This morning, it feels fantastic to have rocked the vote. This morning, i'm glad I took all three of my children with me to the voting booth. Hopefully, they learned that every vote counts.
No matter how much of a pain it is to cast it.
Yes, yesterday, at the voting booth, I wasn't so euphoric.
I'm going to pause here to point out, for the record, how much I value my right to vote. How much I respect it. Which is to say, do not mistake my whining for ingratitude. I LOVE MY VOTE. Of course, the greatest testament to my gratitude is the fact that I stayed at the voting place, even after I saw the line around the block. The line wouldn't have been a big deal were I by myself. Since I was with the three kids and my grandmother, it sent a chord of terror done my spine.
Didn't help that I'd come directly from taking the baby to get her shots at the pediatrician, or that she was overdue for a nap. Also didn't help that in my coterie was a perpetually-whiny, incurably-impatient five year-old as well as that child's sworn enemy, who happens to be my eldest child. My grandmother was there, too. Her and a shopping cart full of melting groceries. We only waited an hour and a half there but I have to say, it felt like at least a whole work day.
Suffice it to say, it was not the enriching lesson on democracy, as I'd hoped.
It was, let's be frank, a shit show.
If I didn't really, truly treasure my right to vote, I would have spun on my heel and got the hell out of there. I won't lie -- it occurred to me. The thought, "Fuck it. I just can't." did occur to me. I know it occurred to other people, too, because the woman who got in line behind me, a woman my mom's age, with no children at all, said as much.
"Oh this is bullshit," she said, "I'll just go home and vote in four years."
But she didn't. She stayed. We all did. And in return, my children tortured everyone.
When I approached the school where we vote, I saw right away that the line snaked all the way out the door and around the block. I'm not good at estimation but I'm gonna guess five thousand people? No, that can't be right. Let's just say it was a freaking lot. Enough to give me heart palpitations.
"We'll come back later," I told my grandmother, "But we can't come back too late, or else it'll be worse, with people getting off work."
While we were deliberating whether to stay or go, a big group of people were allowed entry and the line got short enough that it just stretched to the corner, not around the corner. Something about this small change swayed me. It was exactly like how stores price everything at $.99 rather than a dollar because the cent off really tricks your brain into thinking you're getting a deal. The line decreased only by like ten, fifteen people but I suddenly felt optimistic.
That was short-lived. As soon as we stopped walking, children made their pressing needs known.
Seconda was "dying of hunger."
Primo was "sick and tired of his stupid sister torturing him."
Terza was "WAAAHHHHHHHHH!"
Nonnie was concerned about the Turkey Hill ice cream she'd bought on sale.
I convinced my grandmother to hold our place in line for a bit while I let the kids push Terza on a swing across the street. This boosted morale somewhat. Then we returned to our line-waiting and soon enough, some official-looking person directed our district-dwellers to a different line, inside. We lugged the shopping cart, screaming baby and fist-fighting children up the stairs and joined a different line. Which, after a minute or two, I realized snaked back somehow, to the same line we had been on.
"Is this the line for distirct 88?" I asked the people in front of me.
"No," said one lady.
"Yes, "answered another.
"Nobody knows," said someone else.
"This is bullshit," said the woman behind me.
Thus began a debate about what the hell kind of line we were on. The line I had just left began the exact same debate. The baby started clawing at my face and my children laid dow in a supine position on the floor. Nonnie remarked that her ice cream was melting.
"Fuck it," I thought, "Let's just go home."
But no! No! NO! We would persevere! Standing in line with three badly-raised children (and who'se fault is THAT?) was an infinitesimal price to pay for the right to vote! I imagined the suffragettes who'd won me this right and how much more they'd had to endure. I decided to tell Seconda about the suffragettes. She made it quite clear she didn't give a flying fig about them.
"I DON"T WANT TO VOTE!" she yelled, "THIS IS THE MOST BORNG THING EVER!"
Ahhhhhh. How lovely to pass on the gravity of this day to the young minds I'm helping to mold. So glad we could experience this historic event together.
"You can't vote anyway!" I barked at her.
"WHAT?" her eyes popped out of her head. She was outraged, betrayed, "WHY NOT?"
"Because," Primo explained, "Children don't make good decisions."
"THEN WHY ARE WE HERE????" bellowed Seconda.
Everyone was looking at us. My grandmother was melting in hunilation like her Turkey Hill ice cream.
"Because,"I hissed, "Mommy is going to vote. And you are going to help. And learn things. And be inspired."
The hubbub caught the attention of someone in charge.
"Are you in district 88?" he asked.
"That depends," I almost said, "Is that the one whose turn it is now?"
"OK. come on," he said, leading us through the throng to the gymnasium which was full of smaller throngs.
Sometimes it pays to have the worst-behaved kids in the room. People can't wait to get rid of you.
We waited on line in the gym for another 30-45 minutes. I put my down coat on the floor and let Terza crawl around on it for a bit and then when she started ctaerwauling again, I asked one of the helpers if I could use a folding chair to nurse her.
I was kind of hoping that the sight of my bared breasts would scare people away. It didn't. I was contemplating just hosing them down with breast milk but then I reminded myself that it was GOOD that everyone was voting like this. Democracy and everything.
While I was nursing the baby, Seconda waltzed up to the front of the line and asked, real casually, if she could vote, please. Nice one, Sec. No, they told her. She was a child.
"Awwww," she whined. That is her speciality.
Finally, finally we got our ballot and then it was quick. Whiz Bam, fill it out. Scan the thing. Done and done. Then i felt GREAT.
"WE DID IT!" I yelled, giving all the kids high fives and feeling terribly excited and proud of us, "WE VOTED!"
I'm glad I don't have to do it for another four years, though.
Nicole is a parenting writer who contributes essays and articles for magazines like Parenting, Parents, American Baby and Babble. She lives in Brooklyn with three children, one husband and a morbidly obese goldfish.