Thursday, November 4, 2010

Patriot act

Voting is one of those things where we take them along as we conduct our business and for us this falls under the agenda of teaching them a life lesson. For them it falls under the agenda of pushing the touch-screen buttons and getting a sticker. So while the lovely husband could have voted before work and I could have voted during my lunch hour, instead we met after work and took all three of the littles into the polling place.

I had the kiddos in the car and M was meeting us there so for a few minutes it was just me with all of them. That's fine and I'm fine with them but there's no denying that we're a bit of a spectacle. I parked the car and opened the back left door and lifted out a heavy baby and walked around and opened the far right door and out popped a girl but then we veered into clown car territory because out popped yet another girl. Our parking spot abuts the sidewalk and a hundred thousand volunteers watch us like sharks, waiting for the first instance when it's appropriate to shove flyers and talking points into our hands. My hands are unavailable, so they just watch us. And true to form, we give good show.

I've got G tucked in my forearm and L holding one hand and E holding the other and it was 41 degrees last night, when we went to go vote, and I finally got all the kids out of the car and up onto the sidewalk and I clip my keys to my purse and my purse makes its way onto my shoulder and I fumble for the button on the fob to lock the car and I hear the car beep and I answer the questions, always the questions, what do they have for us, Mama? and it's just papers, I say, papers we don't need; we already know who we're voting for. But we want them, say both girls, and of course they do, but still I'm walking us quickly because I'm trying to give my best 'I'm not interested in talking to you, Volunteer Lady' face but my girls are making their best 'Please talk to us and give us free papers, Volunteer Lady!' faces and here we are, a walking conflict of interest. G is blabbering his sweet baby talk and drooling all over my shoulder and he's at least 85 pounds by now and of course, both the stroller and my mei-tai are in the trunk of M's car and where is M, already? I think G's drool droplets just stuck in my hair and now they're freezing there and please, I think in my head, please, girls, don't choose this time to make friends but it's too late, Volunteer Lady is coming to spiel me. I try to preempt her but she takes a different tactic with me. "How are you tonight? You have your hands full! I understand. I have five daughters myself. Do you know your second one isn't wearing any shoes?"

And while I ponder that, my first daughter, the one who is shod properly, starts chatting her up about the photograph of a candidate for whom I would never, ever, ever cast a vote. I look at L in bewilderment and G just gained at least seven pounds and M was supposed to meet us here but obviously he hasn't yet arrived and I say, "L, love, where are your shoes?" and she says casually, as if she weren't absorbing frostbite from the sidewalk through her little orange socks, I left them in the car! I didn't want them!

G just gained four more pounds and I switch him to my other arm and I fumble for the car fob to unlock the car and I entreat L to go back into the car and find some shoes and here comes trouble, in the form of the sweetest-looking oldest white-haired gentleman you've ever seen. His hands are totally empty and I hear the beep-beep as he unlocks the car next to us, the one whose driver's door I'm blocking with my open rear door as I wait for my second child to don more than just orange socks to vote.

I think I hear my shod daughter promise we'll vote for the most awful candidate on the whole ballot and I know I hear my unshod daughter yelling at the white-haired man. "Please," he had said to me a moment earlier, "take your time. Your hands are full with the baby. My, he's a big one! {Ed. note: No kidding.} Let me hold this door open for you." He held the door of my car open for L to exit.

She does not exit. She is not wearing shoes. She is hugging two shoes to her chest and yelling at the white-haired man. Don't touch my door! I don't want help! I can OPEN IT MYSELF!

The ancient sweet man is apparently unable to hear or perhaps to understand a word of what she screams because he smiles blankly at her and says, "come, sweetie, can I help you out of the car?" and so L shrieks her frustration and throws her shoes to the ground. "Come, sweetie, help your mommy. Can you climb out of the car?" I begin to fear for his safety because I do think L might tackle him at any moment and he won't even see or hear the warning signs. I pick up her shoes and tell her she doesn't need to put them on until we're inside because a little frostbite is better than homicide-by-Crocs. And I haven't unstrapped three children to get this far and not vote.

Thankfully, M shows up and takes G from my arms. It's amazing I still have feeling in my fingers but I use the rush of blood flow to pick up L and her shoes and thank the ancient man and close the car door and find the lock on the fob and beep-beep it closed and convince E to leave the 'we don't believe in taxes' crowd gathering around her and inside we go and we have only one more incident, the one where L screams at the election worker who rips M's identity verification slip out of the printer when she wanted to rip it, even though nobody knew she wanted to rip it and last we checked, she's not an election worker and then we vote, E on my touch-screen and L on M's touch-screen and G just there for the ambiance and we get our stickers, and thank goodness, because otherwise all that talk I've provided all day about the power of the people to effect change and direct the future of our country, it would all be meaningless without the stickers.

And the girls treasure their stickers even though I voted for candidates who acknowledge the legality of taxation and they go home and put them amongst their treasures and I think that sometimes, it's really very difficult to participate in democracy but I'm so very glad we take the time to explain it to our children, to show them the value we place on participating.

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Lenae said...

Um, Robin? This might have landed on my Favorite Posts Ever list just now. As in, I think I want to read it again... maybe four more times?

Also, I think your family would be great for reality TV. Just saying.

Emily said...

I want to comment, but Lenae already said exactly what I wanted to say: Favorite Posts Ever list, indeed!

And yes, it's brilliant--you should totally be on TV! Please?

JYAA said...

Hee hee - while I do love the post - and the visual of it all was crisp and clear in full Technicolor in my head...I love more that E was speaking to strangers and that L was throwing crocs!

katie said...

Awesome post. Perfect description of life with kids. Love your style!

toddlerplanet said...

Exactly! So, so important to teach our kids the importance of voting!

Love this!