To be honest, I'm not sure how to talk to my kids about this election cycle.
Last time it was easy.
My son, to whom we ofter refer as Alex P. Keaton because of his penchant for wearing suit coats and ties on minor occasions, came home from school one afternoon in 2012 and announced: “It's settled! I'm voting for Mitt Romney.”
To which I replied: “That's too bad. I'll miss you when you move in with the neighbors, but I'll still be able to wave at you from your old room every now and again.”
What, you say? Horrible mother!? Taking away a preschooler's right to vote in a general election. Sheesh!
Truth be told, I wished my mother had set me straight about politics when I traipsed in from school one afternoon in the 1980s with an announcement of my own: Jelly beans are cool, peanuts drool.
Of course, I felt a tiny bit guilty taking away his right to think for himself, but we're not running a democracy here. There's not a lot they can control. They don't get to vote for who becomes chief cook and bottle washer.
They eat, we cook.
They wear clothes we wash them.
They need braces we pay.
They go to college we panic.
I'm sure that sense of panic has something to do with the place we find ourselves politically.
At night, after they are tucked-in and sleeping, I whisper “state school,” hoping to implant a notion that will grow into a plan, which will save us from refinancing the house or having them take out loans they might be able to pay off when they have children of their own … after they reach 40.
This election cycle, however, I don't have to threaten my kids with rehoming if they choose the honeycombed comb-over with a giant scowl.
They're already afraid he might win. They wouldn't want to cancel out each other in voting for the guy who looks like their papa – Einstein hair, dark glasses and all.
The idea had crossed my mind to tell them someone had spliced some strange reality game show into the national debates, and now broadcast technicians were at a loss for how to fix it.
“Not to worry, it's just a glitch,” I imagine myself saying. “Soon we will be back to the regularly scheduled programing.”
But they're not as gullible as all that. They can see something has changed since we last elected a president.
Maybe it's that politics has become an extension of regular programming.
Every four years we have to pack up our belongings and relocate them to the part of our imagination that tells us where we could live in harmony with our ideals.
“We'll have to move to Canada,” says my daughter, an echo of her friends, which I can only image rings back to their parents.
“You know … It will be hard to move to Canada,” counsels my son, who has already figured out the logistics. “But not impossible … I figure mom can be a substitute language teacher. She can teach every language except Chinese.
“Do you know why she can't teach Chinese?”
“Ahhhhh … because she doesn't know any Chinese?”
“Nope. Because my friend, Johnny's mom is going to teach Chinese. That's how we'll all stick together.”
But it seems we probably won't stick together. Even in this discussion, the goal is to divide and conquer.
“Are you hearing this, mom? Can you tell him he's crazy?”
“Sorry. I can't argue with that logic. It makes about as much sense as anything these days.”