I turned out of the cafeteria, down the hall toward the gym, when suddenly, there he was.
My five year-old. All ready to go with jacket already on, as he was just making his way in from the playground.
We were genuinely happy to see each other.
I scooped him up and smothered him with kisses (none of the other kiddos were around), and we made a plan to “pop this popcorn stand.”
On the way way home from Fun Club (after-care at his school) we rocked out to a little Uptown Funk, swapped stories of our day, and mused on dinner.
I turned into our driveway. Parked to get the mail – he let himself out and ran to the front porch, and that’s when I saw it.
He’d unzipped his jacket and there across his little chest, colored in red and blue crayon was an “I Voted” sticker.
The fear took hold almost immediately.
“Did you have an election at school today?” I asked.
“Who’d you vote for?”
“I voted for Fiction,” he said – with authority.
“For Fiction, huh?”
“Yeah, we didn’t do a real election, like for the President. Instead we voted on what kind of stories we like. Fiction or Non-Fiction.”
This lead to a lengthy discussion on my position. I gave an overview on how, for a very longtime I was strictly Fiction, but within the last few years, as my needs have changed and ideas have broadened, I’ve aligned more closely with Non-Fiction.
By this point, Briggs was no longer interested. And my fear had subsided, and instantly replaced with sadness.
Growing up, I loved mock-elections. I have clear (and wonderful) memories of casting my Presidential votes from elementary through high school. I always enjoyed Social Studies, History, and Current Affairs – but during an election season – I LOVED them.
The issues. The candidates. The debates and policies. It was all so fascinating. Inspiring. Fueling my innate desire to participate.
I’ve participated in nearly every election (national, state, and local) since I was of legal age – and regardless of the outcome – I’ve always felt good (so very good) about taking part in the process.
It’s a primary reason why, since he’s been on this planet, Briggs has accompanied his father and/or me to the voting booth. We want him to see democracy in action. Know that our roles matter – and that we are voting (each and every time) with our hearts, and his future in mind.
But that doesn’t mean I’m above getting scared.
Because, while it hurts to write, the thought of my Kindergartener being over-exposed to this election terrified me.
I saw that sticker on his chest, and I went right to worry.
Worried he’d been exposed to name calling, or sexism, or racism, or homophobia. Or all of it. All of the painful, hurtful, lasting trauma of this cycle. I worried he’d been picked on, or bullied, or silenced for repeating or sharing his parents’ views.
The anxiety flooded in – then, the truth of the actual “Fiction vs. Non-Fiction” vote let it out – and then, the sadness – and then, then the gratitude.
Because while I still feel sad, that I had initially feared what Briggs could have encountered this political season – while I had to work through the shame in wanting to deny him initial exposure to a system and a process I not only respect, but admire – all of it has brought me (and our family) where I am right now, tonight…on the eve of this historic and heartening and hardening election…
Filled with promise, and love, and purpose. Proud to participate. Ready to share the sign of compassion that my son shared with me this afternoon.
That little sticker, that will bring peace to my part and declare once again that, I Voted.