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Jessica Wiant

Politics start at home in youth

As things really seem to be heating up for the 2012 presidential election, I will make a confession: I'm not all that interested in politics.

I haven't been following any of the debates or the president's retorts. I haven't been scouting out who will get my vote or where anyone stands on the issues that matter to me.

I can try to name a few reasons: I cut my voting teeth on the 2000 election between George W. Bush and Al Gore. I didn't vote, but I did write a paper for my senior English class about hanging chads and the like. It was enough that I didn't vote in the next congressional election either.

Since then, I have taken the time to do my civic duty, but let's be honest, can anyone blame me if the political and economic climate during most of my adult life has been, well, a little disenfranchising to say the least?

So, at this stage in life, dealing with raising a family, I've let my focus be more on teaching the letters of the alphabet than reading all the op-eds about Ron Paul or President Obama and kept my TV tuned to Nick Jr., not CNN.

Though, a funny thing has started to happen in recent weeks. Even though I haven't been following the political scene, I feel like I am dealing with politics more and more on an everyday basis -- with my son.

And maybe it's giving me a little more perspective on the way things in Washington are run than you'd think.

For starters, in the past month, we've been devoting a lot of time to potty training. I think it's taught me something not so encouraging about the way human minds work.

Early on in the experiment, I accidentally offered a piece of candy as a reward -- once, mind you -- if my son would go on the potty. Within a few days, he was telling us when he needed to go, and promptly demanding his candy after each time he did.

Even at 2 years old, people don't forget the things that get them a reward. I hate to sound so cynical, but I am willing to bet this remains a major motivator even in adulthood, and maybe especially so in politics.

Another thing I've noticed is how perception is everything. Last week my son threw his first ever bona fide tantrum at a superstore when I offered to let him pick out a pack of Valentine's Day candy on clearance: Here I was, thinking I was being the cool mom who buys her kid candy. We hadn't made it to the back of the store when my son insisted on eating the candy. Before I knew it, he was screaming and writhing and I had abandoned the candy in a random aisle. We barely made it out alive.

I guess the lesson is you can think you are doing the good or the right thing, but other people might not see it that way at all depending on their point of view.
 
My son is reminding me that the things that motivate us are usually pretty simple. And I can't help thinking that applies to voters, and politicians, too.

Maybe all the more reason I don't feel the need to make politics a spectator sport.

• Contact Jessica Wiant at jwiant@nvdaily.com.



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