Shutdown & Adults Behaving Badly

How were you or your family affected by the government shutdown?

I think we all were. Whether we were directly impacted — having a government job that ceased to pay, or indirectly — those that rely on the services of those government workers that were no longer getting paid, and for what?

There was a range of emotions our family went through as the shutdown extended — anger (this is ridiculous, people are hurting), disbelief (I can’t believe American workers are being made to suffer over a non-crisis), and empathy (what can we do to help those who are hurting because of this?).

As a parent, the greatest threat to undermining our teachings of morals, values and beliefs to our kids (which is a key part of parenting) is adults behaving badly. And what we’ve seen during this shutdown is adults do just that and in the worst way — digging in and abusing their power for their own gain (saving face, pride or an insatiable desire to win at literally any cost). It is sickening to me when I see other adults do this (no less on such a grand scale) and hard to explain to my kids.

“Why are they doing this? Don’t they know they’re really hurting good people?” One son asked. “That’s a great question,” I replied, “Sometimes people make threats to get others to do something they want. People are fighting against the threat, but the way those that shut the government down are fighting — by not paying people — is actually making our country more vulnerable. As a citizen it’s really frustrating to see what’s happened. Even though mom and dad travel for work, I wish the TSA workers would have stopped showing up right from the beginning. I wouldn’t have liked being stuck in another city, but at least the shutdown would have ended sooner and the tactic the leadership was hoping to use to get their way wouldn’t have worked sooner.”

Yes, I probably over explained but I wanted my sons to better understand the situation.

They seemed to understand what I was saying, but I know that it’s doesn’t help my cause as a parent — every time an adult behaves badly, it tells a child that an ideal we ask of our children to strive for, from a behavioral standpoint, is to be questioned. Why do I need to behave when those much older than I who should be setting the example, and are our supposed leaders no less, do not? And so now my sons have a truer sense for how the real world works. Sad.

How are you helping your child understand the shutdown? How do you help them understand a situation better when they see adults behaving badly?

A House Divided, a House United

Raise your hand if you are glad the election is over?

Both my arms would be raised if asked this question. There were a lot of stressful events to watch, read and hear about in recent weeks—the election getting to a fever pitch — what will happen if Romney wins, what will happen if Obama gets re-elected, followed by Hurricane Sandy and its aftermath, followed by the actual election and a country divided.  Doesn’t feel very good, right?

A reprieve from this negativity came in the form of reality came from my niece and son. My niece who was four in 2008 said that she would have voted for John McCain in our last election. When asked why, she simply replied, “Because his hair looks like grandpa’s!”  And she was right it did look like Grandpa’s.  My oldest son said to my husband and I one day in recent weeks, “I would vote for Romney!”  When asked why, he said, “Because I like his hair!”  Wow, I thought, hair has a lot more influence for a kid than I would have expected, and boy I’m glad the voting age is 18! 

Mo Rocco did a recent piece for CBS Sunday Morning where he walks a classroom of kids through the election, electoral process, and the complexity that can arise when the popular vote and electoral votes don’t match. The outcome of the mock election—what is better: colored pencils or markers—didn’t seem very fair to the children participating in the segment. The popular vote in the classroom had been for colored pencils, but markers won the electoral vote. The kids were divided. One side elated, the other felt like it was unfair. It would resonate with anyone who suffered through the 2000 election.

When the election was over and my anxiety succumbed to relief, I took a deep breath. I knew the outcome. It was over. Knowing I could now move on and not have to stress about “what-ifs” made me happy.  The last two years leading up to this felt like a rivalry football game–it felt like one team was winning handily, but being told constantly that the other team was closer to winning than you might think. And instead of “the game” lasting four quarters it felt like 100, maybe 1,000…basically it felt like an entirety, a roller coaster ride that I was glad had ended.

The innocence of a child’s thinking–like my niece and my son’s–can be easily lost in such decisive times. I wish it wasn’t that way. Elections are about winning and losing. It’s a competition played in the dirtiest of ways—half-truths, innuendo and exaggeration. Like the children in the mock election, some of us are elated with the results while others are heartbroken. While we may feel like a country divided I think we can all agree on this—there is much to still fix in our country, and the way we run political campaigns is very, very disappointing.

While I don’t have hope around how our politicians campaign and get elected to office, I do have hope for our country finding more common ground and working together to address our issues.

In my house we can all agree on that.