Tuesday's mid-term elections were historical on many fronts: First, for the first time in history, there will be 100 women in Congress, and second, as a result of this elections, the congress will be the most Republican dominant since 1929.
On a personal level, this week's elections were also historical. It was the first time that I took my kids with me to vote. My kids are 3-year-old boy and a girl twins. Taking them to the polls at the local elementary school across the street from our house didn't go well. As soon as they got out of the car, they ran in the parking lot, dodging the other moving cars, then sprinted inside the school hallways, screaming and giggling. They found themselves in an open, mostly-empty school, with colorful children artwork on the walls. They couldn't be more excited. I had to herd them back to the polling room so that I could cast my ballot before the polling station closed.
It was almost 7:00 p.m., and they were wild -- yes, we are still eating that nasty Halloween candy. It was an absolute chaos, and eventually, I started hyperventilating. When we entered the room where the polling booths were, they ran towards the "I voted stickers" and tried to grab them. I had to negotiate. I promised them that we would get stickers after I'm done voting.
After I quickly registered and got my electronic voting card, I dragged them with both hands to my designated polling booth. My son grabbed the card and ran away with it. I chased him across the room, dragged him back to the booth and managed to insert the card while trying to hold on to both kids. I voted. My democratic endeavor took less than two minutes. That was how long my out-of-shape muscles were able to restrain two wriggly preschoolers. One of the pollsters -- who surprisingly didn't kick us out -- gave the kids the "I voted stickers." They were so excited that they left the polling room and started running up and down the school hallways. You get the drift, no?
It was a very courageous, and somehow insane idea to take my spirited 3-year-old twins to the polling place on my own, but I will do it again in a heartbeat. Putting aside my masochist tendencies, taking the kids voting is an experience that I never went through while growing up in the Middle East, where democracy is for the most part a failing experiment. I don't have any memories of me going with my parents to the polling booth and watching them while they cast their vote. The reason for that is because the majority of the years I lived in Jordan, the country was under martial laws and elections were absent from the scene. In the eighties, the Late King Hussein reinstated the parliament and allowed people to vote. There was excitement in the air the first time this happened, but it quickly abated as many people began to view the parliament as dysfunctional. Casting your vote in Jordan -- at least in my experience -- didn't mean much.
These days, I'm living a whole different experience. My vote can actually turn tides. My vote can make my whole state turn colors, red or blue, which is what happened when my adopted blue home state of Maryland elected a Republican governor. It is a huge deal. I wanted my kids to experience that.
The best part about involving my kids in my democracy pursuit is driving to the polling place, where they kept asking me where we were going and what we were doing. I told them we were going voting. They asked me why. I told them because we live in a democracy. They asked me what democracy is. I stumbled. How do you explain this complicated and somehow elusive concept to 3-year olds? "Well, it means picking good people," I answered. They nodded. I guess somehow, it made sense to them. The next morning, they insisted on wearing their "I voted" stickers to school to show them to their teachers and friends. They couldn't be more proud.
I'm looking forward to the next round of elections where my kids would be older and able to understand the concept of democracy better. Here is hoping for less drama, and more stickers for the next round of elections.