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Vote for Yourself!

This Election Day, take the opportunity to teach your kids an important lesson in voting - for themselves. Try asking them,

“For whom do you think Joe Biden is voting for President?

For whom do you think Donald Trump is voting for President? Why?”

"Voting for Yourself" can be a family affair: my three kids are pictured, my husband is holding the sign up, my mother is making sure the baby sits up, and I'm taking the photo.

Depending upon the age of your kids, they may or may not have encountered opportunities for school government or choosing sports team captains, but they probably understand the literal and figurative position of “line leader.” Usually, the teacher picks who the line leader will be, but what if one day the teacher asked the class to vote for the line leader?

Share the following scenario and ask your kids, “Would you vote for yourself? Why or why not?” All kids who wanted to be the line leader (also known as “the candidates”) would say a few words about why they think of themselves as the best candidate.

Then all the students, including the candidates, would get to vote for the classmate they want to become line leader. They each have only one vote, for only one person.

Ask your kids, “Would you vote for yourself? Why or why not?”

To help my kids process that question, here’s the story I’m sharing with them this election season:

When I was a high school freshman, I ran for class president. From my speech to my posters, my fourteen-year-old self thoughtfully laid out my goals for the role. I created and distributed campaign stickers “Follow the Yellow Britt Rhodes” (a la Wizard of Oz), and kept on the campaign theme with a pair of red slippers. I was eager to lead and move ideas into action -- until Election Day came. Our class assembled in the auditorium to hear speeches and vote. As I absorbed my opponents’ remarks, I realized I was up against several other worthy candidates. Was it arrogant to vote for myself? Shouldn’t I let others decide my role? Surely someone else could do a good job.

In effort to prove my humility, I checked the box next to the name of one of my opponents. I rose from my seat to cast the ballot when an inner voice called to me:

“How can you ask others to vote for you if you aren’t willing to vote for yourself?”

I paused. Yes, someone else could do a good job, but I knew I would do a “Britt good job.”

In that moment, I explained to myself how leading with conviction and maintaining a humble spirit need not be mutually exclusive: I would listen to others’ opinions, especially those who had been my opponents; I would work collaboratively; I would commit to my constituents. While the democratic process called for a majority vote to decide on the role of class president, I would not let other people decide what I thought about myself.

I would decide in the quietness of my heart (and my ballot) that I was prime presidential material. So I went on to vote for myself. No matter the outcome of the election, I would know that I had voted for myself. I had not outsourced my confidence. I had been my own cheerleader.

I won that election by one vote – my own.

Years later, I read a quote that reminded me of this moment. C.S. Lewis wrote,

“Humility isn’t thinking less of yourself. It’s thinking of yourself less.” This quote is particularly important for girls to grasp, as they are more likely than boys to internalize the former over the latter in an effort to be humble. The most effective leader spends her time thinking about the people she serves, not herself, but that doesn’t mean she stops believing in her abilities to be the best person for the job. Isn’t this the same of parenthood? The best parents focus on their kids more than on themselves, but that doesn’t mean parents forget their worth. In fact, the best parents know they must regard themselves highly if they want to model self-respect and personal dignity to their children.

C.S. Lewis wrote, “Humility isn’t thinking less of yourself. It’s thinking of yourself less.”

Mama (or Papa!), you need to know this -- even if you *think* you see moms out there who are “better at mom-ing” than you, YOU are the best mom (or dad) for your kids. Doesn’t matter if you knit them in your womb or in your heart; if you’ve been a mom for ten minutes, ten months, or ten years; if your kid seems to like you at the moment or if your kid just finished throwing the worst temper tantrum ever (been there). The validity of your motherhood (or fatherhood) is most certainly *not* up for a vote, but when you question yourself in the hard moments, vote for yourself. Every time.

YOU are the best mom (or dad) for your kids.

This simple “vote for yourself” story has been a profound source of inspiration to me when I have approached many other challenges and uncertainties in my life. Whether it was interviewing for the scholarship that ultimately took me to Duke University, being the sole dissenting voice in my Stanford graduate school courses, presenting to the C-suite of a 7,000-employee publicly-traded company, having a difficult conversation with a friend, or responding to the questions that constantly beset parents – “Am I doing right by my kids? My spouse? My aging parents? My work/commitments? MySELF?” Or in other words, “Can I be confident in my ‘vote for myself’ accomplishment?”, responding “Yes!” has been a self-fulfilling prophecy. If I want others to vote for the Yellow Britt Rhodes (now Riner), then I must -- unconditionally, with conviction -- do so myself.

What does this idea mean for you and your kids? Maybe let them in on a time that you experienced some self-doubt amidst others appearing quite confident -- and you bet on yourself anyway. The littlest examples are often the best ones for little people.

For example, when you were a kid and your teacher asked a question, did you raise your hand to answer when other kids did as well? Have you and your colleagues ever faced a problem and many shared ideas on how to solve it -- did you present yours?

Hearing your stories will help your kids write their own -- and encourage you to continue writing yours! After all, grown-ups can keep growing, too!

Hearing your stories will help your kids write their own -- and encourage you to continue writing yours! After all, grown-ups can keep growing, too!

As it turns out, I’m on the ballot again this year. This time it’s for county-level office.

I will unequivocally vote for myself because I believe I’m the best person for the job.

I’m excited to bring my kids with me to watch me believe in myself by voting for myself. They will see me bubble in the circle next to my name. May they hold onto that moment and remember to vote for themselves in the future, regardless if it’s an election year.

My kids are shouting "Vote for Mama!" (at least we think that's what the baby would say).


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