The debates came off like Super Bowl parties, with Olivia making popcorn for the events, Gareth asking to stay up past midnight “to see who wins,” and me hollering “foul!” at the TV like I’m Steve watching the Maryland Terps in the final four.
Meanwhile, Twitter stepped victoriously out from under the shameful mantel of secret-late-night-addiction and took its long-coveted place at the center of “family time.” Like a 1950s family mesmerized by the antics of Howdy Doody, we gathered around my computer to snuggle and giggle and gawk at the endless stream of humorous political tweets that galloped through my account.
Lest you mistake us for a hypnotized bunch of jelly brains, you should know that Twitter is interactive! Olivia especially thrilled at inventing very mature less-than-140-character quips for me to tweet like: “My 12 yr old daughter thinks Mitt looks like a 50 yr old Ken Barbie.”
Oh, we laughed.
During the VP debates, Olivia became a Joe Biden fan. Now she giggles with glee at the idea that this boisterous, guffawing, laughing-too-loud, tell-it like-it-is-whether-you-like-it-or-not-guy, whose sometimes indelicate honesty so resembles hers, will be around for another 4 years. She loves him enough that I’m thinking, “Hmmm, maybe she’ll slap a poster of him up over that horrible Niall Horan poster that currently takes up half the wall in her small room.
Then I’m thinking, “Ew. Perhaps we are taking our politics too far.”
As they watched various pundits and politicians stream across the TV (because, as all good well-rounded families know, Twitter is so much more fun if you watch the news while you tweet), they’d ask, “Is he/she good or bad?”
How easy for us to order their world: lining people and opinions up in neat little columns for them to digest and arguably, carry into adulthood. You see, most kids adopt their parents’ political views with little consideration for other perspectives.
Ouch. That’s a lot of responsibility. It’s also very tempting. Think of it, the opportunity to create a gaggle of political little-yous running around voting your way and proving how right you are for a lifetime!
And for us, this will happen sooner rather than later because I realized: Gareth will vote in the next presidential election!
I tried to do the right thing: to represent Mitt Romney with more nuance, but I may as well be honest. I failed miserably. Why couldn’t I have gotten the more moderate Dwight D. Eisenhower, or the benign Gerald Ford to work with?
Flummoxed, I did the next best thing. I told the kids that I should be more fair and admitted that I just couldn’t dig deep enough. My aversion for Mitt had temporarily run the well of fairness dry. So I told them what I thought Romney would say if he were in the room, then I told them how I’d squash every one of those pesky arguments with the relentless whap! of my unforgiving fly swatter.
I actually think this is OK. I disagree with the relatively new idea that balanced news should paint every viewpoint in a positive light. I think balanced news should do its best to represent every viewpoint for what it is. If it’s a bad idea, we shouldn’t sugarcoat it in the name of misguided equity.
So I didn’t.
Meanwhile, election night finally came. I vowed not to watch: too much stress; too much speculation; too much waiting. Steve put on a movie and I…(sigh)...logged on to Twitter…and…you know you can’t properly appreciate Twitter without the news…
So we watched and tweeted and laughed and barely breathed. When it got late, we tried to make Olivia go to bed, but the beauty of living in a “small house” is that you can still participate in a family conversation from your bedroom. Hearing the commotion when Ohio fell to Obama, she reappeared, eager to share in our celebration. And why not?
By late night, only Gareth and I remained. He wanted to see Romney concede, but the guy took too long. Didn’t he know this was a family event? All these high school-aged Democrats who wanted one last glimpse of him had to be up at 6 am!
No matter, we had plenty of HAPPY to carry us through the next day, and the day after that! I recognize, however, that the kids’ happiness still derives more from our feelings than it does from their independent views. We will continue to work on developing their political literacy, hopefully helping them to see the big picture and to think for themselves.
In the meantime, I feel our parenting success lies in having at least shown them that there’s something even more interactive than Twitter. It’s called: Democracy!