Why I Discuss Elections With My Kids and So Should You
‘Who will you both vote for?’, asked the elder one staring from her father to me. ‘Will you vote for the same party?’, she persisted. I let this one slide or was at least hoping to but persistence and children have an uncanny connect. ‘No, a family does not need to favour the same party, everyone has their own choice’, the husband came to the rescue aware that some questions won’t just go away and perhaps it was time to tackle them anyway. The pre-teen stared from one to the other, assuring herself more than anything that there were no underlying currents in that statement. Parental discord rattles children like nothing else and for a 10 year old, elections are really not worth stressing over whether mom and dad are exchanging some hidden barbs!
There were none. Having grown up as a fourth- generation journalist, I have never known a time when politics was not part of the dinner menu. Yet, something is different today.
The winds that are blowing are not ruffling our hair gently, there is instead a battered trail that you can see, but only if you want to. So, to simply explain the election process to a child is just skimming the surface.
The Burden of the Vote
Only once our children realise this will they understand the enormity of going out to cast their vote.
This time over 15 million new voters are expected to exercise their right to hope. They are new and not cynical like us, in their innocence they will expect their chosen MP to visit them several times to fix that road that caves in every monsoon and to provide non-existent jobs. In hindsight, perhaps we were also like this or have our politicians become just more blatant?
But belief is nothing without the absolute freedom to choose that faith. Kids are sensitive and find it easier to go with the flow, sometimes we need to spell it out for them. My child now knows she is the only one who can decide her comfort zone.
Your Child Knows Your Political Inkling
All walls in homes with children have ears, so you are in denial if you think your child doesn’t have an inkling of your political inclinations, especially in intense times like today where as both parents and citizens, we are living in very emotional times. Our dining table conversations have never been the same since political discourse became jarringly vocal and a divide sheared right down the middle, making it only black and white, either you are for the nation or against it. Old friendships have fizzled out simply because not everyone thinks alike, they never did but thus has it come to pass, aggressive arguments instead of light bantering.
Conversations instead should revolve around the environment that affects them directly. They have a right to know that.
It’s not going to be easy for the first timers to decide on their vote. It is far from uncomplicated for us veterans! On one side is a party that flings jingoism as a proof of nationality, while on the other is a party where the more things change, the more they remain the same.
Can you imagine how confused our school children are with the constant changes in their text books? The only lesson that we can teach them is that what goes around, comes around, even if it takes 5 years. So, if your child has visions of a utopian world, don’t crush it, instead let her or him demand it.
Let them ask why we still don’t have clean air. Let them question why in the capital of the country a girl cannot step out alone even to the neighbour’s house. Let them wonder aloud why their mother’s Muslim friend born and brought up in the country is now made to feel like an outsider at airport immigration. Let them think why there is an impression that Indian lives have no value. Let them continue to eat the same amount of sweets for Diwali and Christmas and share equally the kebabs at Eid.
And finally, tell them everything is not about Chacha Nehru.
(Jyotsna Mohan writes extensively for most major publications in both India and Pakistan. A former senior news anchor and senior news editor with NDTV, she also heads the morning news band for @editorji.com)