Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Well Done, Sister Suffragette

In the earliest months of parenthood, we go through so many wonderful firsts: first step, first solid food, first word ("askitiki" — we still don't know what it means; we think it must be Greek). Now, at eighteen, my daughter's milestones are less celebrated, less dramatic. But, today is special.

My daughter is voting for the first time.

It's "Super Tuesday" (although a clever Facebook friend referred to it as "Stupor Tuesday" instead). My daughter is a registered Democrat (like her mother) and she'll be voting in today's primary.

But, not for my candidate.

Wow. This came to my attention several weeks ago. At a late dinner with two fairly progressive friends, we were comparing the potential nominees. My husband (who had enjoyed a rum tasting at a museum opening earlier, as well as a couple of beers with dinner) spilled the beans. Apparently, my daughter had done some research and felt her values were more aligned with one of the other contenders. She had confided in her father and sworn him to secrecy.

I thought he must be mistaken.

No. I was mistaken. 

Wow. I had a few quick words with her when we got home. (As you can imagine, she was furious with her dad.) When pressed, she admitted that she had made up her mind, in part, because she took an online survey and the results told her which candidate she matched.

"Oh," I snapped sarcastically, "That's a really intelligent reason! If it's online, it must be true."

Once I was past my initial surprise, I realized that my daughter's right to vote (something that our forefathers and, especially, our foremothers fought desperately for) is hers and not mine. I have no right to tell her who to vote for any more than my husband has the right to tell me.

Wow. It was another one of those moments when it was abundantly clear that my daughter is her own person. Not the personification of some abstract concept I might have about what she should be. And, certainly not a "mini me."

My daughter, who to my great pride considers herself a feminist, did her own thinking and came to her own decision. And, despite my skepticism about online questionnaires in general, she is voting with her heart. She isn't strategizing about "Which candidate is more electable?" or "Which is more likely to beat Trump?" (I told you we're both Democrats.) When push comes to shove, I have to defend her decision. Even if it's unexpected. And even if it isn't mine.

Why is so much parenting success — especially in these late teen years — bittersweet? We want our children to be happy, confident, independent. But it continues to catch me off-guard when I realize that she needs me less than she did. That she's ready to roll without me.

Eight years ago, I took her my daughter with me to vote for Barack Obama. The atmosphere at our polling place was energized, upbeat, wonderfully optimistic. We all knew we were making history (we happen to live in a mostly-blue town in a mostly blue-state). I wanted her to respect and appreciate the process, and I'm glad she joined me.

This morning, I asked if she wanted to go vote with me. "No," she declined, "I'll go on my way home from school." I just nodded.

After all, it's her decision.

If you've enjoyed this post, I invite you to order the book Lovin' the Alien here.     

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