I made an odd decision this morning. Every day after I put the girls on the bus I go for a walk around the neighbourhood, just for a bit of exercise. Sometimes I run errands, sometimes I just walk a few blocks out of my way, making a big circle and looping around back home. Today I walked to the bank and deposited a few cheques, walking back along the main drag I noticed the big yellow election sign at the end of my street. Right, today is voting day. For a second I paused and considered heading over to the church to vote, and then I decided against it.
Yes, that’s right. I decided not to vote this morning. In part it was because my voter registration card was sitting on the shelf back at home, but mostly it was because I wanted to wait. I wanted to wait and go as a family. I wanted my kids to see me vote.
|Photo credit: Dennis S. Hurd|
It would probably be easier, more convenient, to walk down there on my own, now during the day, while the kids are at school, and then my husband could go on his own and vote whenever he gets home from work. Our local polling station is a mere four doors down the street from our house. It’s not like I need to wait and go in the car with my husband. I also certainly don’t need my husband present to vote. I don’t require his permission, or his approval. Heck, I don’t even know who he voted for in the last election. Sometimes we even (gasp) vote for different candidates, because we have differing opinions on who will do the best job.
What made me pause as I was walking along this morning, making a beeline for that giant yellow sign hanging outside the church, is that it occurred to me that when I was a kid my parents never once voted without me. My mom never voted while I was off at school. I have distinct memories of hanging out in the gymnasium of the local grade school, standing it line and waiting for my parents to cast their ballots. At the time it wasn’t a big deal. Just a boring fifteen or twenty minutes that I spent staring at the colourful gym walls. However looking back I realize I was also looking at the signs, at the cardboard booths, at the people lined up waiting their turn. I was, on some level, aware that this was something big, something important.
My parents never talked politics. Growing up I was aware that my mother felt strongly that Religion and Politics were both fine and private things. I never knew who my parents voted for. Our house never once sported a party sign on the lawn. But my mom and dad ALWAYS voted. And we were always there watching them.
Of course once I turned 18, I voted. I have voted in every election I’ve been eligible to take part in. To me that didn’t seem like such a big deal. It’s just what you do, right? My privilege and responsibility as an adult citizen of this wonderful nation.
However I have read the statistics and I cringe when I see the low voter turnouts. I shake my head and feel depressed when I read about how our youth isn’t voting. Goodness, doesn’t that make me feel old, because at forty I am certainly no longer considered part of the “youth vote”. Looking back I realize that not voting was never an option for me. You just vote, to do otherwise was something I simply never considered. I do remember that I was a bit excited to be able to vote in that first election, once I was finally 18, and after that it was just The Thing You Do.
As I was standing on the corner of my street this morning, trying to decide if I should walk over to the church and vote, or if I should instead just head home, I remembered all those times I watched my parents vote, and I found myself wondering if that’s why it seemed so normal, and so vital, to me.
So I made the concious decision to wait, and not vote until my kids were watching. Even if that means going in the evening when the polling station will likely be more busy, even if it means standing in line and trying not to lose my patience with two impatient and fidgety kids, We are going to vote as a family, because I think, just maybe, that it’s important for them to watch us voting, for them to see how simple it is to vote, for them to see that it’s something that their parents, and all these other people lining up and waiting for their turn, think is vital and important. Perhaps bringing my kids along with me to the polling stations is just like voting, both my privilege, and my responsibility.