Talking to My 10-Year-Old Son About the Current State of American Politics

I listen to a lot of NPR in the car. But when my kids are in the car — my 10-year-old son or 5-year-old daughter — typically put music on. They find “the news” boring — just like I’m sure I did as a kid. Besides, they each have their own Spotify lists filled with various songs that I don’t like, but that I listen to because I love them.

Like most mornings, I drove my 4th grader to school today. As I was backing out of the driveway, before we had Spotify set up and turned on, he must have heard something that piqued his interest.

“I really hope Donald Trump doesn’t win again in four years,” he said flatly.

Now, my wife and I are both left-leaning Democrats who grew up in decidedly right-leaning, Republican areas of upstate New York and western Pennsylvania, respectively. Our kids — at least our son — have heard us talk about the election and Trump and the things he’s doing now that he’s in office.

We try not to say too much, though — and we always remind him not to talk about any of it at school.

It’s just over a mile from our house to his school, so we didn’t have much time to discuss the situation, but we covered things like impeachment, the general difference between the Republican and Democratic parties, the way “Liberal” and “Conservative” align to those parties, what the separation of church and Staste means, and also the fact that we have friends and family that we love very much who are Conservative Republicans who probably voted for Trump.

It was a lot of information for a 4th grader — hearing it for the first time — to process, but I think he understood most of it. I’m proud that he was so interested.

As we pulled up to the drop-off, he continued to pepper me with questions — questions that we didn’t really have time to discuss fully — but I cut him off and said “Buddy, what it comes down to is this. You’re 10 and you don’t need to worry about the details of political parties or conservative or liberal yet. You’re a kid. But as you get older, you’ll learn more about these things— from your mom and from me, but also from your friends and other people that you encounter in life. You’ll be an adult one day and you can make your own choices and decisions about this stuff. In the meantime, just remember how we’ve always raised you: to believe that everyone should be treated fairly and equally as human beings and that when we make decisions, they shouldn’t be made only with our own selfish needs or desires in mind. We make choices that help us, sure, but that also help other people in our community and in our world.”

He just smiled, grabbed his lacrosse stick and his backpack, said “You’re right, dad,” and got out of the car.

I’m sure the conversation was largely forgotten the second he got into the school — replaced by thoughts of Beyblades and football cards and tonight’s lacrosse practice — but it was one of the first almost-adult conversations he and I have ever had.

I won’t forget it as easily.

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