This has been a year and a half, if not more, of complete and utter political warfare. No matter who you support or how you feel, that statement holds true. To be entirely honest, I've never been a confrontational person. I am not one to get heated and say things I don't mean (usually) but this year has been a bit of an exception. I feel like every time I turn on the news a wealth of emotions and thoughts fill my brain, and in turn, fill my mouth. To be entirely transparent, most times, I haven't even taken the time I need to do the research and find out what's really going on in the first place before I speak. In that confession, I know I am not alone.
This season has brought out the worst in us as a nation. Name calling, insults, nasty social media posts, and the unfriending of once great friends. The worst part of it all is that you think you're being quiet. You think that only adults are the one watching you and hearing you. You think standing up for something you believe in is a great lesson for young ones to learn, and in some ways you're right. Teaching kids to stand strong and fight for their passions is a great lesson, but in other ways, you are so very wrong. The little ears hear you, they hear the nasty things you say when you think they're sleeping, they hear the venom in your voice as you talk about others, they read the Facebook comments that pop up on your phone as they're playing games sitting in the back of the car. The little ears hear you whether you want them to or not.
I've spent the greater part of almost every single day for the last seven years babysitting. There are few things I love more than spending time with nuggets (as I like to call them). Kids' wit and range of knowledge at such a young age blows me away without fail every single day. I honestly don't think I could sit here and list every child I've spent time with over the last seven years. Even if I could, it would take forever. What you don't realize though, is that even after meeting me just a few hours before as you and your husband back out the driveway, they trust me. They open up to me, and I hear what they hear.
In a perfect world, kids would be able to understand political debate. They would be able to see that even the best people get heated and angry and say things they don't mean. Sadly the world is not that kind. In their little developing minds, all they see and hear are bad words and mean statements about other people. They hear you lump entire political parties into characteristics like "stupid idiots" or "insensitive assholes", just to name two of the many I've heard kids repeat. They struggle trying to decipher which one of their friends fit into these categories that you've created. They think that all of the sudden if you disagree you can name call and bully your way to the top. They are taking in every single thing you're doing and saying, even when you think they aren't.
Nearly every single day, usually buried in a political opinion news article, I see the words "what example is _____ setting for our kids". You can pretty much fill in that space with any political leader or influencer on either side. And once again, the writer of that article may be right in a lot of ways. The actions of those in power on both sides have not been great examples to young ones but what you're forgetting is that they know that those men and woman are people on TV. Most kids could care less about the nighttime news. What they DO hear though, the influence that IS being made, is the way you respond.
So please, the next time you take to Facebook calling your colleague or friend a name, you have a side conversation with your significant other at dinner, or you rant on the phone to your college roommate, remember who's in the back seat. The little ears hear you and trust me, they're taking in and repeating way more than you think they are.