Family democracy

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(Host) When their children were young, commentator Nardi Reeder Campion and her husband Tom undertook a domestic experiment in democractic principals that had unexpected results.

(Campion) Tom, reading from his book, said, “Justice Holmes says: ‘A true democracy creates opportunities for everyone to grow.’ We need more democracy at home.”

“Weren’t you taught that parents always know best?” I said.

“Sure, but today’s kids have a different mindset. They should have more say. Why don’t we hold regular family meetings and let the kids vote?”

Our kids, jumped at the ides.

Six of us gathered around the dining room table for our first meeting: Tommy 12, Tad 9, Toby 6, and little Cissa on my lap.

Tom opened the meeting with a hot topic: trash removal. All eyes turned to Toby. The job of emptying the garbage had descended to number three, who was terrible at it. He was so forgetful that one night his exasperated father left the plastic bag full of garbage on his bed. We all agreed we’d try to help Toby improve.

I moved that everyone take our cocker spaniel, out more often. Tom seconded and the motion carried.

Tommy moved that his siblings keep quiet on Saturday mornings, so he could sleep. There were no seconds so the motion was tabled.

Tad said Toby played his trumpet so loud he couldn’t study.

Toby asked plaintively, “Can’t somebody stop Cissa from getting into my stuff?”

It was moved and seconded to begin our next meeting with those issues.

Tom turned to our oldest. “You’re very quiet.” Tommy said, “I’m just thinking.” That should have have warned us.

The next family meeting was short and snappy.

“This is a democracy, right?” Tommy asked.
“Indeed it is,” his father replied.
“Democracy means one person, one vote, right?” Tommy asked innocently. Father nodded gravely. Then Tommy pounced. “I move that all allowances be tripled.”
Tad: “I second it.”
Toby: “I third it.”

Before we could react, Tommy said, “I move the meeting be adjourned.”

Toby and Tad shouted, “Second!” They all jumped up and ran outside. That was it. Meeting over.

I looked at Tom. He was staring blankly, shocked. Long silence. Then he broke into a laugh and I began to laugh, too. Tom’s sense of humor had dissolved the tension.

That was our first – and last – attempt at Democracy.

This is Nardi Reeder Campion of Lebanon, New Hampshire.

Nardi Reeder Campion is a writer and long time columnist. Her new book is “Everyday Matters, A Love Story.”

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