At dinner, my daughter Katie asked, "Mommy, who are you voting for?"
Like so many of her questions, this one surprised me. Why do ladies wear bras? Why is your belly so big? I do my best to offer age-appropriate answers.
But this had me stumped.
"Why do you want to know, sweetheart?"
"The third graders were yelling 'Romney! Romney!' at recess," she answered. "My friend said we should yell 'Obama! Obama!' because Romney wants to take away Sesame Street. Except President Obama smokes, so who should I pick?"
Clearly, we had some facts to check. But I was stuck on the image of 7- and 8-year-olds chanting the candidates' names in the school yard. I started with that.
"Voting is private. In America, we cast what are called 'secret ballots.' Contrary to other nations where the democratic process has been stymied, here, no one can bully you into --"
"I don't know what stymied means, Mom," Katie countered, "but voting's not private. My friend, Avery, has a sign in her yard. Her family tells everyone who they are voting for. Lots of people do. Why don't we?"
We live in Ohio, a battleground state. We have been bombarded by yard signs, television ads and candidate visits. Katie cannot help but notice the skirmishes.
I started to explain that voting is private unless someone decides to share that information. But then my 3-year-old ran by with a marshmallow. Katie started chasing her, and the conversation ended.
The question, however, stuck with me. Should I tell my daughter who I am voting for?
Though she is only 7, I try to involve Katie in local government. Last year, she interviewed a gentleman going door-to-door about why he deserved to be a town councilman. "If you are elected, will we still have the spring carnival?" she asked. Over the summer, we phoned the park superintendent about a leaking fountain at our neighborhood playground. Last week, I signed Katie's petition to save her favorite tree. I want Katie to know her voice matters, and that decisions impacting many can be influenced by just a few.
But there is a line. The issues determining my vote are not appropriate for Katie to grapple with yet. The economy. The war in Afghanistan. Abortion. She is simply too young to understand the complexities. When she is older, I look forward to discussing public policies that might matter to her: charter school funding; the legal drinking age; Title IX. I want her to examine the many sides of an issue, and not just parrot my beliefs. I want her to think beyond bumper stickers and be able to sit at anyone's dinner table and debate with wisdom, candor, politeness and courage.
But until she can understand, I do not want a sign in our yard telling her what to think.