You'll save us, won't you? My kids the idealists

Ann Handley inspired me with her piece Innocents at Home, about the optimistic and idealistic Millenials. Go read it now—I’ll wait (and hope that you come back—you could get lost reading her other posts, and I’d understand).

I have a couple of those innocent idealists at my place too, although Eldest Daughter would probably describe herself as more of a cynical pessimist or pragmatist than an idealist.

Eldest Daughter is 19 now. She loves it when I say that out loud, “my 19-year-old.” I am somewhat less fond of this, since I can't continue to be 35 in my head unless I had her at 16, which I didn't.

Her birth came six days after I was elected to the Idaho legislature on my birthday lo, these many moons ago. I went home from an organizing session the weekend after the election, woke up at 2 a.m. to pee, and my water broke. Nine weeks later, I was in Boise with her as a freshman legislator and new mom.

There was (I assume still is—legislative traditions don’t change quickly) a color-coded name tag system in use that let you identify people at a glance in the capitol: white type on black for House members, black type on white for Senate, white on green (the color of money) for registered lobbyists, white on red (the color of we’re-out-of-money) for staff in the executive branch.

My friend Jane, who at the time served as executive director of the Idaho Democratic Party, had name tags made for my baby and a girl born to another freshman D House member a week after mine (and here I thought I was so unique, campaigning pregnant and all). The name tag for my bundle o’ joy, burgundy type on light pink, read “District 2 Legislative Baby” with her name.

And thus, the die was cast: She’s always been a political baby. She has a poster of four-time Idaho Gov. Cecil Andrus autographed "to the future governor." She has been in parades doing the float queen wave, but not as a float queen--she walked alongside her mom the candidate. She has gone doorbelling a few times, although I quickly realized that people would think we were Jehovah's Witnesses if I brought a kid with me. She listens to NPR.

Second Daughter is 15, born in 1994 (the year I lost my re-election bid for the State Senate, after winning the seat in 1992). That means she was six in May 2001, about a month away from her seventh birthday, when U.S. Sen. Jim Jeffords announced he was leaving the Republican Party to become an Independent.

I remember it because she burst into the garage to announce, “Mom! Jim Jeffords left the Republicans! Now education will be safe!” She knew the balance of power in the Senate had changed and that the change would affect policy. (You may also guess from this that she had been exposed to influences and opinions from a Democrat.)

Let me repeat—she was six years old.

This is the same kid who, just a couple of years later after becoming a vegetarian, would walk around her elementary school handing notes to people that read “Save a cow—be a vegetarian” and “Cows don’t eat people—why should people eat cows?”. She carried a petition to gather signatures asking Skittles to remove gelatin from their recipe so it would be a vegetarian candy (which it is in Europe, apparently. What gives, Skittles?).

Second Daughter also quizzed me when she was in a math team in about fifth grade as to whether the president really needs to know math, since she plans to be president someday. (Her comment when Hillary Clinton was doing well in the 2008 primaries was, “No—I want to be the first woman president!” to which I responded, “Sweetie, I can’t wait that long—you won’t be 35 and eligible to run for another 20+ years”). (And yes, the president needs to know math.)

I remember reacting defensively when Eldest Daughter—at about age 12 or so—responded to some news story about environmental devastation by turning to me and saying, “Your generation ruined everything.”

Now, hang on just a second....

For one thing, I’m really from the very tippy-tippy-trailing-edge of the Baby Boomer generation, not dead center where the big rabbit sits in the boa constrictor, so it’s not my fault, right?

For another thing, that generation did manage to work its way--painfully at times--through civil rights, feminism, the Environmental Protection Act, access for people with disabilities, and other signs of progress. They/we didn’t ruin everything.

Still, she had a point. The consumption-driven economy creating/created by our nation’s wealth after World War II used up a lot, and we’re now seeing the cracks and potholes in that system.

My daughters think and talk about big issues. They recycle without having to think about it. When Eldest Daughter realized she wouldn't be able to vote in the historic 2008 presidential election, she said, "Oh, well, I'll get to vote in the school bond and levy!". They pay attention to the news. They accept, embrace and exemplify human differences I wasn’t even exposed to as a kid. They're smart and compassionate.

They’re going to save the world.

I’m counting on it.