In case you haven’t heard, we had a general election here last week. The result was rather unexpected and, for many people, disappointing, angering or downright frightening.
The way I voted is not important (I don’t mean because there were only two parties that could have won in my seat and I voted for neither of them; I mean that’s not what this post is about). What I want to explore is why I found it so difficult to decide how to vote. I don’t remember having this problem when I was nineteen.
Granted, the stances of the main parties were probably more similar than they have ever been. Granted, there were a couple of parties I would rather eat a black banana than vote for (and I really dislike black bananas. Does that make me a natural UKIP supporter?). Granted, none of the parties had a set of policies I agreed with in full, or even in large part. But these probably apply to most of the population.
What interests me is the fact that the older I get, the less decided I become. Do I vote on principle? On policy? To send a message? To stop someone else from winning? Because I’ve always voted for that party? Do I choose the best party for my family? My country? The world? For the short term or the long term?
I don’t think it’s just that I’m exhausted from chasing a three year old around all day whilst at the same time bottle-feeding Benjamin for all his waking hours. I don’t think it’s that my mind is befuddled from watching CBeebies and playing “Mummies and Daddies” (although it is somewhat confusing when Jackie announces that “I am the Mummy; you, Mummy, are the Daddy; Benjy is the big sister; and Daddy … Daddy can be Auntie Katherine”).
I think it’s that – call me late to the party, but – I’m starting to learn that the world isn’t black and white. That pure ideology just doesn’t cut it when you’ve got children to think about, and special needs children in particular. Pragmatism starts to come into it. Caring starts to come into it. Right and wrong are not always right and wrong.
I know, for my three-year-old, I need to set boundaries and I need to be consistent. But that doesn’t mean I need to make snap judgements and stick to them even when they’re not working. I need to learn to say “I don’t know,” when I don’t know, or “I’ll think about that and get back to you,” and make sure I do think about it and I do get back to her, rather than making hasty decisions that we’ll all regret in the long run.
Benjamin, too, thrives best on familiarity and routine, but if the routine we’ve relied on starts failing for him then I need to work, gradually, towards a better one. Nothing stays the same forever. With Benjamin, nothing stays the same for more than a few days…
So, if circumstances change, I just need to explain: “it’s okay to watch a movie this afternoon because Mummy’s poorly.” “We can have ice cream for breakfast because it’s all we’ve got in the house…” “Mummy was wrong.” Perhaps it’s a shame we can’t do that with the government… or perhaps we should be grateful that we live in a democracy stable enough to keep the same government for five years, and work with them, against them, and around them to achieve what we need to happen.
Does this mean I won’t eventually turn into (more of a) bigoted, cantankerous old woman? Who knows? In the meantime, I hope my indecision doesn’t make life too confusing for my kids, because it sure as hell is confusing for me (who were all those people who voted Tory…?).