In 2008, I took my sweet, spirited 3-year-old daughter Anna with me to vote. As part of our regular Tuesday schedule at the time, my in-laws were over for a few hours that afternoon to help. They stayed home with adorable 7-month-old Eleanor while Anna and I walked, hand-in-hand, to our polling place a few blocks away. I showed Anna how I filled out the paper form and she helped me slide it into the tallying machine. I bought her a cookie at the snack table: “Voting is so important, you can always get a yummy treat when you do it.” I — an unabashed health-food mom — told her with a smile.
A life-long Democrat, in 2008 I was excited to cast my ballot for Barack Obama, and cautiously optimistic that my children would grow up with him as president. As we walked home, I thought about how the next presidential election would be in 2012, when Anna could better understand what was going on, and Eleanor would be a real kid. My little children would be so much bigger, so different at 4 and 7 when we would next vote for president.
And, in fact, it was true. Four years passed both quickly and, on some days, very, very slowly. I know that I took both Anna and Eleanor with me to vote in 2012, but I don’t actually remember it. I had recently started a job that wasn’t a great fit, my godson was due to be born any day, and I was likely embroiled in the busy-ness of lunches needing to be packed, playdates scheduled, winter coats found — the markers of our wonderful, busy family life.
But this year is 2016. With Hillary Clinton on the ballot, this year is different, and I wanted to remember it and share it with my daughters. However November 8th — Election Day — is full of activities and appointments for my 8- and 11 year-olds. So I took my daughters with me to vote early at City Hall.
It happened fast — I stood in line, a bit bewildered, surprised by the crowds on an October Friday afternoon. I had my daughters watch as I cast my vote for (hopefully) the first woman president. I thought about my grandmothers, I thought about the suffragists, and we took a selfie with my 11-year-olds’s phone. Then we put on our “I Voted” stickers and went out for gooey cupcakes — of course; it’s Election Day, and I’ve pretty much given up on the health food front at this point anyway.
But in my rush I forgot something. I meant to say the Shehecheyanu prayer — something we started doing after taking Parenting Through a Jewish Lens. We’ve been saying it for years now in celebration of many of my children’s firsts — learning to ride a bike, losing a tooth, graduating from elementary school….
Even without the prayer, I am aware that Presidential elections — politics aside — are an opportunity for reflection and mindfulness. More so than yearly holidays, they give us, as parents, the amazing opportunity to notice where we are in our lives now, where our families were 4 years ago, and where they might be 4 years from now.
No matter who you’re voting for, I wish you and your family a happy, mindful Election Day.
PS: If you’d like to hear the Shehecheyanu prayer sung and in American Sign Language, I recommend this brief, beautiful video.