my kids can hit that moment in college (like I did) when they say "WHAT WERE MY PARENTS THINKING" which will send them into a tailspin like no other, unable to decipher what is true, what is false, and what is unknown. Plus, they, like me, may advocate strongly for a really stupid position as an elementary school child, and have to call their best friend and eat crow, many years later. Good times. Good times.


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