The “Back-up Guys”: The Vice Presidential Debate (and the Election) for Kids


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joe-bidenI don’t know a lot of 5 year olds who can discuss the election, but when my neighbor erected an Obama sign in his yard, my kid asked, “Why does he want to vote for the guy that wants to take our money?”

I guess it shouldn’t really surprise me that much—my son’s plan is to own a business (this week, it’s a carwash) and become “rich” enough to buy a “nice ride” (you know, like a Mustang). I guess he’s rightly worried about a leader who would take away the money he’s going to need for his shiny rims. So while friends of mine were putting their kids to bed early on purpose, it wasn’t at all forced to plan to spend the Vice Presidential debate with my 5-year old.

Before the debate, then, I pulled up some photos of Vice President Joe Biden and Congressman Paul Ryan on-line so I could explain who went with which candidate. In trying to define the VP role in half-pint terms, I said they were the Number Two guys or the “helpers” and had to be ready to be the President if something happened to the actual president. “You mean like if someone shot him?” Exactly! So in between reheating the chili for dinner and the din of “SuperWhy!” behind us (yes, my family watches PBS…but that’s another topic for another post), we took the opportunity for a quick history lesson by pulling out our Presidents book and looking at a situation where a president died (Lincoln) and one where he lived but was temporarily unable to be President (Reagan).

He asked some good questions, too, like, “Mom, when did Obama start taking our money?” which was a good time to discuss terms of office and election cycles. This was followed by, “I should report him to the cops.” Which was. of course, a great opening to explain that in politics, your only option is just to vote for the other guy.

And right before the debate, he asked, “What are the names of the Back-Up Guys again, Mom?” Back-up guys—I liked it!

So even though the Kindergarten attention span wandered to playing with Mom’s phone, typing the alphabet, and letting the cat back in the house, he was actually quietly listening the entire 1 ½ hours. And this kid normally doesn’t “quietly” do anything!

And while not every 5-year old (or even 9- or 13-year old) might show interest in the debates or the election at all, I do believe it’s our responsibility as parents to make sure they at least understand what is going on around them. And what their responsibility will be when they are old enough to vote themselves.

I feel that the debates have presented natural opportunities so far to discuss the following topics at our house:

  • An election cycle—this is the second time a presidential election has happened in his lifetime, the first in his brother’s.
  • Differences in political parties.
  • Differences in approaches to economics.
  • Voter responsibilities.

And starting such discussions at this age is (I hope) a worthwhile investment in the involved citizen I hope he is when he is my age. I just hope that in 20 years, we’ve left him a country where he can grow rich and afford a nice ride.

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  • http://shanevanderhart.com/ Shane Vander Hart

    Awesome post Anita! We can’t let teachable moments like these go by! My kids won’t sit down to watch the whole debate (I have three teenagers), but as they would go through the room while I was doing my live chat with The Des Moines Register they’d watch a little and ask question every now and then. We homeschool so we’ve taken our kids to events as part of their education – their “field trips” so to speak. They still talk about going to a George W. Bush rally in 2004 when they’re pretty young. My youngest daughter was wanded by Secret Service – what a memory!