The voice of democracy rang through our house last week. Owen (9) came home to inform us that he was running for student council. “Only 4th and 5th graders can be classroom representatives,” he told me excitedly. “Each class elects one boy and one girl. A lot of boys are running, but I think I have a shot.”
As he walked out of the kitchen, I already felt like he had won. I was so proud of the fact that he decided to run on his own. As a parent, you’re often not sure if your kids are getting the message. We don’t keep a checklist on the fridge of all the things we do/do not want them to do. So, we try to lead by example. But, more than that, we hope. We hope a lot. Hope that they will understand all that we cannot put into words. That they err on the side of what’s right. That they just be nice, and kind,
Over the next few days, Owen worked on his campaign. He sat in his room creating posters that highlighted his policies and platform. Posters that looked like this:
“Wow, Owen!” I said, impressed. “This looks awesome!”
“And I made him this one, Dad,” said his little brother, Hayden (8):
And just like that, I beheld the candidate and his campaign manager. For the next few days, it felt like I was in the presence of a young JFK and his brother, Bobby. The boys continued their work in earnest.
“Dad, did you notice on my signs where I ask everyone if they got their cards?”
“Oh, yeah,” I said.
“See, you can’t give out candy or prizes, so I thought it would be neat to give each of them a card before they vote.” Cards. He made 28 little cards for his classmates. Cards that looked like this:
“Here’s the one he made for me,” piped in his manager, Hayden. And he showed me this:
“Now, Owen, you should put all of these in a folder so you don’t…” directed Hayden, and the two boys were off again. I saw them cutting and folding, and placing everything in what I am sure was the first file cabinet for many of us–underneath the couch.
The day before the election, the boys and I were driving in the car. “So, Owen, if you did win, what is something you think you might do for your fellow classmates?”
“Well,” he said, “every month we go to a meeting with the principal and some teachers and tell them of any problems.”
“What do you think might be a problem you would bring up?”
“Umm, like, let’s say the buses are too crowded. Then I would work to fix that.”
“Okay, how?” I implore.
“By telling them we need more buses!” he answers emphatically.
Would that it were that easier, my son. Would that it were, I think. Yet, I say, “Sounds good, buddy.”
That night, I watch him craft his speech. He doesn’t let me read it, but he allows me to show him how to write it in big letters on several index cards. Since I will not see him in the morning, I wish him well before bed.
“Good luck tomorrow, O. And just remember, no matter what happens you can still be a leader.”
“Okay,” he says.
“You’re a leader just for wanting to run in the election. No matter what happens–you’ve already won in my book.”
I first thought about writing this post before the election took place, and I thought it would be cool not to reveal if he won or not. I truly believe he is a winner just for trying to do this at such a young age. And not a “winner” in the sense that every kid gets a trophy at the end of the season regardless of their record, but a winner in the sense that he took a chance, he stood up, he wanted to be a part of something bigger than himself.
But now that I know the outcome, I must inform you–and not for the reasons you might think.
Owen won. He did, and I am proud. But the victory was enlightening for other reasons.
For one, some of his “friends” said mean things about his winning–one even claimed they were no longer buds (the same boy who was playing with him at a birthday party two days later)–and therein lies a hard lesson for anyone. As the wise sage Taylor Swift once proclaimed, “And the haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate…” An important lesson indeed: there will always be people who will try to dampen your spirits, who don’t want you to succeed. But I am happy to tell you that Owen seemed quite unphased by this.
The second insight from the election comes from the fact that two of Owen’s running mates wore oxfords with bow ties and delivered Power Point presentations. My son wore his usual shorts and sneaks, delivered a heartfelt speech and gave everyone a colorful voting card–looks like Owen’s on his way to being a Democrat.
Regardless of his political leanings–he’ll always have my vote.