Braving the voting lines with your kids

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voting with children 2008 election

I voted today -- yay! I may have just moved and had a baby less than a month ago, but I actually left the house and voted -- wouldn't have missed it for the world. Even better than proudly taking part in the Democratic process, my family went with me. Living in New York City, which is hectic and crowded to begin with, getting my family to the right district and voting was no small feat. That said, with a little patience and perseverance, it was well worth it to include my children in what is sure to be the most historic election of the modern era. But, should I have taken my kids to the polls? And, if so, how did I prepare?

I knew my district's voting location and decided what was appropriate from there. Actually, I say voting anywhere is appropriate for a child of any age because it's never too early to expose them to their right as a citizen of this country and their right to choose. Our voting location was in a school, the ultimate kid-friendly place, so it was pretty easy. I brought snacks and milk and a book to entertain my nineteen-month-old son, and whipped out the sling for my nearly-four-week-old daughter. Yes, she went too, along with my husband; it was a real family affair. We took pictures and chit-chatted with the other folks in line, many of whom had also brought their children. In fact, it was not at all out of place to see kids of all ages roaming about while their parents waited, in good humor, to cast their ballots. Many kids entered the voting booths with a parent. Many wore t-shirts proclaiming their choice of candidate. Interestingly enough, no one was crying (parents or children).

Sure, the lines were long -- we waited for more than an hour -- and it was pretty crowded, but both adults and kids alike seemed to be a-OK with the sensory overload. The chaos was rather organized and the volunteers ran things more smoothly than in the past. And, for the first time ever, a police officer was in attendance. That probably had something to do with the order. Perhaps it was the importance of this particular election, or perhaps it was that school was canceled and the kids had a day off -- one of those beautiful Fall days in New York you hear about but rarely see. It was also first thing in the morning, when everyone was well-rested, recently fed breakfast and still in a good mood. Should you take your child to the polls this evening, after a day of life -- probably not. Oh, heck -- yes, do it then anyway -- let your kid be a part of something huge right along with you!

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.