With the inauguration of American’s first African-American president — or just another white president, depending on who you ask — children are more interested than ever before in politics. But it can be a difficult task to explain government and its structure to the wee ones. Here’s a simple step-by-step:
1. Wipe that scowl off your face. No need to destroy their wide-eyed innocence right away.
2. Sit them down by the hearth with cups of hot chocolate and wax eloquently about the revolutionary system of governance that our founding fathers built from philosophy and free will.
3. Wake up from that daydream, wipe the drool off your chin and drag the kids away from the video games.
4. Sit them down on the couch with cups of soda and try to remember what your ninth-grade civics textbook said. You remember: The one that permanently resided at the bottom of your locker… the one you flipped through briefly at the beginning of the year?
5. Explain that, based on the thoughts of philosopher John Locke, man has a social contract with government that does not allow him to leave the island.
6. And also, based on that contract, no man is an island.
7. Call your mother for help.
8. Apologize to your mother for your freshman civics grade — and your sophomore algebra grade, the guy you dated your freshman year of college, the shoes you chose for your wedding, the names of your children and each and every one of her grey hairs.
9. Wake your kids up and put them to bed. Vow to start over tomorrow.
10. Over breakfast, utilize visual aides to demonstrate the structure of American government.
11. Each pancake in the stack has a different function: state, local and federal. The sticky stuff, the syrup, is the politicians. Tasty at first, but too much and it will make you sick.
12. No, the sausages aren’t part of the demonstration. OK, fine, they can represent the politically disenfranchised minority populace. And the milk is the whitewash used by the politicians to cover up their misdeeds in office.
13. OK, look, the sausage is what the members of government promise to give you if you vote for them. After the election, the president is impeached for speculating in pork futures. The media calls the affair “WilburGate.”
14. Engage them in a food fight over control of the last scrap of sausage. That, they’ll understand.