My mother-in-law the car...

What do you do when your MIL (mother-in-law) starts chatting up your impressionable son with dubious poliltical nonsense? Children at the 1-2nd grade level seem to have a desire ti understand the order of things. They spend time researching the Presidents and talk about how laws are made they want to understand the rules of things. They are also very perceptive.

When my MIL starts to inform one of the Proto-Citizens that our present president has taken more vacation than any other president, I feel compelled to offer commentary while controlling a six year old Mazda MPV as it hurtles along a midwesterrn freeway. Both Citizen Une and myself have widely differing views on politics and the world we live in (read diametrically opposed). And yet we work hard to make sure that the Proto-Citizens have an opportunity to develop their own world view, and usually we learn something also.

Even now they have no idea that "occassionally Daddy has to go and fight a war". Which is overdramatic to say the least. I have not been hunkered down as MAJ John or CSM Bones have been, closest was in the NAG on the oh so lovely OPLATS. However, the reality of our world is changing.

So when my MIL, who was under the impression that CITGO sold only US pedigree gasoiline and routinely forwards the latest internet legend as gospel, chimed in with her personal political peeve - how do I respond? I want her to engage and educate the Proto-Citizens (she is actually quite sharp in many areas). And yet, plowing through nonsensical tripe with an eight year old seems unfair.

Any thoughts, dear reader?


Lauren said…
I've seen this before... the older person 'helping' inform the children of today. It was my own household as I was growing up. Political discussions (and rabid radical theory) was the dinner table conversation for the adults.

I found the adult enmity distasteful and frightening. I felt "stabbed" with ideas which were not only so far above me, it was causing vast consternation to the adults. This instilled into me not only frustration of any family gathering (ie: I was going to be subjected to more political haranging -- at age 6 or 8 or 10), but I was unable to form an opinion to 'fight back'.

I hate politics to this day. I hate the whole system. I hate people arguing about it. I hate how people argue about it. I purposely don't listen to it -- and when I do, it reminds me of when I was a child and was powerless to stop the constant [adult] whining in my ears.

IMHO (and I don't have children, but I'm around a 6-yr-old very frequently), children should be encouraged to grow and learn. That means asking questions about why bugs crawl, how the rain makes puddles on some days and not others, and how to ride a bike. They should not be harrassed to understand the President, or a war, or even flat tax vs. income tax.

Sure, children can be encouraged to understand that the world is complicated. They might even be told that "people from some countries don't get along with some other countries". They can be told that "some people believe in different Gods". I even think that 6-yr-olds should be taught about death... and that Santa isn't real.

But haraging children with details of the presidency (and politics) is simply an ego-trip by the adult who needs to say it to a non-arguing recipient.

MHO, and I've lived through this.

Lauren said…
Addedum to my last comment:

The problem with adults "telling children about the world" (ie: the disguised political-stant discussion) is that it does not allow the children to make up their own minds.

As I stated above, I was subjected to many political discussions as a child. Many were subjective --and also tended towards racism, anti-government, anti-anyone-who-wasn't-the-speaker's-belief.

There's quite a difference between teaching a child that different cultures have different values, versus saying, "XXX culture (or political person) is wrong, hates us, and is out to crush us".

You and Citizen Une still have the right to control what the Protocitizens hear from other adults, or from the media. I think it's fair to discuss what the MIL says to the children: "You can discuss the nature of things but you can't discuss subjective poisoning political views".

That being said, you can teach children to question why people do what they do; you can teach them to make "neutral" questioning so that they CAN develop their own world views.

Children can learn how to question complex ideas like immigration (for example) or "gasoline-as-political-commodity" by learning how to ask about BOTH SIDES of a question. The process of "questioning both sides" is the more important need anyway -- it will last them their lifetime.

MHO, of course.
Major John said…
Just be very forthright in telling the MIL that she should not do that.
Lay it out and I would hope she would respect that - do make sure that Citizen #1 is on board too.
Scootmaroo said…
Both the advise from Lauren and Major John sound. But let's be honest here: even though you want them to form their own political opinions, are you not going to be a wee bit disappopinted if the boys don't grow up sharing most of your views? I'm just sayin'.....(comment, not criticism.)

and since children generally rebel from their parents views at some point, with the divergant views in your household, you may end up with (to steal from the Patty Duke Show Theme), one pair of matching bookends, different as night and day.
Citizen Deux said…
No doubt I beleive my worldview to be the correct one. However, as I differ from my own father (generationally and politically) I am more reminded of Lauren's comments.

It is one thing for a youngster to sideline and ask questions, it is quite another to have "ideas" forcefed into their brains.

No, the Major is correct. I will make sure to have COMHOUSE (aka Citizen Une) onboard. Fortuneately, the problem is self limiting due to time and distance...

PS - Lauren, thanks for the insight. BTW - working with a PT - ow ow owooowowowowooow
Gordon Marock said…
Well now, I guess the world is not all roses and teacupss for citizen deux. Hopefully, the proto-citizens will enjoy the Hugo Chavez illustrated book of children's rhymes that I am sending them. Here is a sample called "Is that a Birdy in the Sky???"

The four horseman have started their ride----
Can you see them in the sky---
Racing to earth- terror they bring---
The untimely end of all living things.

Let's face it, the world is full of people who are tricksy and false. The sooner you teach the proto-citizens that everyone is a liar (except daddy) the better. Once they learn to believe this, it doesn't matter what meddling relatives tell them.
Anonymous said…
Just give the kid equal time with your wife's MIL.
Citizen Deux said…
Thanks all, good advice across the board, as usual, Gordon nails it!