Today is Tuesday, November 6, 1984. I’m a blonde-haired, blue-eyed four-year-old living in a small, quiet town in West Texas. I have high pigtails and scraped knees from learning to ride my Rainbow Brite bike down the gravel road beside our house. I usually spend my days playing dress up and dreaming of becoming a famous singer or a doctor or maybe a mommy just like mine.
But this day is different. After dropping off my older sisters at school today, I know my mom and I are going to spend the day together, just the two of us, just like we always do.
But when we get back in my mom’s yellow, 2-door ‘77 Chrysler Cordoba, she looks at me and whispers, “Today is special. Today, we are getting to do something that most people who live in the world don’t get to do.”
“What, mommy?” I replied in my hushed voice.
“Well, baby girl,” my mother answered, “today we are going to vote.”
We drive up to a two-story, brown building near the city park where we often play. I’m wearing my favorite white sweatshirt with red hearts and the words “I love my Daddy”, blue jeans, and my matching red Keds. I walk through the dark asphalt parking lot holding my mother’s hand, wondering what it means to “go vote.” As we walk, she tells me that today we have an important decision to make. We get to choose who we want for our next President.
“The President? We get to choose the President?” I ask, bewildered at the thought.
“Yes, the President of the United States. We get to help choose him. And today, we’re voting for a man named Ronald Reagan.”
“Ronald?” I say, and I laughed. All I could think about was how funny it was that we were voting for someone to be president whose name rhymes with Donald Duck. My mother is so silly sometimes, I thought to myself.
We walk into a room with a long line of adults. No kids in sight. No toys, either. Boy, this doesn’t look like a lot of fun, going to vote. A nice older woman bends down and puts an “I Voted” sticker on my sweatshirt, over one of the red hearts. A sticker, I thought. Now that is pretty neat.
I notice everyone is quiet. There’s just the sound of faint whispers at the check-in desk where my mom hands someone some papers. They look important. Then, as I walk with my mom to a tall yellow stand, I look around at all of the people in their own tall yellow stands, voting, just like my mom and me. I watch her fill in her piece of paper. Later, she told me that was called a ballot. As we leave the room, another nice lady hands me a red sucker. This voting thing is great, I think to myself again.
But somehow, at four years old, I know then that going to vote is much more than just getting a sticker and a sucker. Voting is an opportunity. It is an opportunity to have a voice, to be a part of something greater than just me. I just helped choose the President of the United States of America. I knew that was a pretty big deal.
Fast forward 28 years. Last week I walked into the Fretz Library in North Dallas holding hands with my four-year-old daughter and two-year-old son. The memory from that day back in 1984 came rushing back. I told Chloe about that day; how my mom brought me to vote, and how we voted for a man named Ronald. I told her what we were doing today was important, just like my mom had told me when was when I was a little girl.
As we got in line, the sweet ladies gave both of my children an “I Voted” sticker, we went to our booth, and they helped me press the VOTE button on the computer screen. I couldn’t help but get a little lump in my throat at the importance of what we just did, and at what I had taught my children. Would Chloe remember this day like I remember that day back in 1984? I can only pray that I teach them over and over that we are so very blessed to be able to vote, and instill in them the desire to exercise their right whenever possible.
It was such a great moment, and I was beaming with pride for teaching my children such a meaningful lesson. As we walked out the door, Jack turned to me and said, “Mommy, where’s da boat??” All that time, talking to them about voting, and my two-year-old thought we were going to see a boat. I’ll work on him in 2016, I guess. 🙂
Happy Election Day, Dallas moms. I hope you were able to teach your kids the importance of voting this election season. And if not, there’s still time! Polls are open until 7pm tonight. You can find out more information by visiting Heather’s guide to voting in Dallas. Make it a memory for your child and teach them by example how important it is to exercise your right to vote!