I used to not pay attention to politics. I didn’t care to pay attention because, well, I didn’t think there was much I could do. So, I decided it was better not to care.
After all these years of not caring and not paying attention, I find myself in pretty bad shape. I don’t know my local or state representatives except for maybe a few. Of the embarrassingly few I manage to recognize, I still have no clue what they are doing.
I’ll be honest. Politics are generally boring. You’ve got C-SPAN. Snore. Uh, there’s news channels like CNN, FOXNEWS, MSNBC. Meh. Um, newspapers? Newspapers? What are newspapers? Okay, I’m kidding. I know what newspapers are. I just usually head straight to the comics page.
Confession: I get most of my political “news” from SNL (Saturday Night Live) or late-night shows. Comedians have this way of bringing up issues and current trends while making them utterly hilarious! I can laugh myself to tears while watching Melissa McCarthy’s Emmy Award winning performance as former White House press secretary Sean Spicer and not think about whether anyone, in fact, knows what is going on in the White House.
Either I’m bored or I’m simply entertained. Wow, I’m a lot like my five-year old. Hmm… How do I deal with my five-year old? It took a while to figure that one out, but as I think on it, it could probably help me with my politics and boredom problem.
I used to drive myself crazy trying to get the children to pay attention, be quiet, or behave themselves. I’d “shhhhh” them to death, give stern looks, or take them out and walk around. Most often though, I’d just avoid anything that required good behavior altogether.
Looking around at what other moms did, I got the idea that if I brought fun things to do, the kids would stay entertained and not bother people. So, I’d load myself down with bags full of toys, activities, games, snacks, you name it, just to get through a doctor’s appointment, airplane ride, or church meeting. That started driving me crazy too, but in a different way. It took extra planning, I had more to carry, and the activities wouldn’t last all that long. I thought the digital tablets would hold their attention forever. Even that has become “boring” unless there is a constant stream of new games and new stimulation.
It wasn’t until my husband spent a year in Afghanistan that I was forced to find a better balance between drill sergeant and camp counselor, between imposed boredom and constant entertainment. The key? Involvement.
Now, I get my kids involved in whatever I’m doing. No extra tricks or trinkets are required. Surprisingly, they are attentive, calm, happy, and can even sit for a while with not much more than a piece of paper and a pencil. But get this. I’m noticing results of another kind. My children are becoming more aware, more knowledgeable, and more perceptive because I’ve taken time to involve them. I had an amazing conversation with my son while waiting at the dentist about cavities and how they form. Just recently he observed, partially repeating but also rephrasing, that we brush our teeth to prevent cavities. It’s amazing! So yeah, sometimes I still pull out the good ‘ole distractions, because we all need a break sometimes, but it’s not my go-to anymore. The best part? my kids are really benefiting from the switch.
Okay “five-year old political brain”, what to do with you? I can accept that it’s not always going to be fun and entertaining to discuss issues, and I may lose interest reading an article or listening to a politician’s speech. But I’ve got to get involved. I’ve got to find a way to learn about and engage in the issues. I need to figure out the players and recognize where I can actually do something.
Here goes. I’ll start local. Let’s see who my mayor is and what he or she is up to. Ah… He, Don, eh, looks fairly boring. I wonder what he and the city council have been doing lately. Okay, looks like a lot of residential development going on in my sleepy town. Oh, hey! Apparently Don isn’t running for a second term and there are elections going on for a new mayor. How about that! Voting is, of course, on election day…. Uh, Nov 7th. Pfft, I knew that. Okay, I had to look that up too. Whoa, that’s coming up soon!
Cool. That only took a few minutes and now I feel a little more informed about what’s going on. I can definitely see that I’m still going to have to sift through a lot of “boring” in order to get to the good stuff. Do you have some good ways to keep current with what’s going on? Maybe we can come up with some cool ideas together.
Emily, I love this. I think it’s so important for us to be engaged in the “goings on” of the political arena. I was raised in a family who valiantly stood by their belief that politics and religion were private matters, and to discuss them publicly would be somewhat distasteful. I missed out on so much! Involvement can start on the local level, like on school boards. Our voices need to be heard; our votes need to be counted! Looking so forward to following your blog.
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Absolutely! Our voices DO need to be heard! The conventional approach to private politics just doesn’t work anymore, does it? Too many impolite people are grabbing the microphone. I like your suggestion to get involved locally through school boards. Great idea!