Politicians have forever kissed babies, taken photo ops with hoards of children, and paraded their own progeny to cameras while on the campaign trail. The Bush daughters are working on their father's re-election team. John Edwards' children were shoved in front of so many cameras after he was named as Kerry's veep choice that I almost forgot there were actual candidates running.
This being an election year, a lot of the kids that come to camp are wearing stickers, t-shirts, and other paraphenalia endorsing one of the two major presidential candidates.
Looking back, I'm fairly certain that my parents made a choice not to force their political beliefs on me while I was young. They tried to explain issues and policies to me in a non-partisan manner, and in most situations I didn't even know who they voted for until I was in high school. The freedom they gave me from their own views on politics alowed me to form my own opinions on issues and candidates. When I was in 8th grade I signed up for Ross Perot mailings and actually held signs outside of our local polling place--something my parents chuckled at, but also supported me in.
When I see nine year-old kids espousing "facts" about political figures, or rather, regurgitating what usually ends up being the somewhat mangled opinions of their parents, I feel conflicted. Part of me feels that parents who drag their kids to political rallys and feed them full of "absolute" rights and wrongs in politics are doing these children a disservice. Everyone knows that person, now in college, who walks around with his parents' beliefs spewing from his own lips, with little or none of his own thought added to the mix.
At the same time, I believe that most anything people do together as a family will benefit their children. Whether it's going apple picking, going to the movies, or cooking dinner together, creating a close-knit family that spends time together helps children. It can't be wrong to introduce children to politics at an early age, because it involves them in their community, their country, and their family. It can't be wrong to give kids a sense of belonging to something bigger then they are.
However, I still can't shake the strange feelings that come over me when I hear a child, who isn't old enough to understand why he can't run on a slippery pool floor, explain to me the certainties of who is good and who is bad in the upcoming election.