What should I have told my children before our city honored Staff Sgt. Sky Mote last month? What does one say about a young hero who made the ultimate sacrifice and made such a large impression in his too short 27 years?
Many of us didn’t even know Mote, or his parents who are both teachers in our community, but El Dorado Hills rallied behind them. A barrage of calls and emails from different social circles gave us only a few days’ notice to come together to pay our final farewell; we were a city united for a young man, for his family and also a cause.
I wasn’t sure of protocol. Should my kids wave their American flags when the procession came through, or stand silently? Were they being too jubilant in the moments just before? Though I wasn’t sure of etiquette, I needn’t worry. As the procession passed everyone was silent (and from what I hear it was the same during the entire route). We could hear the proverbial pin drop. Even babies instinctively knew it was time to show our quiet respect to Sgt. Mote. I was especially proud to be a resident of El Dorado Hills that day, and just like at our Lake Forest school’s Veteran’s Day assembly each year I was even more proud to witness my children learning what unity and sacrifice mean, and what patriotism, or that feeling of deeply loving our country, actually looks like.
There was the same unity on a national level in the first days after 9/11. I sat transfixed to the television like the rest of America, even as my heart alternately broke and swelled with pride as the stories of devotion and heroism unfolded. A young person then, without children of my own yet, I understood why many people felt called to join the military.
Today the American political climate is divisive, though. We live in a time when a single sound bite can make or torpedo a career. So I wasn’t sure what watching the Republican and Democratic conventions would be like during the past two weeks. Being of opposing political parties, my husband and I have some lively conversations in our household, especially during election years. So when our kids ask, usually to rile us up, “Who are you going to vote for?” and get two different answers, I see the confusion in their faces, much like the American people must feel when they see two, such rational sounding groups of people promote different philosophies.
My husband and I try our best to break the issues down for our kids and then respectfully explain what each side believes and why. This will not only help them when they become adults and must make informed decisions, I also hope they understand what a privilege it is to live in a democracy.
Julie Samrick is the mother of four children and a resident of El Dorado Hills. She is also the founder of Kid Focused, a site devoted to current children’s issues.