Raising a Country Along With a Kid: Why Politics Should Matter to Every Canadian Parent
One of the ways I can gauge how busy I've been is by the number of newspapers that have piled up in my front hall, unread. Because I currently subscribe to three daily newspapers, it doesn't take more than a day or two for the newspapers to start building up, beaver dam-style, in the front hall, leaving me with this sense that I've completely lost touch with the outside world. It's not a good feeling.
Mind you, It used to be worse. When I had three children under 3 ½, I only subscribed to one newspaper (the local daily) and the only national news I could count on catching on a regular basis was whatever portion of Morningside I managed to hear while shuttling my oldest to and from nursery school. It's no wonder I've never grasped the intricacies of NAFTA (a frustrating state of affairs for someone with a degree in Canadian and American history). Most of my knowledge on the subject was picked up in a moving vehicle with a preschooler, a toddler, and a baby simultaneously competing for my attention.
I shared my NAFTA experience to prove a point: I don't think any of us can afford the luxury of being politically unaware. So much of what we value about Canada and consider to be part of being Canadian is up for grabs these days. We don't want to blink and realize that something that we considered sacred and non-negotiable about Canada disappeared while we were busy changing diapers or reading bedtime stories.
Canada needs to hear the voices of parents and those who are passionate about children and families (families in all circumstances and children with every conceivable type of need, as opposed to an impossibly narrow platform that is meaningless to most parents I know). That can only happen if large numbers of parents learn how the political system works and how to make the system work for them by nominating or electing candidates who will support policies that will make a real difference for all families and children, particularly the country's most vulnerable.
Mahatma Gandhi once said: "My notion of democracy is that under it the weakest should have the same opportunity as the strongest." By that definition, democracy in Canada isn't terribly democratic. As this compelling series indicates, when the system fails any one of us, it fails all of us. We used to know that, as Canadians, but it seems we're forgetting it, and I can't figure out why. I think parents understand this concept intuitively (given that being part of a family is all about thinking about the good of the entire family rather than just one member of the family), which is why I wrote this post: in the hope that a few more parents will understand why being an active and engaged citizen really matters.
Right now, Canada is at a crossroads. Decisions are being made that will determine the type of Canada our kids will inherit, the values that we stand for as Canadians, and the role we would like our country to play in the world. Given that being an active and engaged citizen is kind of like being caregiver to a nation, I hope you see how important it is to accept this responsibility: to commit to nurturing all the things you love about this country while you nurture and care for your children. Family care for one another, right? And as the moms and dads of the nation, we should be collectively caring for and raising this amazing country of ours.
If you read my essay, "Campaign Confidential" in The Maternal is Political by Shari McDonald Strong (published by Seal Press last month), you can find out what I learned about democracy and political campaigns as a first-time political volunteer. (Think postpartum mood swings, but with a political backdrop.)