Each of my grandchildren has developed a special 'gramma thing' - something they think they alone share with me. Politics is the link with my grandson, who will turn nine in July. (Originally published when he was eight. Today, he is seventeen.)
We delivered him to his first protest in a stroller (but did let him out to stand on the base of a statue with his little "Let Every Vote Count" poster for the TV cameras) and he has been my partner-in-protest and campaign buddy since.
By the time the 2004 campaign rolled around, he thought he knew just about everything, and talked some big issues when we were out. It got a bit complicated when he had memorized Kucinich's entire platform, and then had to switch to Kerry even though his heart was with Edwards (not a first, second, or third choice for any of us, and we hadn't taken him to see Edwards - so he did some independent thinking based only on what he had seen on C-span.)
While standing on a busy street corner during rush hour one day, he dropped his Kerry sign to his side and asked, "Gramma, why do you hate George Bush so much?" I think at that point he was tired and wanted to make sure this work was really necessary.
I sighed, hating Bush even more because he had given me reason to hate him enough that it was obvious to my grandchild that I hated someone. Too much hate for me. I did something that made me sick at my stomach.
"I don't hate him, I just hate what he has done to my country and my world," I lied.
"What do you hate most?" He asked.
"I hate the way he spends our money. I hate that he spends it on war instead of education and health care." That sounded age appropriate.
Noah thought for a minute before he asked the next question. "If John Kerry wins, will he spend more on school?"
I nodded. Noah found renewed strength, jumped to the curb, waved his sign, and shouted, "Vote for Kerry.” A lady came up and asked why he supported Kerry. Noah's response was, "Because if he wins we might get a new playground at school."
We had a small disagreement last year when he wanted to play with the toy soldiers I had on my window ledges (holding 'Bring Me Home' signs) and I told him they were not toys and no, he could not play with them.
Yesterday, he told me his friends finally stopped liking Bush when they found out he lied about the war. I was excited to hear that eight-year-olds are talking about politics, but the next line let me know that some were still spreading false information. "But, we had to start that war because they had those weapons. Right, Gramma?"
And the hatred grew. I knew this child wanted me to assure him that we are the good guys, and I couldn't do that. I asked him if it would be 'right' for me to knock him off the couch because I thought maybe he wanted to hurt me some day. He laughed - not the response I wanted.
Fortunately, in an earlier conversation, Noah told me Shaq is the biggest man on earth. I had something to use. "Okay," I said. "What if Shaq thinks Tatum (Noah's four-year-old sister) might want to pick up a stick the next time she goes outside, and that she might hit him with that stick someday. Is it okay for him to knock her down now to make sure she can never get that stick?”
He shook his head.
"Shaq is about the size of the U.S., and Tatum is the size of Iraq," I reminded him. "We thought Iraq wanted to have big weapons like the ones we have.”
“They do have weapons,” he said. “They are shooting back at us.”
“The weapons they had when we invaded them were like sticks."
"Well, I would protect my baby sister," he decided.
"No," I said. "You can't, because you are Syria."
"Who is Syria?"
"A country that is just a little bit stronger than Iraq," I told him. "Iraq's big brother."
"Then Dad would protect Tate."
"Your dad is Iran, and Shaq won't allow him to have anything bigger than a stick. Shaq has a baseball bat."
He grinned. "You got me, Gramma."
I haven't heard from his parents yet. I hoped he would discuss this conversation with them before talking to his friends.